Monday, October 17, 2016
Mike Jones of Science Inc, On Exits And Finding The Right Entrepreneurs
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Los Angeles-based Science Inc. (www.science-inc.com), the startup “studio” led by former MySpace CEO and technology veteran Mike Jones, just saw its third acquisition out of its portfolio this year—the acquisition of FameBit by Google/Youtube. The company's other acquisitions included the $1 billion acquisition of Dollar Shave Club by Unilever, and the acquisition of HelloSociety by the New York Times. We caught up with Mike last week to hear from him why he thinks Science has managed to get some good success out of its companies, the importance of having a multi-year outlook for any startup, especially an early one, and the most important traits he thinks entrepreneurs need.
Congrats on another exit– what's the story behind this one?
Mike Jones: (chuckles) I think I get the feeling that Google chooses you, and you don't choose them, in a weird way. In this case they had been a longtime partner of FameBit. They had been huge fans of the platform, and I think they had a super, genuine connection with Youtube, thus with Google. As a supportive investor and board member at FameBit, the management team there approached me about the opportunity to do something bigger, and how Google wanted to formalize an interesting partnership. Obviously, as an investor, you always must be supportive of management, as we though it was the right fit, and we went through a good process with a fantastic outcome. I'll let the founders tell the full story of the transaction to the founders.
This is your third exit this year, including Dollar Shave Club and HelloSociety. What made these three companies successful acquisitions out of all your companies?
Mike Jones: There are probably two reasons. First, we are fortunate to have really great founders. Our founding teams have been incredible. I think we've gotten great in spotting excellent founders, and the working with them to develop their business. The second piece, is our theme on the disruption of brands in e-commerce, influencer marketplaces, and investments in social marketplaces, where we've been correct on the general trends in the market.
It's been a few years since you started creating companies at Science, what have you learned about creating successful companies?
Mike Jones: When you're dealing with early startups, you're in an area with a huge failure rate, and that's extremely hard. The tenacity of a great founder, from concept, to something that is typically a long, multi-year journey is very important. One thing I have found, is that when we can combine great founders, working with great ideas, and surround them with strong partners, we can get really good outcomes. If any piece of that is missing—or if you have a difficult market, or it's difficult to raise capital, or if you have a difficult founder—you'll get less than optimal results.
There have been quite a few people in the market who started with similar ideas of incubating companies, but haven't seen the success you are seeing now. Why do you think it's been tough for people to get this right?
Mike Jones: When we started this process, we were hopeful we would find great success. Honestly, I've spent too little time looking at what other people are doing to remark on them, so I don't know. However, as a founder of multiple startups, I think you have to understand that it's a really long journey, and it can take multiple years, and you have to surround your CEOs with great talent in order to help drive great outcomes.
Are you still investing and creating new companies?
Mike Jones: We are. We're really interested in companies who are meeting needs for millennials. I also really like the disruption of television space. One of the things, which is building now with mobile phones, is offering up a content experience which is an alternative to TV. Plus, I still really enjoy socially driven marketplaces. We are seeing lots of companies, meeting with startups, and are particularly interested in companies in these areas
Is there any particular thing you look for in a founder?
Mike Jones: I look for genuinely positive and happy people, who are personally connected to the problem they are going after, and who are willing to surround themselves with great people, and—at their core—are all about selling their vision, ideas, and products.
If there is any one piece of advice you'd pass on to entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Mike Jones: I think, time is an entrepreneur's—and everyone's—most valuable asset. I highly recommend they test their rapidly until something work. Like I said, most companies fail. Learn what does, and doesn't work, quickly, That's an important step.
Thanks, and congratulations!