Neil Patel

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Keith Teare has been one of the most influential founders behind today’s technology and startup ecosystem. Now he’s changing things again with his new AI-powered fintech that is changing the DNA of the venture capital space. The company, SignalRank, has acquired funding from top-tier investors like Candou Ventures, AltaIR Capital, Blake Grossman, and Charlie Jadallah.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Doing deals with the Chinese government
  • Today’s VC ecosystem
  • How SignalRank works
  • Keith’s top advice for founders


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For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

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About Keith Teare:

Mr. Keith Teare is a Co-Founder and serves as Chief Executive Officer & Board Member at SignalRank. He is the Founder and serves as Chief Executive Officer at ContextPlane.

Keith served as U.S Partner, Executive Chairman, and Chair of the Investment Committee at Accelerated Digital Ventures. He is also an Advisor at Silica Nexus, DriverMiles, and Hub Token.

Keith co-founded and served as the Chief Product Officer at Archimedes Labs. He founded and served as Chief Executive Officer, President, and Chairman at RealNames. He also served as Advisor at Pulsar Venture Capital.

Keith has started or co-started many successful companies, including cScape, EasyNet, RealNames, TechCrunch, and now just.me. He was a winner of the British Telecom Award for Internet Innovation, London 1995, on behalf of CYBERIA Café.

Keith is a Computerworld-Smithsonian Laureate. He co-founded and served as Product Advisor at ContextGrid.

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Connect with Keith Teare:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Already hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today again, we’re gonna have the battle of accents here. You know they spanish you know Spanglist you know some of you you know, tell me and then also we’re gonna have the british as well. But with without a doubt you guys are gonna be learning a lot. Getting inspired because our founder you know that we have joining us Today. He’s done it so many times that I was like losing already the amount you know they count on the times that he has built scaled sold you know done all types of stuff with hyperg growthth companies so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Keith Tarra welcome to the show.

Keith Teare: Whereas Dias Alejaro come his staff.

Alejandro Cremades: Moving in and moving me in doing very well. so so I want to do a little of a walk through memory lane here Keith why don’t you give us a little file of ah of an insider view at how was live growing up there in the u k because I know that. You know it’s not not that easy. You know I know that you were also the first one that attended college out of the family you were the older of ah of of 6 siblings so give yourself walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.

Keith Teare: Well, ah you know like life was I don’t want to overdratize it I lived on a on a councilless state is what we call it in England in in America they call it projects. Um, which is basically municipal housing. It was quite nice. Four bedrooms front and backyard. In a country far area. So I don’t want to say it was terrible. It was fine. Um, alcoholic father. Um, lovely mother who had to deal with that and um, grew up with a sense of injustice. Ah, you know when you’re poor in England and you see the queen with a crown and her jewels. Doesn’t feel good to you. You think there’s something wrong with that and so I grew up a bit of a rebel at a bit of a chip on my shoulder and my way of dealing with that was reading and understanding. Um, ah you know in England at the age of 11 they test you back in the day when I was going to school. And they put you in the b stream if you fail the test and I failed the test I went to the bstream I was only 10 because my birthday is August Twenty Seventh and the cut off dates September first so I took the test a year early I was borderline interviewed by the headmaster who asked what does your dad do. My dad worked for the secret service. So I actually didn’t know what he did so I so I I failed and they put me in the b stream age of 11 12 30 and 1415 I’m in the b stream ah and going to school every day looking at factories that the teachers tell you that’s where you’re going to work when you finish school.

Keith Teare: And he finished school at the age of 15 in the b stream so I hated that idea so luckily a second exam was invented during my years and at the age of 15 you could try again and I tried again and passed and got straight a’s and went. Back to the a stream and showed up at the high school what is called a high school is basically a grammar school in english and was told ah Keith don’t bother applying for university you you know you’re probably not goingnna get in which may be super angry. Um, and and. Honestly up up until that moment I didn’t plan to apply for university but as soon as that was said I knew I was going to go to university so I changed my whole outlook ah started a social economic history economics british constitution. Why because I thought politics was the way to change the world. And history knowing history was a good way to change things. You know my heroes were people like Shei Guvara um Karl Marx you know? Ah, ah people like that and um I succeeded I got to university um. In canterbury university of Kent I’m now a doctor at that university and did super well I got the best degree in my year ah was a very strong political activist leading I led marchism protest and wrote a lot.

Keith Teare: But I also was the guy who booked the bands so I remember I booked 10 c and ah the manager was Ray Davis from the kinks and I hung out with Ray Davis so I I kind of bridged entertainment and politics and but I studied hard as well. So I did pretty well. Ah, and learned to code I learned to code with the earliest it was called a sinclair spectrum and then a commodore 64 um, ah why because it was kind of interesting I didn’t have a purpose really it just thought wow that’s super cool. Let me try that. And I was a statistics as part of my university degree I did statistics so I was quite numerate and computers helped there I I used that today at signal rank everything I learned then I’m using now in in the ai and machine learning. So so that kind of changed me from a angry to. I think more optimistic and focused on doing stuff.

Alejandro Cremades: Like the problem solving because obviously you know at that point you got started with building companies so you never stopped I mean the the first day Rodeo. You know that you did you know it was in the publishing side of things and and you handed over that business to your brother. So. So obviously you know that led to. Ultimately, what has been you know a really big Success. You know eas it but then but on that business that you handed over to your brother. You know that that kind of like first Rodeos in the in the venture space or in the entrepreneurial space I mean what was that lesson that you had to learn from that journey.

Keith Teare: Well I mean the first thing is um I work with my brother which by the way is never easy I don’t know if anyone’s ever worked with their sibling but ah, siblings fight. Ah, ah so I worked with my brother I love my brother dearly and ah.

Alejandro Cremades: Oh yeah.

Keith Teare: My brother was ah somebody who stayed in the b stream at school by the way I bought him ah a computer whilst he was a taxi driver when he was eighteen years old and he learned to code he eventually became a cto of a public company. Um, so so so the first thing is um. Never underestimate. Someone’s potential is a really huge lesson that he was written off really and and he became a fantastic ctr. Um, the second is you’ve got to do the work yourself to understand how to work with other people on the work. So i. I coded systems for people like Warner Brothers music and mobile oil in that business. Um, ah before my brother came in and started coding and he was a way better coder than me. Ah, but I you know I needed to understand how to do the job how to what customers needed I did a lot of. Ah, grunt work I was traveling a lot to customers doing support and so on um, and and then to be honest, it almost got too successful. Ah, but by 9093, we were doing. You know there was only 2 of us in the business we were doing millions of dollar pounds a year in revenue. And didn’t have to do much work because it was mainly support work for software that we deployed so it was boring and I got lazy and so I gave him the stock as a way to force me to do something new I basically said look.

Alejandro Cremades: M.

Keith Teare: If you if you’ll keep paying me a salary for six months I’ll give you all the stock and after six months you stop paying me and it created this kind of requirement of me to to make easy net successful in six months and we started using that in in ah the idea was June 94 and we opened for business in August Ninety four so I had two months to learn Unix how to make an isp network how to validate logins. Ah everything mail servers news servers web servers. The whole thing. In 94 that that was like a month sitting in a room with books and a computer by the way paying ah using a credit card for all the systems and.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow! So taking you taking the risk too. But hey that was that was quite a fulfilling journey too because you took that company public so and it and he was saying value that at one point at a billion. So What was like. Take a company public I mean obviously you were now you know, ah an entrepreneur you know you had done you know stuff in the past but taking a company public that’s quite a milestone. What was the experience like.

Keith Teare: So.

Keith Teare: Well, you would you would think the answer should be that it was awesome, but actually it completely sucked. It was it was really it was terrible. Um, well first it was a Uk ipo on the market called aim a I am it stands for the alternative investment market.

Alejandro Cremades: Why.

Keith Teare: And the amount of money we raised was $2000000 at a $20,000,000 valuation. Ah sorry pounds all pounds. Um, and ah so it was a small amount of money. Ah changing for us but a small amount of money. It was not a us ipo within 3 years easy net was worth hundreds of millions hundreds of millions. Ah, ah, but at the beginning it was $20000000 and 2000000 secondly the border directors changed to become financial people. Not not part of the company at all just external control agents if you will. And I would at that time easynet was the center of London life Maurice Sochi shinao’connor Johnny Rotten would all come to our office. Um Mick Jagger helped us launch a website we we were like the center of attention. And I was the ideas guy so I would go to the board and say we should do this or we should do that or we should do something else and the board always said no we got to focus on you know the core business so they destroyed the opportunity for easynet to become the vehicle for internet growth in in Europe. They they kept it very narrow even though it was successful and I I they told me to stop bringing ideas. So I resigned and I moved to the us and yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: Move to Palo Alto and we say you know here you you continue you know doing good stuff. You know. In fact, the next company that you did that was a real ah real names and essentially real names. you know what you what you 1 thing that I thought was pretty incredible I mean pretty impressive is that literally the company became a unicorn in just 2 years So what do you think you know now that you’re looking back. What do you think allowed for that to happen.

Keith Teare: Yeah, yeah.

Keith Teare: Well partly it was the the environment. Um, it was ninety ninety seven ninety eight and that was the up curve of the internet bubble that we all have heard about and so value I raised one hundred and thirty million dollars in twelve months through 3 rounds of financing. Um, so you know things were moving fast generally but that couldn’t happen unless you had got something that was growing and what real names did is it. It. It started with the recognition that most people in the world couldn’t use the internet because they don’t speak english.

Alejandro Cremades: Um.

Keith Teare: Um, and so if you tried to type in arabic on the internet in Ninety ninety seven you couldn’t um the web browser only let you type httpwwwwsomethingdot something using latin characters. It didn’t even allows you to use accents. For example, you couldn’t use accents or om outs. Um, so real names actually created the addressing system that enabled every language in the world to become a web address. That’s why it’s called real names you could use your own language and you could type in arabic for example, wall street journal. And we would send you to the wall street journal website even though you so typed in arabic and Larry and Sergey built that into Google we partnered with them before they had any revenue. Actually we were their first revenue so you would go. You would go to Google and type in ah in arabic wall street journal.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow.

Keith Teare: If we had that it would come right at the top and it would say real name and it looked looked like official and if you clicked on it. You’d go to the wall street journal website even though you typed in Arabic and Google called that I’m feeling lucky. Um and today when you use Chrome and you type in Chrome. That’s our technology idea. It’s still there and it’s in Microsoft partnered with us and put it into internet explorer which by the way internet Explorer was 98% of browsers back in those days so we had worldwide reach.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow.

Keith Teare: And between 97 and 2002 we grew to about 2,000,000,000 consumers delivered to websites using keywords all over the world. The chinese government became our partner in Japan in Korea in in South Africa in France. Ah, it was a real global phenomenon.

Alejandro Cremades: And how how is it like to negotiate with the Chinese government that must be quite a unique.

Keith Teare: The the most interesting thing is they don’t tell you what they want? Um I it took 2 years and I thought the price we were asking was the the problem. The reason why it was going so slow and it turned out. The only thing they really wanted was that the servers were in China.

Keith Teare: Ah, because the chinese are super convinced that the world doesn’t like them and might cut them off so they want to have assets that they control so that if they get cut off it keeps working and so chinese nationalism is very defensive. It’s not an aggressive nationalism like Us nationalism or british nationalism which I think of as aggressive nationalism. It’s like we rule the world. You do what we say the chinese it’s you’re going to kill us so we need to do something to protect ourselves. Um, and and it’s very different nationalism. So as soon as I realize that. Deal got done and they paid us $10 per year per chinese keyword but there was a soldier with a gun at the desk when I signed the documents.

Alejandro Cremades: Unbelievable And why didn’ that up being the oh my God so you want to make sure that you’re not pulling any any any weird move there otherwise and you you’ll be in trouble now now for you guys you know after this, you know you you. You ended up being involved with Tech Crunch. You know a company that I’m sure that many of the listeners you know are going to recognize I’m sure that many many have read multiple multiple articles on this say on this website I mean what? what an impact that that had now in this case, you were.

Keith Teare: Yet.

Alejandro Cremades: Founding shareholder I mean you were basically pretty much incubated this thing out of the studio that you had and you had Mike Carrington that you partner up with who who essentially is the founder and you own 75% of the company. And he owned the rest. So how what happened there I mean it’s pretty impressive I mean I understand that literally you know you ended up doing a swap and and and and and giving away you know most of that equity away I mean most people wouldn’t do that but walk us through how that happened and. How do you really deal with this type of tension you know in ah in a founding you know team or perhaps you know environment on an early stage.

Keith Teare: Well look it. It starts by you have to be humble and honest, um, if you’re if you’re if if you’re not humble and honest, you do all the wrong things and in the case of tech crunch um to be specific I own 75% of archimedes. Ventures which was the incubator for techrunch and me and Mike were partners in archimedes ventures and we kind of owned everything that came out of archimess adventures in that 75 25 way but we but but so um, yet implicitly I I own 75% on day one. However, there’s some facts that that one needs to know the first is Techcrunch was Mike’s idea and only his idea we we had a separate idea called eio that we worked on that we were also seventy five Twenty five um and um I was against the idea. I said to my you know my ah blog is really too small. An idea to spend the next ten years your life on. You should think of something bigger and he said no I really he he was determined to do it and Mike’s both tenacious is ah is a very good researcher. He works super hard I don’t know anyone that works harder than him. And he built techcrunch by interviewing startup founders of web two web two was just beginning in 2005 and he made the whole thing happen the whole thing so pretty soon I don’t know how long it might have been a year might came to me and said you know it really isn’t fair.

Keith Teare: I’m I’m doing all the work in this thing and you own all this stock. Um, and I said you know you’re right? It isn’t fair. Um, it’s a historical artifact of what we agreed in back then why don’t we flip it around. You have 75 and I have 25 the same as in edgio now Mike Mike’s the negotiator is one of his best characteristics and he said how about 10% for me 10% and I shook his hand immediately said deal. Let’s do it because because I didn’t have any sense of ownership or proprietary ship over tech crunch.

Alejandro Cremades: Yeah.

Keith Teare: Didn’t believe it was my idea and I thought he was right that it wasn’t fair. So so we so we did that deal on a handshake by the way we never papered the deal for a long time and Mike was always honorable to it. Always.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow, that’s incredible now the company I understand you know it was rumored that it was acquired for forty million bucks so you know great great outcome now I guess you know like in this case for you. You know one thing led to the next you know you you took some some roles advisory you know like helped other companies. But very recently you thought it was time to go at it again with signal rank. So so why signal rank you know out of all things out of all the companies that you’ve been involved with all these know how these lessons learned why did you think that the problem that signal rank is right now addressing it was. Good enough for you to take another stop out on entrepreneurship.

Keith Teare: Yeah, great question. Um, it took me quite a long time to decide to do single rank. Um I wrote an essay back in 2013 the title of the essay was this is not Silicon Valley and I had that. A picture of that famous painting with a pipe that says this is not a pipe I can’t remember the the artist now. Um and and um, what that 2013 essay documented was the change in venture capital from a single asset class that lived on sandhill road. Into what today is 3 asset classes seed investors venture investors and growth investors more or less seed investing didn’t exist before Techcrunch. There was no such thing and seed investing started to exist around 2007 and today there are you know so more than a thousand seed funds around the world 700 here in Silicon Valley that dominate early stage investing and what that early essay said was that the rise of seed investing is creating a brand new set of opportunities. Um, and um, ah and different different dynamics for founders and it was important to start learning it. Ah what that led to is this recognition a hundred percent of all unicorns come out of seed investment stage these days.

Keith Teare: By the time a company does a b round those seed investors are getting diluted because they don’t have the capital to keep going so the people who help the companies come to life get punished for not having enough capital. Ah, the venture investors come in and dilute them but worse still the growth investors. People people who write huge checks dilute them even more so. what what I realized is if you could provide capital to the seed and a round investors to to keep going to maintain their shares at the b and the c and the d the that more money would be made. Then they make from their original investments. So single rank basically started um and I’m a data guy going way back to when I did the Warner Brothers music stuff and I live in data in my head and stats and patterns. So I I’ve built single rank is ah is an Ai platform.

Keith Teare: Answers the question if you’re going to give money to the a round investors to keep going which of their companies should you give it to because you obviously you shouldn’t do it for all of their companies because not all of their companies are equally good. So we we built a prediction engine that predicts the best b rounds. Typically it’s less than 10 percent of b rounds. It’s around 6% of b rounds that the engine selects and ah that engine when it selects a b round 30% of those companies end up being unicorns which is incredible, right? Every one out of 3 investments becomes a unicorn.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow.

Keith Teare: And the normal the normal venture rules are 1 in 10 ah might return your fund this is one in 3 and so we back tested it like you do with? Ai we back tested it in two thousand and twelve thirteen 1415 16 seventeen. We stop in 2017 because we want to see what the wool looks like five years later to see if it worked and it works so single rank basically is is it combines ai with fintech the ah the ai bid is about which companies. Do you select. Through which partnerships with which which seed and a around investors and then the um, the other bit is um, how do you How do you access putting money into these b rounds because these are the most competitive b rounds on the planet.

Keith Teare: Well, we access them by partnering with the aran investors for their follow on rights. So we have a predetermined right to invest. Um, and the returns are fantastic when you model out the returns most venture funds return less than 2 times the money in actual cash. Um, the good ones. That’s the good ones. Um, it’s called Dpi. Um, our average performance at the 5 year Mark is 6 times the money. Ah so one in 3 uniconns and 6 times the money now. Obviously that’s based on back testing and as they always say on wall street you. Ah, future may not be like the past, but it’s it’s it’s a very de risked capital allocation platform. So that’s the fintech bid It’s it’s Ai meets fintech and ah for that reason we’re structured as a company although we’re investing in in ah b rams we’re not a fund. Ah, we sell shares to our shareholders. In fact, we have our first preferred share sale this month in March ah closing on the thirty first ah every penny that comes in that buys our shares gets invested in b rams 100% and ah our shareholders a little bit like Berkshire Hathaway They ‘re sitting with our shares on top of all these assets and.

Alejandro Cremades: Yeah that’s what I was thinking too. That’s what I was thinking to a similar model but more like the 3.0 of um, Berkshire Hathaway so I guess if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of signal rank is fully realized. What does that world look like Keith.

Keith Teare: The main thing about that world is we’d be publicly listed on the Nasdaq and I think we will be probably late 2026 early twenty twenty seven ish. Um, that means that my brothers and sisters. Can buy our shares as a way of owning the best private companies. Ah my brothers and sisters are ah not qualified investors so they they’re not allowed to invest in highgrowth private companies. But if a public company has assets those companies. They can buy the shares of that public company. So basically by being listed and having access to these best rounds we you know and we we allocate capital by the way automatically through an algorithm. It’s not a subjective decision. It’s the the ai says yes, so we do it? Um, and um, it means that normal people. Can benefit from the highest growth companies in a publicly traded stock that’s liquid. Venture capital isn’t liquid. The nice thing about signal rank is you’ll be liquid in assets that are not and that’s a huge change. Um.

Alejandro Cremades: You know, kidding now we were talking about the future here I want to talk about the past but doing it with a lens of reflection I mean obviously all those different companies that you’ve done you know multiple that have become billion dollar a companies you know exits I mean all of the above. If I was to give you the opportunity of going into a time machine Keith and you go back in time to that moment that you’re coming out of school. You know you were wandering what was going to be that thing for you maybe start a business if you could go back to that moment. And give that younger Keith 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Keith Teare: Um, well there’s a so there’s a couple of selfish answers and then there’s some more what I think are probably more valid answers. The selfish answers are um, ah, don’t sell too early easy net when I resigned. I was told I had to sell all my shares ah because I was resigning that probably wasn’t true but I didn’t know better. So I sold all my shares and a year later the shares would have been worth 20 times more. Ah, having said that I had credit card debt right up until that moment and the amount. I.

Alejandro Cremades: Wa umbolio.

Keith Teare: Made from selling the shares changed my life. So. So ah so I don’t want to be too bitter about that the second piece of advice is ah sell when you have the chance which is the opposite advice real names. We could have sold real names for more than $1000000000 to network solutions which which became very sign and um, we said no because we were filed for an ipo at 500000000 more than that and within three months the bubble had burst and we were no longer worth that. But we didn’t sell so ah real lens I never made a penny. Not a penny so one is don’t sell too early. The other is sell when you can and they’re opposite advice and it depends on the circumstance. So probably the right answer is sell something early.

Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, no kidding no kidding. So for the people that are listening Keith that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Keith Teare: But not everything.

Keith Teare: A couple of ways I’m I’m at ktierkteare on Twitter and I publish that was the week on substack. So if you go to that was the week dot subs stack dot com you can subscribe for free to my weekly newsletter. Um, those are probably the 2 best ways or go on the single rank website and you’ll find various ways to connect to me there as well. singlerank.co.

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

Keith Teare: Ah, pleasure to be here.

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