Peter Horan
IMPACT INVESTING

Peter Horan

#15

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Digital Media Investor and Advisor

Investing In People – Peter Horan

“The bumper sticker for an entrepreneur is adapt, improvise, overcome.”

ABOUT

Peter C. Horan is an entrepreneur and digital media investor with a history of building successful media, commerce and ad technology businesses. As a CEO and independent director he has been part of eight profitable exits in the last ten years totaling almost $1.8 billion in value and more than $4 billion in public market value-creation. He has also been actively involved in $800 million in acquisitions over that same period.

In February of 2014, Peter formed Horan MediaTech Advisors as an umbrella for his investment and consulting activities. Peter currently works with and/or has investments in: AdZerk; Business.com, Candid, Digital Trends, Lending Tree; Outdoor Project; Purch; ShopPad; Skift; Slumberkins, TougHer, and WildFang. He also advises a number of other media companies. Peter is an active early stage investor and is involved with the Oregon Angel Fund, Cascade Angels, and Portland Seed Fund.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Peter Horan

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Peter Horan welcome and thank you very much for joining us today. Maybe to kind of kick things off, to give everybody a little bit more of a broad view strokes of who Peter is, maybe he can give us a little bit of a background. I know we’ve chatted a couple times so I’m excited to really dig in more but maybe you can give us an idea of kind of where you’ve started in, where you’ve kind of come through in your career of of working and everything else is to give everybody a bright light onto what you’ve been up to.

Peter:
Sure and I guess I’d start by saying maybe my career has been sort of this intersection of luck and good decisions. Yeah like so many things right. So luck in that I chose to go to college at the University of Santa Clara in the early 1970s, and it was a good school but it was based on where good financial aid that was sort of how I could be as far away from my parents as possible and remain within the state of California cuz’ I had a scholarship. So went to Santa Clara but simultaneously that became the early days of the rise of Silicon Valley. So the phrase Silicon Valley was invented by Don Hoefler during the time that I was at Santa Clara. And so then it was like all this interesting stuff is going on maybe I ought to focus on that. And so by the late 1970s I’d sort of decided that yeah I really was gonna take good horrible run at working around technology, so obscure claim to fame I wrote the owners manual for pong in 1975. I sold kick computers on the floor of the second West Coast computer fair in San Jose in 77, marketed cell phones in the early 80s, when I was writing the Microsoft ad account worldwide (inaudible 1:49) I helped launch Windows and Windows apps and office all that stuff. So I was really an advertising for the first 10 12 years of my career. Then I spent most of the 90s in traditional publishing. I was the head of a major account sales for international data group. We operate in 77 countries around the world. Which was actually a really interesting time to be there because that coincided with the rise of the internet, the rise of satellite television. And so companies had to really confront a lot of issues around you know how do I manage my brand across borders you know? And previously they’ve done things like oh well launch of the U.S. in May, launch in UK France Britain in October, will do rest of world sometime next year. And now they suddenly had to confront the fact that we were all rest of world, and whatever they said in one market became immediately known everywhere. And so and if I say oh I’m watching this new product and it’s not available that’s okay you know I’m gonna sit this one out I’ll wait until you get the new product available. And so there’s a whole bunch of stuff where suddenly we just got the first big step towards transparency. And it really — incredible opportunities and challenges. And then since 2000 which shockingly is now 20 years I’ve been focused on the Internet. You know again, perfect timing in the spring of 2000, I quit a steady job and started a venture backed web media startup company and went right into the teeth the first nuclear winter the internet. But then you know actually hit the CEO of trifecta – survived, got a profitable and walk out the door to my own power. Which puts me in the top 5% of the class anyway. Went back to New York, did a turnaround on about.com so that’s the New York Times. Did a couple of various startups and deals here, then ran all the media now telling properties for IAC, Barry Diller’s company interactive Corp. We just were like citysearch, evite, Ask Jeeves… And then really the last ten years I’ve been doing a combination of consulting, board work, and investing. And most notably I’ve been on the board of Lending Tree as we’ve taken that from a 700 million dollar market cap we spent of IAC 2008 to about a four billion dollar market cap today. So number summary two billion dollars in transactions on the sell side, a billion dollars in transactions on the buy side, and about four billion of public market value creation.

Jeffery:
That’s amazing. We should just open up a class and we should just sit around and well you’ve got to tell us because for for everything you shared right now I’m already beyond intrigued. I’m a huge fan of pong back in the day so I’m even more impressed that you created the manual for it.

Peter:
Like we needed go to the right go to the left.

Jeffery:
So basically it was a use case scenario on how to operate in the most simplest form ever.

Peter:
Yeah yeah and you know it’s interesting about that though, and it really it does speak to some of the issues facing early stage investing. So I say I’ve been involved in five or six technology revolutions. Personal computers, cell phones, graphical user interface, the internet, mobile and in all of them with the exception of pong, people would say they adamantly did not want whatever it was we were selling. Yeah I’ve still got a focus group report I did for Commodore for the Commodore Pet, the person electronic translator, 1977 first personal computer where people said I can’t imagine needing a personal computer what would I want that for? You know when we launched cell phones in the early 80s people were like – you know not interested at all, I don’t need one of those. If I was a big-time lawyer or a sales guy I could use one, but I’m an average person I don’t need a cell phone. You know we ask people do you want to be able to see on your screen what you’re gonna see how the paper, they said no no because I got WordPerfect I wanted (inaudible 6:02) I don’t need that stuff. And so where that really goes to is… The challenges that particularly entrepreneurs are facing where they’re trying to you know do something really new and they’re trying to convince investors that you know that people will actually buy this. And you go out and ask people do you want this and they’re gonna say “no”. And so it’s that sort of you know how do you bridge that, how do you convince investors to sort of share your vision of how you’re gonna change the world. And that is like one of the most, for like genuinely innovative stuff, that’s one of the biggest challenges.

Jeffery:
100% agree with that. If you’re when you start to shift and everybody’s looking for the most innovative, biggest change, they think that this is the way to go. The problem is the big elephant in the room is change. We’re very afraid of change. Change is actually one of the highest stress causes because and I was having this call today with a company and they were building this platform, it’s massive, and it was interesting because at the end of it all I said what is the one little thing you’re solving, because right now it just seems like this big and by the time everybody gets through this, they’re gonna be so stressed that if you just take a little nibble and grow with them people will accept that better…

Peter:
And there’s a finding that one problem that people desperately need to solve. And I’ll call it a quick timeout for a story which is both heartening and terrifying for entrepreneurs.When Airbnb came out of the Y Combinator incubator nobody would vote for them. Nobody would invest in them, they were like oh no this is stupid, this’ll never happen.Yeah and so you know it’s and so you said that one hand it’s like oh my god it’s like if air B&B couldn’t get anybody to see you know what am I gonna do, on the other hand it’s like well guess what everybody said no and they went ahead anyway and they became successful.

Jeffery:
For sure. (Inaudible)

Peter:
that gap though and explain to people what you’re gonna do and why they should believe you’re going to do it.

Jeffery:
Exactly. And I think this is really an interesting trend that’s actually
happened now is that since that time, entrepreneurship was also a tough space to get into and everybody believed if big business was I’m not gonna have you as a customer because you’re gonna fail. So you take