“I owed people money. I needed to make money fast.”
This was the start of Garth Moulton’s career in technology.
Garth recently stopped by LeadGenius to share some of lessons about hiring the right people, life after selling, and moments of disaster.
In Garth’s words, here’s how the pieces fell into place. (First and last obligatory puzzle pun.)
My 20’s were the 90’s in San Francisco
I was selling client server Unix development tools to CIOs at huge companies in Massachusetts. It was very technical. I was a history major and I made out well.
After about a year and a half I followed the wave to San Francisco right at the beginning of the internet boom.
My 20’s were the 90’s in San Francisco and I was a software sales guy. It was pretty awesome. It went by really, really fast. And all of a sudden it was over.
Basically, I went from being a free-wheeling single sales guy making more money than I knew what to do with to being married, my wife was pregnant and I was living in a third floor walk-up in North Beach. And just being the top sales guy, jumping from company to company wasn’t going to hack it anymore.
So, I got together with another sales guy, Jim Fowler, who was my manager, friend, and rival at the time. We were working for a company doing email marketing, right after the tech bust. It was commodity-based, competitive selling against Cheetah and some of the other companies that were out there. It was just kind of bad.
I went into his office and said “dude, this sucks. I’m out of here.” He told me, “wait, I don’t like it either, but don’t quit. We should start a company.”
My question was “doing what?”
His answer, “I haven’t totally figured it out yet.”
We went through a couple of ideas that were really far-fetched.
This was the start of my role as being the sort of brass tacks sales guy. My partner was the dreamer and the idea guy. I was the guy who told him, “that’s not going to work. People don’t think like that. That’s not how that works.”
One day, he literally spit out the idea for Jigsaw, which was a community-based data source. People called it a mountain of business cards. We sort of based it on Wikipedia. This was the dawn of user-generated content and we just said, “let’s get all the salespeople out there together and get them to scoop all their content data.” At the time, we found that the salespeople were spending 30 to 40 to 50 to 80 percent of their time just trying to find contact data.
I mean if your company was rich enough to have Hoovers, which a lot of these companies weren’t, all you had was the 1-800 number for Cisco and John Chambers and three other people on the board. They’re not going to take your phone call to talk about email marketing. Or anything for that matter.
So, there was an undeniable need. None of the big data companies would go anywhere near the info groups and the Hoovers of the world. At that point they wouldn’t go anywhere near email addresses at all. It was considered private. We thought that was crazy. That’s all that salespeople needed.
Not only did we not have our own money to put into the company, we had to have other salaries because we both owned houses that we couldn’t afford. I had a baby on the way. He had a baby just born. So in 2003, when VCs were not putting money into anything, we were just two sales guys with a presentation. We got seriously laughed out of several meetings. Nobody wanted anything to do with us.
But Jim Fowler, my CEO and co-founder, he was very persuasive and he had a stepdad and he had a friend who was one of the early investors in Cisco. Through them, we got to a small VC firm. We wrangled out $750,000, which we called an A round at the time. It was really a seed round. We basically had 6 months to hire technology guys and get this thing out there. We got a VC to take a chance on us and it was great. Now that it’s said and done, it’s tempting to say “oh, VC’s…”
But with no VC money, there’s no Jigsaw, so it was pretty great.
A Mountain of Business Cards
This is early 2004. We had three technology people and while they were building the website, I was going out to every sales guy I knew, and every small data company and every small inside sales lead generation outfit (those were pretty rare at that point).
All these big companies started talking about “should we get an inside sales team?”
Sales enablement, lead generation analysis, this whole market that LeadGenius is doing so well in just didn’t exist at the time. So I was going out to all these people and saying, “we need your data. We need your database.” We had people lifting their Salesforce databases and sticking them right into Jigsaw, and that’s how we got started. It wasn’t like a Facebook story, but we knew from the day that we launched the website that we were on to something.
At first we hired three guys on Craigslist to go after a list of inside sales technology managers in the Bay Area and basically just give them access to our database and it used to be kind of fun. It was just three guys and they’d get on the phone with somebody and maybe that person was hemming and hawing and I’d just grab the phone and be like, “oh, you’re all good with B2B leads in the Bay Area? With all these companies?” I’d read off their website the companies they’re working with and I’d tell them “ok, I’m going to talk to your founder or the VP and tell them you guys are all square with leads because that’s the only reason I can think of why you would not sign up for this right now.”
And 100% of the time, they’d say, “OK,” because we were giving it away. That’s how we seeded it.
We were just setting the needle with these guys because they got used to being able to go on Jigsaw. We didn’t have anywhere near 100% coverage but we had, particularly for corporate companies in the Bay Area, and very quickly through the U.S., at least a handful of names that weren’t the CEO. We had direct dial telephone numbers and we had an email address. And that’s all you needed really at the time to just Trojan horse into the organization: just to be able to have a conversation.
We did a beta period over 2004 and we thought a membership to Jigsaw was going to be like your cell phone plan, where you put it in as an expense and you own the data.
We were really big about the democratization of data. We were very quickly pounded into submission by the market.
I got calls from, ironically, Salesforce, from Cisco, from Oracle, whose inside sales teams said “we don’t even care about Hoovers, we don’t care about the Cisco database, we just care about Jigsaw. Everybody is using it, it’s got data nobody else has.”
The Napster of Contact Data
From the start, we were actually quite scared that if anything was going to shut it down, it would be the privacy police. Or one of the other data companies.
We went at privacy completely differently than any other company. We raised the lightning rod. We said “yeah, we’re Jigsaw, this is the data we have.” People thought we were the Napster of contact data. And we really were. But a business card isn’t a song, it’s not a creation. The only trademarkable thing on a business card is the logo for the company. Everything else is just information; it’s not private. We didn’t allow cell phones, so it was your business email, which now is laughable but this is just as LinkedIn and Facebook were just starting to blow up, so they were awesome with basically pounding everyone into submission. I mean, they had pictures of their kids at graduation, we were just a business card,. But at the time, it was pretty revolutionary.
Pearl Harbor Day
I remember the first year, on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, we had two women in private practice for PR and that was something we spent really heavily on from the start. We had almost no marketing, but we had PR.
We raised $750,000 and we were spending $10,000 a month to our PR firm, so it was important.
We thought we might get taken down in the PR world, so we wanted to make sure we were out in front of it. They got Fowler’s face pixelated on the front page of the business section of the Wall Street Journal and it came out earlier than we were expecting and we had almost forgotten about it.
Our sales guy, the one from Craigslist, that was covering the East Coast, he called me up at 5:00am and he was like, “you’ve got to come in.” I was like, “what?” “Everybody has to come in. The article hit.”
It was like something from a movie. All of Jigsaw was in a small room and everybody was picking up the phone and explaining to people what Jigsaw is and how you sign up. By then we were about six months into it and we were signing up something like sixty, seventy people a day. Mostly sales people, starting to get some marketing people; and now we signed up like ten thousand people. Some crazy number like that signed up for the site.
Let’s Fight in Public so Everyone Can See It
Another crazy day in our history was about a year later, Michael Arrington — who’s a total douchebag by the way; I’d say it to his face — he basically wrote in TechCrunch that Jigsaw is evil.
TechCrunch was all there was in 2006. Everybody was reading TechCrunch; there was no Pulse, all these other news sources for technology didn’t exist. Everybody in our world read it.
At first, we were like, “wow.” We had a privacy lawyer, we needed a privacy lawyer right from the beginning and we were able to get somebody who had been a litigator who just moved out here and wanted to move into privacy law, so we got him for cheap.
He was there and telling us to shut it all down, but of course we ignored him and we just got right out in front of it.
My CEO very publicly said he wanted to have a debate with Michael Arrington and the commenters on TechCrunch. It was one of the first times they shut the comments down because they were coming in 100 to 1 of “you’re an idiot,” “you don’t understand what the world is like,” “these guys are fine,” to one person saying “yeah, Jigsaw is evil.”
It was so telling. Our Google index jumped up and millions of more people came to our website. It really cemented that we were no longer afraid of privacy,. In fact,we always turned it to our advantage; we welcomed it. We said “yeah, let’s fight. Let’s fight in public so everyone can see it.” Our biggest challenge was just getting the word out that Jigsaw exists and you can get this data and you cannot get it anywhere else.
I used to always say, we have the advantage of being in the shallow water in terms of privacy. We’re not out over our head, where we’re going to drown, but we’re in deep enough where companies like D&B just aren’t going to go out there.
After two and a half years of being in business, Dun & Bradstreet reached out to us. I remember on the conference call, the guy, their VP of Product or something, said “you guys own the contact market in the U.S.,” and I was like, “anybody hear that? We own the contact market! At least they think we do, so that means we do.” They actually tried to buy us in 2008. We shopped the deal, but then the economy fell and we thought “well, we’re probably not going to sell until the economy comes back up.”
But that didn’t happen because 15 months later, Salesforce bought us.
Which CRM Should I Use?
We were always very closely associated with Salesforce and we were one of their few partners that through everything, before the AppExchange, after the AppExchange, that was actually driving deals to them.
We had companies that were asking us which CRM they should use, or should they make the jump to Salesforce. It wasn’t just us saying that. We had reps, which is the only way to get to Salesforce. The only thing they respond to is power.
Some of their big accounts were saying “our deals are getting hung up on whether Jigsaw says it’s a good idea to move forward with it and we need to prove it’s going to be a seamless transition putting Jigsaw data into Salesforce. It was pretty nice, that definitely got their attention.
We Hired Everybody
I covered everything to do with customers, everything customer-facing or outwardly-facing. Fowler handled the press, the investors and the board, which was well over half his time, and the product people.
The first thing I gave up was marketing because having a sales guy, especially one that talks like me, being in charge of marketing is not good.
In meetings that I run, I can’t be the guy that says I don’t give a shit what color the website is or what this copy looks like, and I realized I wasn’t the right person. So the first thing we did was to get a marketing person. If there is a spectrum in marketing between sort of the brand and marketing with a capital ‘M’ on one side and the real quant, lead growth, on the other, we needed someone way on the growth side, and we had that person.
He was actually really great until he wasn’t; until we started to get larger and more corporate and then we needed someone a little better with the brand and corporate materials and corporate relationships.
At that stage, I could not hold onto salespeople. After about 18 months, my biggest stress was holding onto salespeople.
We were paying them by the hour (in the Bay Area) at the time and they were coming into contact with so many other growing companies that were willing to quadruple what they earned.
Many times I was still using Craigslist to hire. I hired two hardcore drug addicts, like showing-up-to-work-wide-eyed drug addicts. The last straw for me was when I hired an honest-to-goodness con man. We later found out he was hatching some sort of scheme opening credit cards with the Jigsaw name and soliciting individuals and I said, “that’s it. We have to do something differently.” My co-founder Jim Fowler knew some people doing sales calls in Post Falls, Idaho and we partnered with a guy and we opened up an office.
Throughout the life of Jigsaw we hired everybody we could hire. Usually sales, support, some data folks, some marketing people and HR, but by the time we sold to Salesforce, we had 165 employees and about 100 of them were in Post Falls, Idaho.
I get asked this a lot, “well, you sold for $175 million, what are you doing here?”
When we started Jigsaw, we not only did not have our own money to put in, we had to take money and we had zero leverage. Less than zero.
So, for that $750,000 the investors got 40% of the company, but they also made us set up a 20% option pool for employees, which was great, but it meant that 60% of the company from day-one went to somebody else.
We did two subsequent rounds which, all told, we took $18 million and those rounds were way more fun because then we were auditioning the VCs. The market went from this nuclear winter, where VCs were getting in trouble for not investing in anything, to the summer of 2004, where there just weren’t that many deals to be had.
We were actually already making money so in some cases we were totally rude when VCs came to us hat in hand. That was really fun. We got to say, “nah, you don’t even get to wait in line. Next!”
Out last round we took in 2006 was unbelievable,. We were always quadrupling, at a minimum, the value of the company and being able to get better and better terms.
The long and short of it is when we sold, it wasn’t like I got half of the $175 million. I got a single-digit percentage.
Don’t cry for me, I made money, I made life-changing money, but I did not make, as my friends call it, “helicopter money.” I do not have a helicopter.
Epilogue: Life After Acquisition
I feel like I can objectively say we came to market with something that was absolutely needed and was not being provided by anyone.
Conceptually, we have this great idea and in terms of timing and the market, we came right as the social networks were coming out (even though we were the opposite of a social network, our users were anonymous to each other), people saw us in that social category. Then there was user-generated content and Web 2.0. We were one of the few companies making money, so we caught these waves and we were able to get some really talented people.
We got really lucky with an architect for the product and a bunch of other things went our way. I guess my point is it still took us eight years to exit. You get put as this “wow, what a success story,” or whatever, but so many things had to go right for it to be successful.
Something that has been pounded into my head is it’s not easy.
Sometimes, when people whose only job experience is they caught the tiger by the tail and worked at Facebook in the day or whatever, but I’d love to see the stats about after you’ve had one success or been part of one success, what happens to the next company?
I founded a company that nosedived. We raised some money and then… nothing.
Fowler started a company, raised $17 million, basically birthed out a product, an MVP after a year, and it was DOA. He pivoted into another company, which is actually starting to do quite well. Especially when you’re a sales-driven company and you talk to other companies, it’s easy to have the perception that everyone else is on a rocketship to the top and we’re not.
Don’t base your inside on other people’s outside. I would say it works for Facebook or life. So many things have to go right and the Facebooks of the world really are one in a multimillion for the most part.
Q: Outside of a degree from an Ivy-league, what were some things you looked for when hiring candidates?
I would actually look for that and disqualify them.
For what we were doing, it was totally sales-driven. It was hand-to-hand sales-driven.
A problem we had was that we’d call sales people and they’d flip the call. They’d say, “ok, we’ll buy Jigsaw. You should buy our software.” I had to say, “no, everybody does actually need our software and we really don’t need your stuff.”
What I’m looking for is drive. I’m looking for someone who has a chip on their shoulder. If they’re smart, that’s great, but someone who feels like everything is owed to them, which I found most people from Ivy-league or good schools, you’d have to convince me why you weren’t going to come in with that attitude. That you were really going to drive because you wanted to win. Being smart is great, but it can totally get in your way as well. It’s about persistence and drive.
Q: Did you ever have any WFIO (We’re F**cked It’s Over) Moments?
We were just about to come out of our beta phase, which was a couple months after we launched the site, and we had 1500 users. We were right on the verge of running out of runway and we were taking our next round of funding. This was a very important time in our history and it was just about to happen. We didn’t have an email marketing system and we didn’t have a marketer; I had hired a guy who had been my customer who I thought kind of knew what he was doing, he had twenty years of experience in enterprise marketing and we had to let all our customers know about a pretty sensitive topic. Essentially, we were saying that from this day on, everyone pays for Jigsaw. You either pay for the data or your need to have points. You need to put data in.” Our VCs were imploring us, “do not do this! You need to get huge and then you start,” and I said “uh uh, we’re just going to take our lump right now.”
So we had to send an email to our 1500 users. I even sat down with the guy and said “don’t send all these out at once,” because he was using Outlook, his personal email. “Don’t send them all out at once.”
“Yeah, come on.” “Ok, great.” Three hours later, he walks into my office and says, “I think I just F’d up.”
“Try me,” I mean we’re screwing things up all the time.
“Well,” then suddenly my desk phone starts to ring, then my cell phone starts to ring, so I look up and ask him “what did you do?”
“Uh…well, I sent out the email…”
“You sent them out all at once.”
“Uh… yeah. Also…”
“Hold on a minute,” then I pick up my phone and it’s one of my friends who’s also in technology.
“Dude, you guys are such morons! Get on your email!”
The guy had put all of our 1500 users’ emails in the “To:” field, so people were hitting “reply all” saying “you guys are such idiots!” And I wasn’t getting it in my email because our own spam filter was blocking it.
Then our lawyers bursts in my office saying, “shut it all down. Shut it all down.” “What do you mean shut it all down? What’re we going to do?”
We were literally in the paperwork stage of getting this new round of funding, and we had to go out and say “I know it appears like we’re just two sales guys flying at the seat of our pants, but we really know what we’re doing here, technically. We’ve got this thing locked down.” Obviously that’s not even close to being true. That sales guy actually leaves, saying, “I’m gonna get out of here before I screw anything else up.”
At first, we tried to jump in and drink from this firehose of hate, not having any idea of what to do and Fowler says, “give me a second,” while our lawyer is still pleading with us to “shut it all down! Disavow it! Say we didn’t do it!”
“No, we’re not doing any of that.”
Fowler wrote this awesome email saying, “look, we totally screwed this up, this is exactly what we did, we’re totally sorry. This is my home phone number, this is my home address, this is my cell phone number. This is Garth’s cell phone number, this is where he lives. If you want to come choke us out, do it.”
If sentiment of the communications were on a positive-negative graph, it was completely flipped. It was 99-1 people hating on us to the complete opposite. People were actually saying, “oh man, this reminds me of something I did at my company, you guys are fine.”
We talked to our VC who said with a wry smile, “no, we’re still going to put the money in, you guys are still an awesome deal. This is why you need a little bit more money, so you can get a real marketer in there and make it happen.”
That was definitely a WFIO moment.