After being forced to resign from his 1990s “community” website venture, theGlobe.com, 23 years ago during what he called “the dot-com bust,” entrepreneur Todd Krizelman was “not in a hurry to start another company.”
“Some entrepreneurs, they just love being entrepreneurs and starting things. That’s not actually who I was,” Krizelman told TheWrap.
But in 2007, he partnered with veteran web architect Jesse Keller and cofounded MediaRadar, the advertising analysis company that today serves over 20,000 clients comprehensive data on over 4 million companies for media planning, buying and selling teams across platforms.
Krizelman, who cofounded theGlobe.com as “the first version of social media” with Stephan Paternot while still studying at Cornell University, relayed that the “amazing highs and some very challenging lows” of his experience taking that endeavor public informed his approach to MediaRadar.
Among those who use the analysis service today are definitive media bodies like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. In 2023, MediaRadar also acquired Kantar Group’s Vivvex, the company’s North American advertising intelligence unit.
“The typical client will see a 20-time return on their investment,” Krizelman said of his business’ track record. “And just to be clear, there are clients who are much higher, and there are a handful that are a little bit lower than that.”
Krizelman’s journey to founding MediaRadar started back when he was in high school. While working on the student newspaper, he started to notice the ways technology and media intersected. But it wasn’t until he started working for the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann for several years after his time at theGlobe.com that he became inspired to go out on his own once again.
“That really rounded out my understanding of media, because I got to be exposed to, not just magazines, but digital and television and book publishing, and I loved that,” Krizelman said. “It was really while I was at Bertelsmann that the idea for MediaRadar was born.”
During his relatively brief stint at the multinational conglomerate corporation, Krizelman noticed the media industry was especially slow when it came to reporting advertising data that would help both buyers and sellers. In the early 2000s, teams would have to wait up to 18 months for the results of their ad campaigns. Krizelman was confident there was a more efficient way. That’s when he enrolled in Harvard Business School and gave entrepreneurship another go.
Read on for his full Office With a View interview with TheWrap below.
After theGlobe, when did you first begin thinking about starting your own company again?
It was actually many years into my Bertelsmann experience. I was not in a hurry to start another company. We were served then by the big players Taylor Nelson Sofres, or TNS, and Nielsen. It was a very unusual time in the early 2000s when people thought the internet was going away, maybe. There was the dot-com bust, and there were a lot of people who were sort of happy to see it go.
When I heard Bertelsmann’s feedback — their response was like, “Hey, we’re not going to do anything with the internet” — I really thought they had missed. That’s not the way they view the market today, just to be clear. But in the early 2000s, that was the view. It was like, “This internet thing must have been a mistake. Get out of that.” To me that really created, not just an opening, but a demand for someone to enter the space.
Were you ever nervous about starting another company after what happened with theGlobe?
Nervous is the wrong word, but I definitely had a good dose of reality. There’s a lot of good from just going to work and getting paid for a job well done, which is not the typical experience for entrepreneurs. For instance, you do a job well done, suffer for five to 10 years and maybe something good happens. That was certainly consistent with my experience at both companies, theGlobe and MediaRadar. I think it’s typically a long road for most people. So I went in with my eyes open. I definitely knew what the trade-offs were the second time.
You went back to college and got your MBA at Harvard before starting MediaRadar. What made you decide to continue your education?
There was a laundry list of things I knew nothing about. For those who can get in and those who can afford it, it is such a major investment into your career. It’s not something that most people have the option to have and pursue. But for me, it was totally transformational.
When I left theGlobe, I knew the world of dot-com advertising, and that was it. I did not know other media formats. I did not know how to properly run a business and all of the other pieces that go into a great business. Going back to school, it’s not like I learned all the answers. I actually think school is not where you pick up all the answers. It mostly illuminated how much you didn’t know. You’re going to spend the rest of your life learning all the other stuff, but it exposed what you’re supposed to be thinking about. Going back in and starting something again, I thought I would be better prepared for it the second time.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever gotten?
I will still credit my father for the most important thing I learned, which was to be a better listener. I think that’s a hard thing. On one hand, we tell leaders they’re supposed to be visionaries and inspire people, and that requires talking. But listening is the most important thing, both to listen to complaints from employees and from customers and to keep your mind open to what people are saying.
Often, it’s easy to listen to the loudest person in a room, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the right person in the room to listen to. So this idea of listening is hard. For most leaders, it’s something that you have to actively lean into to be successful.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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