Selling your first business for $425 million would be a life-changing journey and a huge accomplishment for many entrepreneurs. But what does it take to build and scale another business after such an extraordinary success? Stephen Messer, the co-founder and former CEO of Linkshare which was sold to Rakuten for $425 million, unveils his entrepreneurial trajectory post-exit in this article.
Key Growth Metrics and Insights
A team of 94 with 38 engineers
$20m ARR in 2022
Collective[i] launched in 2008, and hit $1m ARR in 2014
Collectivei.com is a cutting-edge platform that revolutionizes how organizations manage and analyze data. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, Collectivei.com provides advanced data analytics and insights to help businesses make informed decisions and drive growth. Their user-friendly interface and intuitive features make it easy for teams to collaborate, visualize data, and uncover valuable patterns and trends.
Building Beyond Success
Once positioned at the helm of Linkshare, a company that gained a grip on 96% of the global affiliate marketing scene, Messer embarked on his next business journey — Collective[i] — two years post-exit. The data-driven startup, fueled by generous personal funding from Messer and his partners, leverages neural nets to help businesses understand their actual sales pipeline.
Reflecting on the sale of Linkshare, Messer stated that while it undeniably brought substantial financial gain, what brought him more satisfaction was how his former company enabled other entrepreneurs to grow and monetize their businesses in unprecedented ways.
The New Venture
Collective[i] applies sophisticated AI techniques to make CRM a lighter load for sales professionals, reducing the necessity to manually log activities, interactions, and conversations. The AI automatically logs all this information and even highlights which business deals are genuine.
Much like the traffic app Waze, Collective[i] observes and learns from the behaviors across numerous businesses, providing comprehensive insights into buyers’ purchase behavior, whether or not they may be genuinely interested, and more. This unique dataset gives them a competitive edge and positions them to solve common sales challenges effectively.
However, the journey wasn’t all smooth sailing. It took a good four years of extensive R&D to make the neural net technology work and scale effectively, with the company only getting its first paying customer in 2012.
Eye on Massive Opportunities Ahead
Messer, known for his determination, views the challenges of building a startup as exciting opportunities for growth. As a strong advocate for hard work, particularly at a young age, he believes there is always another opportunity to seize and another venture to establish. Shaped by this philosophy, he has set his sights on turning Collectiveeye.com into a multi-billion-dollar, if not a trillion-dollar, business.
Although Collectiveeye.com’s exact metrics are confidential, the company boasts of having coverage of about 5% of the globe’s B2B economy, compared to Amazon’s 5% coverage of the B2C economy, giving an indication of the startup’s impact in its space.
Messer has no plans to raise outside funding for Collectiveeye.com. Instead, he believes that investing his own heart, soul, and financial resources is the most successful way to grow the company.
CEO he’s following: Reed Hastings of Netflix.
Favorite book: Crossing the Chasm.
Favorite online tool: ChatGPT
Balance: Gets 8 hours of sleep every night
What does he wish he had known at 20? “You can work really hard when you’re young or work really hard when you’re old, but you’re going to be one of the two, so pick young.”