Neil Patel

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Christopher Golec is a seasoned entrepreneur with a demonstrated record of fostering innovation and leading successful start-ups. Golec’s journey spans from his early days as a chemical engineer to becoming a key figure in the world of fintech, with his co-founding of Demandbase, a pioneering B2B marketing platform, serving as a remarkable testament to his visionary leadership. His venture, Channel99, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like GTMfund, Norwest Venture Partners, Jackson Square Ventures, and Bloomberg Beta.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Golec’s transition from being a chemical engineer in Detroit to co-founding a game-changing B2B marketing platform, Demandbase, and his latest venture, Channel99.
  • The concept of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and how it revolutionized B2B marketing.
  • The challenges faced during fundraising and strategies employed to navigate these hurdles.
  • Insights into managing the evolving leadership dynamics in a rapidly growing startup.
  • The importance of fostering a strong company culture and making quick people-related decisions in the growth journey of a company.

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    About Christopher Golec:

    Chris Golec has built three successful technology businesses in the last 18 years. As Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Demandbase, Chris’s mission is to transform B2B advertising, marketing, and sales through innovations in digital technology.

    Today, hundreds of blue-chip enterprises across the financial services, hi-tech, manufacturing, healthcare, and telecom industries have adopted Demandbase’s B2B marketing platform and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) technology to improve the way they acquire and grow customers dramatically.

    Prior to starting Demandbase, Chris founded Supplybase to help global manufacturers collaborate with their supply chain to bring new products to market.

    As one of the first successful B2B software and data solutions in the late ’90s, Supplybase was acquired in March 2000 by i2 Technologies (Nasdaq: ITWO). Before becoming a software entrepreneur, Chris held multiple sales, marketing, and engineering positions with GE, DuPont, and GM.

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    Connect with Christopher Golec:

    Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

    Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So super exciting. You know we have a really amazing guest today we’re gonna find his journey quite inspiring and again building scaling financing all of that good stuff that we like to hear so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today. Christopher Goli welcome to the show so born in Detroit Michigan so tell us say a little of about your story growing up how was saying how how how was life growing up there. So.

    Christopher Golec: Thank you for having me excited to be here.

    Christopher Golec: Michigan Michigan is a beautiful state I grew up outside of Detroit and went to college there and it was a great time I still bring my ah kids back to state of Michigan every summer we go up to a lake house there.

    Alejandro Cremades: And also you study chemical engineering out of all things you know what? what got you into that.

    Christopher Golec: I know not it doesn’t make for an exciting career when you’re a chemical engineer in Detroit because you’re either. You’re going to work on a paint line or ah, a hazardous waste facility or something like that. So I was able to to break out and I moved and. Ah, to the East Coast enjoying Dupont right out of school.

    Alejandro Cremades: And and right out of school I mean as you were saying you joined a Dupont then you did ge so how was how was life in corporate America because you know it took you you know, just a little bit to ah. To really feel prepared and then you just went at it. So what? What did you need it to learn in order to really you know take that leap of faith first.

    Christopher Golec: Good good question I worked for within duponnd I worked for a a small business so it was kind of like working for a smaller company in ah in a big entitate and I went from product engineering into sales I ended up selling plastics and Ge hired me and.

    Christopher Golec: Moved me up to the Boston area and I did the Mba part time and continued to do sales and then ge transferred me out to the west coast to manage all the plastic sales that go to basically Hewwit Packard and Apple computer which was know it’s $100000000 business of plastic. Into all those computers and this was back in early 90 s and right around 1995 when the internet was just taking off myself and 2 other people from ah ge started a supply chain software company. It was really one of the first web-based.

    Christopher Golec: B to B Supply chain software businesses out there.

    Alejandro Cremades: And alsoly base and you guys push that for about the six years prior prior to the acquisition. so so what what were you guys doing there. What was the um, the business model. How are you guys making money.

    Christopher Golec: We sold it as as a license we sold to the large manufacturers and basically the business was all about helping larger corporations when they’re designing new products find and collaborate with suppliers all around the world. And we did a lot of that type of work ge so we were just kind of taking what we did day-to-day and and brought it online none of us knew how to build software though so it was a slow start and then we finally got some momentum and we’re able to raise some some venture capital in 9098.

    Alejandro Cremades: How was how was it like how was I like racing money 9098 versus you know what you see now in the eventual landscape.

    Christopher Golec: And the businesses.

    Christopher Golec: Well, it’s interesting. It’s a good question if you were doing kind of a business- to-con consumer ah entity. You know that was a lot easier to raise money but to do things like b two b people didn didn’t know what it was. You know it just wasn’t very sexy to investors so it was hard. And we finally found a venture firm where one of the senior partners came out of a big manufacturing company called flexronics so he knew exactly the problem we were solving and they made the lead investment and so we were kind of off to the races we were able to build our own engineering team and. And you know we scaled to about seventy seventy to eighty people

    Alejandro Cremades: And then tell us about the acquisition because I mean the the acquisition ended up being being 400000000 and it sounds like it was quite a journey because you know you guys were going through the process. The board didn’t want to go forward. The I Mean. With the acquisition but they but I mean the market you know, literally peaked you know, Also so quite a crazy time So tell us about you know this whole thing. Yeah.

    Christopher Golec: Yeah, well we we really benefited by hiring you know an outside Ceo to come in to the company and right around I think December of Ninety Ninety Nine he you know he had the foresight say like you know times are really really good right now and our solution makes more sense to be part of a bigger supply chain software. So he really instrumented and orchestrated. Um, it was ah you know it’s essentially a bidding war. Yeah. For our small company between 4 different businesses and the way it unfolded we we were actually sold the transaction was announced the day that market peaked on March thirteen two thousand so obviously very very lucky timing. Um, but at the time no, there was a lot of other businesses going public. Um. With no revenue for billions of dollars so a lot of the investors around the table were like you know you guys might be leaving a lot of money on the table. Um, the reality is we’ve left everything on the table had we tried to stick it out because you know a lot of businesses like ours just couldn’t make it through. You know the downturn in 4001.

    Alejandro Cremades: So what did that teach you about timing and how have you you know perhaps say polish that you know as as time went by you know for other stuff.

    Christopher Golec: Um, you know it’s a good question. Yeah, the lesson was really about greed and and you know pigs get slaughtered as as the saying goes and you know it happened to a lot of businesses. There’s ah you know a lot of companies that made a lot of money. Um during those times of course. But there’s probably 3 times as many that totally lost everything and I know those stories are you know litter throughout the valley. So you know as I’ve built you know subsequent companies. Um, you know you just take a lot of those lessons and in what you did learn and and and also recognize that a lot of that. Root truly was a bubble um and timing was lucky. So I think it’s important not to be kind of arrogant like you know exactly what you’re doing, you’re because you’re always learning and evolving and you know and today you know the threshold for going public and hitting these valuations. You know the bar is just so much higher than it used to be.

    Alejandro Cremades: And I guess say obviously first company first exit what bitability did that give you because I mean obviously you you guys pushed that for over six years so I’m sure that that gave you like more basicibility into like wow this is how it’s done the full cycle so did did it become like. More of a clearer picture and an easier or more at peace with the process of of being an entrepreneur and building and scaling.

    Christopher Golec: Yeah, absolutely like you know I often say you learn what not to do or where not to spend your time I mean I think that’s half the battle. Um, and certainly it gave us you know relationships with you know the venture community understanding how to raise money. Um, you know how to divide up equity properly because we spent a lot of times on things that probably didn’t matter and you know through the journey you know at demand base over 15 years. Same thing you continue to learn and learn and learn and it’s really important to. Incorporate those learnings into the the next next venture.

    Alejandro Cremades: Now as they say once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. So why? what happened next.

    Christopher Golec: Well, that is a true statement. So I yeah, every sold the business I stayed on board with the company that acquired us for a couple years. Um, and then I started doing some consulting with businesses just to you know, stay active. And I was consulting really around marketing and um I just didn’t feel like I was building anything I was helping other companies but I wasn’t really part of anything and 1 of the things that really hit me over the head is you know a lot of these b two b companies or marketers. They’re stuck with all these. B to c technologies and um I just felt like at the time marketers they spend a lot of money. They don’t have a really good way to manage their vendors and suppliers and channels and so the original vision of demand-base was. Kind of like a supply chain solution for marketers. However, that was it was just too early. Um, so that was about 2005 and I could just tell that at that time you know the the venture community wasn’t going to bite on something like that. They just didn’t understand it that well and so. The the thing the area I decided to solve for was well what if we created b two b technology specifically for marketers that are selling to other businesses and that’s what became account based marketing or Abm as we know it today.

    Alejandro Cremades: And and and being too early or too late I mean how how how do you? How do you go about you know, Perhaps now you know obviously that you’ve done this a few times. How do you go about timing the market so that you know that you’re not too early or you’re not too late.

    Christopher Golec: Well, you’re you’re too early if you can’t raise money because it’s really hard to build a business without raising. It could be done of course but um and if you’re too late. There’s just already you know companies you know out there doing it doing what you’re doing or. Or have already solved the problem I think it’s really important to talk to customers and talk to other industry leaders and getting feedback and you know before I started this most recent business I did exactly that I reached out to a lot of. Customers and cmos that I respected I reached out to analyst at for started gartner and I reached out to investors and it was very clear that the the market was ready and it’s essentially the original vision of a demand base is the new you know channel 99 today.

    Alejandro Cremades: And obviously you know we’ll talk about channel 99 and what you’re up to today but the demand base you know also quite a successful ah venture know that thing that you build there. I mean with demand base. You know I believe that you know it’s been reported that you guys are like in the hundreds of millions. You know in terms of revenue there and you were you know, ah pushing that for for quite a while you know you were all the way until 2019 there the Ceo so I guess how did it. That things change. You know to the point where you know you started you know, perhaps pulling back a little bit more delegating more and eventually there became a board and and you failed that the company was on its own.

    Christopher Golec: On.

    Christopher Golec: Yeah, you know you know as an entrepreneur I have you know a ton of patch around innovation and kind of building the next thing and as you scale and get larger and larger that part of it gets harder and harder you become a little bit more as a Ceo a little bit. More distant, especially as the you know the company has a thousand people. Um, you know a lot of innovation comes through you know acquisition and um and so we were at ah, a kind of a juncture where our our cro that was on board for 7 years Gabe rogel was really excited to. To be a Ceo of a business and so we just kind of orchestrated a transition where um he came on board and kind of took over the Ceo spot but he had been at the business for you know, 7 years running running revenue and sales and so that was a you know, fairly easy transition and I you know I stayed. Active you know 6 months to a year afterwards I still remain on the board. Um, but you know during that time period. That’s where I really kind of vedded this this this new idea. Well I guess it’s a refresh of an old idea. But um, it was able to do a lot of validation and. It’s really fun getting back into it. Um, and you know, starting from scratch and again avoiding kind of mistakes and doing things that you know don’t necessarily make sense for a small company.

    Alejandro Cremades: But I’m sure that with demand base too. You were able to really see the um, ah big Organization. No I mean as you were saying you know all these employees. Ah the company raised the over 300000000 a potentially going public Soon. So I think that in this case, you were able to also see the you know what a later stage company looks like that is a little bit Bigger. So What kind of ah issues did you also or lessons did you learn around scale as well. And how do you think about scale where you’re still at the early beginnings now.

    Christopher Golec: Um, it’s a good Yeah yeah, you know that’s ah, that’s one of the hardest things when you’re scaling a business. It’s around the people because you know your management team from 0 to 10000000 is often very different. From 10 to 50 and 50 to 100 and as you build a small company. You know it becomes somewhat of a family and you’re very close to these people and some people can scale beyond to those next stages and some people just don’t um and some people just don’t like it and want to make a change and so. That’s really really important as far as having the right leadership team in place at each stage.

    Alejandro Cremades: So then tell us about shifting gears to Channel Ninety Nine How the channel 99 happen because I mean always he you know, but demand base really successful company. You know, unbelievable What you had You know, being able to accomplish with bringing something from nothing all the way to to that type of Level. So How was that transition like.

    Christopher Golec: Um, you know it. It was a little bit funky with ah you know during the pandemic right? Um, you know because starting a new business when you’re innovating you want to be at the whiteboard with people and that we didn’t really have that opportunity. Um, but you know the idea itself. You know I guess had been germinating for quite some time and so it was easy for me to kind of vet. Um in the the idea behind the company is it’s all around b two b marketing again, but it it is really a platform for understanding. You know the quality and dollar efficiency of all your different marketing vendors and providers. So whether it’s demand-based or six cents or Linkedin or Google or whatever it is that you’re spending money on it provides really a source of truth on what is really working and what is not. And you know for for the b two b marketer out there. It’s really hard because most companies are only targeting 2 or three percent of the companies out there and there’s 2000 marketing solutions. But there’s probably only a dozen that really matter. But it’s a different dozen for each company and so we’re. Providing a lot more transparency around that especially in the world of of advertising because so much money gets spent and there’s so much inefficiency and so I think we can bring a lot of kind of truth behind what’s working. What’s not.

    Alejandro Cremades: So channel 99 tell us about channel 99 what is the business model. How are you guys making money with channel 99

    Christopher Golec: It’s a pretty simple ah model. It’s a very low base subscription of fifteen Thousand a year and then we have um, a way to kind of uncover the effectiveness of advertising so all the activity that’s happening off your website. Um, that we can start monitoring so there’s a page- you go model for that piece of the technology.

    Alejandro Cremades: And then you were saying that for Channel Ninety Nine There was a ton of calls a ton of you know perspective a customers that you were speaking with at what point do you realize that you had hit product Market Fit What did that look like.

    Alejandro Cremades: What did product? Yeah, so what? What? What? Yeah so what did product market fit look like with channel 99

    Christopher Golec: I’m sorry alejandro your question broke up a little bit there.

    Christopher Golec: You know, um, it was pretty clear that you know as Market turns down a little bit marketing investment always gets constrained right and we. Play right into that because we really show people you know where they can reduce money and not impact their pipeline or revenue. Um and so it kind of our solution works in good times and bad but especially in tough tougher times where people are playing back. We. We give a lot of visibility into where those decisions should be made so we do like vendor performance ranking. We also have a level of Benchmark Data. So You know how? well you’re doing versus companies like yours.

    Alejandro Cremades: Now for this Company. You guys have also raised money from different investors and you know at this point you’ve been around the block a few times. What were you looking for? you know in investors when when you decided to pick up the phone and call them and and how easy. It wants to raise money this time around.

    Christopher Golec: Yeah, well yeah, I’ve been around the block a hundred times I think down this sandho road. Um, ah it was relatively easy because it is actually a good time to be starting a company. Um, there’s you know, a lot of investors out there that. You know, invested in middle stage or later stage companies and with valuations kind of upside down. Um a lot of them have shifted to earlier stage investing. So. There’s actually a lot of dollars out there for doing seed in series. A um, my my round was led by Jackson Square ventures um who also invested in demand base and um, you know the partner there I’ve known for a long time and kind of what I look for an investor. It’s it’s not just the dollars. It’s somebody that can really help you build the business and you know Bob Spinner who’s there has been just a tremendous asset at demand base and he’s. Also a great asset to me here at channel 99 and we’ve had additional investors including nor west ventures ridge ventures bloomberg beta and then um, you know a handful of into individuals as well.

    Alejandro Cremades: I’m sure that there’s a lot of people that are listening now that are wondering you know that are also like perhaps looking at racing money or or that are thinking about the dynamics with their investors when you say those investors that help you in building the business. What does that look like what is what is that added value that they bring to the table because most the investors they talk about value but almost none of them. You know, really bring it to the table unless you know you’re a season entrepreneur like you and you’re able to really filter through the noise and understand what each one of them are able to bring is stuff So What does helping. You in building the business look like.

    Christopher Golec: Yeah I love I I like to work with investors that have operating experience that have either been a Ceo or run sales or marketing or product because I just think they can bring so much to a small company and. You know I’m of the mindset I I love the feedback and interaction. so I definitely embrace it um so I I try and leverage our investors as much as possible I you know have them help interview candidates. Ah you know, just bounce some ideas off um because as you. Probably know from your interviews you know the the ceo gig is ah can be a ah lonely place at times and so it’s really good to have those kind of sounding boards if you will.

    Alejandro Cremades: Now when it comes to vision. You know is he the investors and the employees you know you’re enrolling them all in into what’s possible and the future that you’re living into and um so when it comes to the future. Imagine you were you basically had the opportunity of going to sleep tonight. And you wake up in a world where the vision of Channel 99 is fully realized what does that world look like.

    Christopher Golec: You know I kind of have this vision of you know we’re of being kind of the Adobe for b two b right in in the consumer world. You know everybody has Adobe analytics and their platforms for measurement and in the world of b 2 b. Doesn’t exist and so I think we can fill that role and I also think there’s a role. Um, you know we’re double verify within the advertising or ad tech world. They you know they do a wonderful job with verification and tracking human versus Nonhuman and brand safety.

    Christopher Golec: That’s also needed in b two b but it’s it’s not the same measurements and so I think we can also solve for that as well. So when you look at those 2 business if we can do the same in b two b that’s a really nice large attractive business to be in.

    Alejandro Cremades: And as we were talking about people with investors and and and also with employees part of that as well. You know there’s 1 thing that they that needs to resonate and that is culture right? So how do you go about building culture.

    Christopher Golec: Well, yeah, that is you know job number 1 I’m super passionate about that and when we were building demand base when we were about 2025 people I kind of like set out this vision that we want to be a best places to work business that we want to have. Great talent, great culture and it you know it doesn’t happen overnight you really have to invest in it and um, you know it’s not about the free snacks like a lot of people think it’s about being transparent with employees. It’s about engaging them in the business. Um. And so we invested heavily in like weekly town halls. Um, kind of sharing sharing what’s working what’s not working. Um, we invested a lot in in philanthropic events and activities which was probably the single most team building thing that we’ve ever done. Um. And people really really value that and so in investing on all these different things we end up. Ah you know, becoming at best places to work in San Francisco for 8 years in a row and within glassdoor we were number 10 in the country out of 500000 small businesses. Um. And so it’s not. You know it’s not just having people fill out a survey. It’s you really have to to work at it.

    Alejandro Cremades: So For example now now when you’re building Channel 99 and and let’s say you’re meeting with people and you’re looking to bring people on Board. What are what are some of those things that you’re looking you know when you’re like engaging when you’re having because it is really Tough. You know in like in a meeting or or a few meetings really be able. Ah, to know you know how that individual is going to be able to grow with a business. So What are some of the things that you look for.

    Christopher Golec: You know? Yeah I I think having a remote business is hard. It’s really hard and so I’m hoping that we have you know a hybrid model will start to evolve. Not not to say that people are going to have to all come into the office in some big headquarters. But I think we’ll end up having you know. Small offices and in different places just so people can collaborate um and people can have an impact and see their impact on the business. It’s hard to do that over Zoom or slack and um so I think that’ll be important as far as presence and collaboration. But I think some of the other elements that we learned at demand base is just you know being very transparent and communicating and and when the opportunity presents itself getting people together to do something you know for the greater community is important and sometimes when you can. Find a way to use your technology to make a difference in things outside of b two b marketing. It’s pretty exciting for people because they they see you know? Yes, we sell software to other businesses. But if you can sell or give away your software to you know impact. You know an organization in a meaningful way that can have a long lasting you know value culture wise.

    Alejandro Cremades: So let’s talk about the impact there. Let’s let’s double click on that imagine I’m able to bring you into a time machine back in time and I bring you back to perhaps you know that moment that you were a ge you know, wondering with your colleagues there. You know what to do next right? and and perhaps to bring a. Ah, company of your own to market if you were able to sit down with that younger Chrisand be able to give that younger Chris1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would what would? What would you tell your younger self and why given what you know now.

    Christopher Golec: Ah, gosh. That’s a really good Question. You know I think we probably always underestimated the people factor and um, you know, not only hiring great people. But. If Somebody’s not the right fit making those decisions earlier because that can be such a drain on a company and it’s not to say that somebody’s a bad performer. It could be that somebody’s just the company’s outgrown them or they’re not. And the right position and that’s partly the company’s fault right? It’s not just the employees. So I think making those decisions sooner really benefits the business and and really all employees.

    Alejandro Cremades: So for the people that are listening Chris that are wondering what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

    Christopher Golec: You can do so on Linkedin. Um, you can certainly you know, send me an email at [email protected] and that’s probably the best way and certainly go to our website. There is a you know free solution there if you want to get started and you know we’re. We’ll be introducing our platform next month

    Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well hey Chris well thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

    Christopher Golec: Um, thank you very much it was enjoyed it.

    If you like the show, make sure that you hit that subscribe button. If you can leave a review as well, that would be fantastic. And if you got any value either from this episode or from the show itself, share it with a friend. Perhaps they will also appreciate it. Also, remember, if you need any help, whether it is with your fundraising efforts or with selling your business, you can reach me at [email protected]

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