Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Catching Up With Jeffrey Stibel of D&B Credibility
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Jeffrey Stibel has been quietly building a technology powerhouse in Malibu, leveraging the D&B brand at D&B Credibility Corp. (www.dandb.com) and applying what he's learned over the years running Internet companies to the venerable brand. The firm is backed by more than $100M in funding from private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Stibel is also very active in supporting the Los Angeles startup ecosystem as an angel investor. We thought we'd catch up with Stibel to hear how the firm has been going plus learn about his angel investing efforts.
How are things going at D&B Credibility?
Jeffrey Stibel: Our business continues to accelerate, and we're now approaching a thousand employees. Though we're not quite there yet, we're getting dangerously close. We now have six offices, and over a hundred employees in Malibu alone. We're extremely pleased with the things that are happening and our plan for 2013. Last time we talked we were just launching the Credibility product, and since we've launched that area has provided the highest growth in the entire company. We've done fantastically well, in an are that frankly just didn't exist two years ago.
How has the process gone of taking what had been a business that has been around forever, and moving it into to the Internet age?
Jeffrey Stibel: For us, it's been leveraging the strength and historical context of the brand, while pushing it into the future. As example is, D&B Credibility has always been known for its proprietary data, and it's probably the best data in the world for businesses. What we've done is we've continued to leverage that data, and are now working with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn., and Yelp, and capturing large amount of data on businesses, and putting that all together. It's leveraging that history, not ignoring it, not getting rid of it, and leveraging that to fuel the growth into the digital age.
Is the business event you're holding in LA next week a part of that effort?
Jeffrey Stible: That is part of us giving back. We've been so successful over the last couple of years, even while the economy has been struggling and businesses have been struggling. The event we're doing in LA is something we're starting in LA, because we're big believers in the LA market. We're calling it the Access To Capital Conference, to help connect businesses to banks and other lending sources. It's something we're doing in a charitable way. It's costing us a lot of money, but we're giving away services to help businesses in need. We have banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs participating, and the Mayor of LA is going to come support us and give a talk. Hundreds, if not thousands of businesses can cycle through learning about capital, types o capital, and ultimately get them the capital they need to succeed.
You're very active as an angel investor in many companies around here, what's your perspective on investment opportunities and startup environment here?
Jeffrey Stibel: My team and I have probably invested in thirty five companies in Los Angeles in the last year. We're a big believer in the Los Angeles market, and believe there are lots of interesting and exciting things happening here right now. We wanted to be part of it personally and professionally. I believe that Los Angeles can be the bastion of the next technology revolution. Fundamentally, people are your only real asset, and this is the only place in the world where technology and media converge. There's no other place like it in the world. This isn't happening in New York, this isn't happening in Boston, and it's certainly not happening in Silicon Valley. Like what we're doing in D&B Credibility, we're leveraging the history of our businesses and propelling them to the future. We need to leverage our roots here in Los Angeles in media, and take advantage of those roots. As one industry is dying out, we can create a whole new one, and create a technology revolution around the world of media. We see that happening everywhere we look in LA, and there are lots of people with just that mission. I don't think it will happen in Silicon Valley, or New York, or elsewhere in the world, it will happen here. We're big investors in local companies, because we believe that you have to act locally, and from an investment standpoint, the convergence is happening here.
What kind of companies are you investing in?
Jeffrey Stibel: For me, it's very simple. I have one criteria. I have to believe, fundamentally, in the entrepreneur and the team. That's my number one criteria. Ideas come and go, most startups start with one idea, and are successful with another one using a completely different approach. That's the nature of running a business. So it's the folks on the team and the leadership.
You're running a big private firm, but your prior experience also has been running a big public company. How has that experience been for you?
Jeffrey Stibel: We have great partners. Great Hill has been tremendous. They've given us all the resources and freedom to pursue the opportunity that we need. Having a single investor on the outside makes decisions that much quicker. It's been a wonderful experience, although I also enjoy running public companies. If you've got the right investors, it doesn't matter whatsoever if it's public or private. In this case, we certainly do.