Michael Katz has been one of the youngest CEOs on the NASDAQ, and clearly quite adept at raising funding and building companies.
During our time on the DealMakers Podcast, Michael was generous enough to share how he got started, how he built and sold his first company with his brother in his early 20s, and the company he has raised millions for. Plus, company culture and how to keep growing as a leader in times of economic uncertainty.
Born in Boston
A diehard sports fan, Katz was born in Boston, Mass. While Michael was busy rounding up the kids in the neighborhoods to play football or baseball, his brother who is just two years older than him was indoors, teaching himself how to code.
Not sure exactly what he wanted to study, Michael ended up hedging his bets by picking two majors when he went off to Syracuse University. He graduated with degrees in both economics and finance.
Studying finance gave him the fundamentals of business, going public, and what’s coming in the future. Though he says the economics side has proven of more practical value throughout his career as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneur In Training
Michael always knew he wanted to do something entrepreneurial. He still didn’t know exactly what that would be when he graduated, but he saw a path to improving his skills and knowledge on the way.
That was consulting and working at a bigger company. He chose Accenture, which was still known as Anderson Consulting at the time.
There he got to see what great looks like. Something he has seen other entrepreneurs without this experience suffer from. They simply haven’t seen what great looks like and how it is done.
At Accenture, he said he learned the value of committing to high-quality work and developing good habits that would aid him in going out on his own.
Co-Founding A Company With Family
Michael Katz has started several companies with his brother. At least two of them have been very successful.
It’s not always an easy thing, but it can be a great thing when you get it right. He says that their skill sets were very complimentary. One technical cofounder and one business focused cofounder.
Their partnership started after Michael left Accenture and ran into a friend with an idea. He convinced his brother to quit his job and join them.
He says it was beneficial to have had their father instill in them the values of getting along, making family a priority and working out their differences respectfully.
No cofounders will always agree. So, they came up with two strategies to make it work. One was focusing on building this as a real business that can scale, not just as a family business. That keeps you focused on the big goal, not the small issues.
The second was hiring some fantastic department heads. They are instrumental in keeping this focus and arbitrating disagreements to ensure the best decisions are made for the business.
Going Public In Your 20s
Their first startup was Interclick. An advertising technology company built on a powerful data platform. In 2011 they were doing $150M in revenue with just 22 salespeople. Yahoo saw their technology as having the potential for a one plus one equals three outcomes.
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