René Rechtman is the co-founder and CEO of Moonbug which is a universe of fun and safe digital IP for pre-schoolers. The company has raised $145 million from The Raine Group, Felix Capital, and Fertitta Capital. Prior to this, he sold Maker Studios for $675 Million to Disney and before this, he sold Goviral to AOL for $100 million.
In this episode you will learn:
- The importance of understanding dilution, preferred shares, and deal terms
- What René learned working at Disney
- How he has been able to build such an incredible network
- The benefits of going all in and full speed ahead
- Making sure there is a clear and profitable business model before you start
- Who you should hang out and do business with if you want these kinds of results
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.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About René Rechtman:
René Rechtman is the CEO of Moonbug which is a universe of fun and safe digital IP for pre-schoolers. The company has raised $145 million from top tier investors.
Prior to this, he was President of International at Maker Studios, leading the company’s rapidly expanding international business and ultimately selling to Disney for $500M.
Formerly CEO of AOLBeOn and SVP of AOL International, René brings more than 18 years of experience in international media and technology to Maker including two major exits.
He joined AOL when Goviral, the branded content distribution platform where he was CEO, was acquired by the company. At AOL, René served as CEO of AOL BeOn, the global branded content division of AOL Networks, where he led the global launch of the branded entertainment platform that provides brands with the tools to create, syndicate and measure premium content and advertisers with an end-to-end platform.
He also held the position of senior vice president of AOL International where he was responsible for AOL Networks business outside the U.S. Prior to Goviral, René spent eight years helping to build TradeDoubler into a leading European provider of performance-based marketing solutions.
René holds an MSc in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Copenhagen.
Connect with René Rechtman:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a founder that is quite a dealmaker himself. He’s done a lot of transactions, very exciting ones, and really big transactions too. So I think without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guest, Rene Rechtman, welcome to the show today.
Rene Rechtman: Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Alejandro: So, Rene, originally born and raised in Copenhagen. How was life growing up there?
Rene Rechtman: Oh, that’s a wonderful place. It’s a very safe place, so happy childhood. But it’s a small place. So if you’re born in a place like Copenhagen, you are very, very keen to look out towards London, towards America, towards Asia. You know that it’s a good platform, but you need to look more out to achieve your visions.
Alejandro: And a traditional background. So the path forward for you would have been, like for me, also traditional in Spain and background as well, either a lawyer or a banker. So I’m sure that now looking back, you’re thinking like, “Wow. I can’t believe that I’m right now where I’m at doing what I love as an entrepreneur.”
Rene Rechtman: Yeah, you’re completely right. My parents were always pushing me to become a doctor. I think that’s culturally related from their background, and they always said, “If you choose not to be a doctor, at least be a lawyer.” I knew very early on that I would not be a doctor or a lawyer. But, quite frankly, I was convinced that I would work in diplomacy. I loved political science. I loved macroeconomics. So it was always in my cards that was the direction, but very quickly, I found out after my Bachelor’s before I went in and took my Master’s when I was a trainee in the European Commission that “This is definitely not for me.” It was just too cold, too political, too bureaucratic. When I came back after my trainee and took my Master’s, I thought, “I need to go more commercial.” That’s why I specialized in policymaking, economics, and the media industry.
Alejandro: Got it. Your first job was in TV in the planning department.
Rene Rechtman: Yeah. It was not a fulltime. It was at the end of my studies I worked in the planning department of the National Danish Broadcaster under the COO. I was doing, back then, what is called Lotus presentations. It was before Excel and PowerPoint. Quite fun — very different from commercial TV when you are a public service broadcaster. It was fun, and I got a good feeling of what it meant to be a broadcaster.
Alejandro: This was going to be your first time exposed to startups not long after this. This was with folks including the Universe of Body Shop and stuff like that. Was this CSSE?
Rene Rechtman: Yeah, it was, but it was my second step. My first fulltime job after Uni was in a local department of [0:04:40], the PR communications company called KS Consult. That was where I took my first — I felt them very entrepreneurial steps, but they weren’t because it was always to start this company. But it was so small with eight to ten employees. You got these big international clients, and that was phenomenal. It was trying to build relationships to these clients. Then, after two years, I did my first entrepreneurial thing by joining forces with a couple of C execs from that time, Body Shop, to build a management consultancy focusing on strategy and sustainability.
Alejandro: At this point, Rene, we’re talking about the late 90s. I would assume the startup ecosystem there in Europe was almost nonexistent.
Rene Rechtman: For sure. And imagine that, plus anything to do with sustainability and the bottom line. It was a handful of companies globally focusing on that. Right?
Alejandro: Yeah. I can’t even imagine, Rene, the conversation with your parents. Not only you didn’t become a doctor, but now you’re going into startups.
Rene Rechtman: Yeah, you’re right. I did come to them with telling them that I might take a business Ph.D. on the side while doing that. So, at least, there was a doctor’s degree out there. It was not in medical, but it was in business. I never finished that, by the way. It was never my interest, but at least they felt there was something good in my lifetime.
Alejandro: The good news is that CSSE got a nice outcome. It was acquired by KPMG.
Rene Rechtman: Yeah. I would say even before we started, for real, we had a handful of clients. I think KPMG management took it over. It wasn’t what I call a great outcome. It’s more what you call an acquihire.
Rene Rechtman: But still, it was my first understanding of a startup ecosystem that you can actually go and build something, and someone bigger might take you because you are either ahead of them from a product point of view, or you’re taking clients away. So that was quite fascinating. I didn’t want to be part of that. It was back in London, so I decided to go back to Copenhagen, and very non-entrepreneurial. I got headhunted into a private equity or financial holding called Incentive, and at that time, was one of the biggest investors in the coffee brewing industry and cleaning equipment industry. Of course, it makes sense back then, and with the thesis that those two industries will grow very fast going forward. I worked in a swat team there, very non-entrepreneurial, but it was phenomenal learning in that short period of time that I spent there.
Alejandro: What was your biggest learning then about making deals?
Rene Rechtman: I was not the dealmaker. I worked in the post-deal-making team in a swat team going out either to integrate companies that were acquired or restructure companies who didn’t do well. The first part is always more fun than the second part. The big learning very much was that holding companies working out of headquarters far away from the operation often have a big gap of reality, and we had the same thing. Sitting in a headquarter in Copenhagen, and thinking that you can control distribution companies, production companies around the world without being close to them is a big mistake. I can give you a fun example. We acquired a big German family office in the cleaning equipment industry, and on our first integration day, one of the family members and leaders of the company took me aside and told me a little joke that I never forgot. He told me, “Listen, Rene. Don’t come here far away from reality and tell us you’re here to help because, quite frankly, there are two big lies that you need to be aware of that I don’t believe in. The first one is, ‘I’m from headquarters. I’m here to help.’ The second one is when you tell your wife that you never kissed any other girl.” I thought he came across with some very valid points. If you want to come and do a difference, you need to have hands-on. You need to understand the clients. You need to understand the DNA of the companies, and you need to be there and get your hands dirty. I think that’s a very important learning. The second one in the same experience, we had a big distribution business in coffee brewing in the UK, and we implemented this exceptionally expensive software system where we could follow sales leads. This is pre-Salesforce and pre-big internet SaaS solutions — where we could follow sales leads, and we could follow pricing, etc. It cost us millions to build, and I don’t know how long a time. When you did get out and go with the regional distribution people, and you sit down, and you say, “Why are you not using the system? We gave you these expensive laptops to plug in, and you have systems in your cars now.” These people didn’t even know how to open a laptop. They didn’t even know what a computer was. So far away from the market is not healthy.
Rene Rechtman: That was the wakeup call for me, and at the same time, it was the late 90s when the first big internet bubble started. For me, it was natural to say, “You know what? This was a great learning. Let me do something else.” I had a great CEO of the financial holding. He said, “Listen, Rene. If I was your age, I would go as well.”
Alejandro: Got it. Obviously, this triggered you in your spare time started to see what was going on in the tech world because it was booming. And at the same time, it was crashing. It was the dot-com right around the time, but you had a Swedish friend that made a very good introduction that took place in Stockholm. This was with two brothers and also their father. So what happened here?
Rene Rechtman: Yeah. That’s true. It was, actually, a Danish banker that I met in London who worked for a Swedish bank. He said, “Hey, Rene. I know you’re getting involved more and more in the startup environment.” This was ’98, ’99. “I really want you to meet these two Swedish guys who are lovely, and they have this great idea. I think somebody like you could be very helpful.” So I got introduced to Martin Lorentzon and Felix Hagnö. The Christmas holidays were coming up, so I took a train from Copenhagen up to Stockholm, and I think I met Martin at his brother’s apartment. Then Phelix’s dad, who was the person who started financing the business in my first interaction with the two founders. This was pre-everything. I didn’t understand what the business model they were trying to sell me, but I really liked the two guys. I thought, “They are so different, and they’re so nice, both of them.” I could definitely see myself doing something fun with them. So a couple of months later, and a couple of trips with Martin down to Copenhagen to visit me, and staying on my couch in my flat, I joined the business. To be quite frank, it was a very, very wonderful and also lucky seven years where we built something phenomenal into [19 markets 0:13:33]. It was a performance-based media-type business. We IPO’d it in Stockholm very successfully.
Rene Rechtman: It was probably the second largest exit at that time in Europe. I was very virgin to all this. All of us were. We didn’t understand the ecosystem. It wasn’t as developed, at this time. It was in Silicon Valley. So it was all new. We were back to basically creating an ecosystem. Just to give you an example, one thing Martin did after this was go and finance and start Spotify, which is phenomenal. Jacob, who was also part of this first group of people who built TradeDoubler, did iZettle. You certainly have this new environment starting in Europe where a few successful companies are doing their first exits and without any learning, without any consideration, there’s an ecosystem starting. There were very few VCs, and there were very few investors in the market, so we all knew each other after that first trip that I had from Greenfield to exit. Consequently, all of us started new companies, which was fantastic. What I did was, I was contacted by two days in London. I was living in London at that time. He said, “You should join us. We have this idea to create a viable video business.” This was when video was still not the most normal thing on the internet. YouTube was just started a year or so before, but it wasn’t mainstream yet. I thought, “That’s a great idea. Can I invest in it?” Klaus was one of the two founders who told me, “No, Rene. I need you to join us and to help us build it. We don’t have technology. We want to create something that is scalable.”
Alejandro: Just to back up a little bit here, in this case, what did you think that made the idea great, and how can we generalize that to other ideas? What makes ideas great?
Rene Rechtman: That’s a key question. I think the question could also be what makes it interesting? What makes this great? It’s not only the idea, but it’s also the people. So, think back on TradeDoubler. Even though I didn’t understand the fundamental business that Martin Lorentzon and Felix Hagnö wanted to build, but what I did understand was two things. One was that they wanted to create a global, scalable business that could make money while you and I sit and do something else. When people were clicking on links, we could make money. That was smart. It was scalable. The second thing was, I really liked Felix, and I really liked Martin. I could see myself become friends with them, and we could go through good and bad together and fight to create a great business. It was exactly the same thing — and by the way, and then it was early. At that time, people were still only searching for things on the internet. Nobody was doing transactions. It was just about to happen, and it was obvious because technology enabled us to do more than just searching on the internet and sending emails. It was giving us the opportunity slowly to do commerce. That combination was clear for me. When it came to goviral, it was similar. So it was very clear for me at the end of my time at TradeDoubler that the internet, again, was in a new development phase where the broadband came in, internet got quicker, and people were doing other things than search or buy. They were also starting to entertain themselves. That was very clear for me. At the same time, I liked Klaus and the co-founder, Jimmy, who are both my dear friends today. Then it was almost obvious. It was a great opportunity there.
Alejandro: Rene, I think it’s interesting here because you say you connected super well with the founders of goviral, with your co-founders there. But then, also, with the Swedish guys in TradeDoubler. So, what do you think are the fundamental building blocks of that incredible connection that have been between you and them to say, “These guys are the ones; I’m going on in this ship with these guys.”?
Rene Rechtman: I think there are three elements. I will sum up the three elements that I think are important. One is that you need to see that there is a market for the product. Of course, you need to go and build it to get it verified, but at least you need to see that there’s some trend here that you can jump on. It’s almost like going out surfing or body surfing. You can see something happening out there, and you need to start getting ready. The team that you go and try to build a business with is from start to finish. You’re going to be together with this team more than you do with your friends and your family. It’s not a 9 to 5 thing. This is a seven-day thing, and it’s 24/7. So you need to find that chemistry and that trust. Maybe the trust is almost the most important thing, and you need to find your own role and the co-founder’s role. “What is it we can do together?” What is the difference between us? How can we contribute to this common cause?” That, combined with that I, as a person, thinks life is too short not to work or spend time with good people, and nice people is what I’m looking for. If any of these people were geniuses, but ***, I wouldn’t be close to them.
Alejandro: Yeah, I know. And here in goviral, what you guys developed was an incredible digital content distribution company, and you built it up into quite a meaningful business. In fact, this ended up getting acquired. Here, there are no VCs, no nothing; it’s four partners. Why did you guys decided it was the time you wanted to exit?
Rene Rechtman: The first thing we did was, one of the four partners, the guy with the original idea, Volga, wanted to leave the business. Things were moving too fast when we started building technology and doubled down in technology. We started looking at a much more global perspective of what we wanted to do. Things were going too fast for him, so we bought out him. We were three partners. We resold some of our shares to Michael Elias from Kennet, which was a growth company. So we were four partners. The big discussion we had in the board and among us was, “Should we go full-scale into the U.S.?” We were already covering the U.S. from a distribution point of view, but we didn’t have boots on the ground. We had big global clients that we worked from [0:21:47] and the U.S. We have different risk profiles. I had done an exit before, so my risk profile was, of course, high. But we were also very respectful of each other. Either we had to go in and probably invest a lot of money. We were very profitable at that time, by the way. But still, to go full-in, in the U.S., with boots on the ground, it’s a major commitment. Both resource-wise, human-wise, and also timewise. We were debating that, and at the same time, we had a different inbound request from potential partners, as they called themselves, but really biased, which were traditional and digital U.S. media companies. Suddenly, we had these opportunities. Should we do it? Should we partner with one of these companies who are reaching out to us? That’s how the whole acquisition with AOL started. Tim Armstrong, who was leading the new AOL, was first of all very ambitious and had a very strong vision. He convinced us that was the right thing to do.
Alejandro: How did he come into the picture? How did you guys connect with him?
Rene Rechtman: It was one of his soldiers, his officers, who reached out. She wanted to go into video, and she wanted to go into global business. She introduced us to Tim. Tim wanted to build a global business and a video business, and that’s how we got introduced, and then we probably flirted for six months. Then the conversation went into a complete offer on our business.
Alejandro: This was a 100-million-dollar acquisition. So, a very good outcome for the four partners without having significant institutional investor players on the table. Here, you learned quite a bit when it comes to vesting and resting, especially as to how you negotiate that. Tell us about this.
Rene Rechtman: My first learning, the hard way, was a trade up. I have to admit I didn’t understand what dilution means and preferred shares, and all these things that today are common knowledge in the whole industry, but also every founder, even first-time founders, know everything about. I learned the hard way when we IPO’d. This time, there was no such thing. We were all equal partners. We all had the common shares, and we were controlling the company completely. We could do whatever we wanted with the company. It was a cash deal. No strings attached. Again, to Tim Armstrong’s credit and a guy called Ned Brody that worked for him, they were very aggressive. They wanted me and Jimmy Naaman, one of my co-founders, to stay and help scale AOL. We really liked them as people. Then we signed the contract. It was independent of the deal. It was a contract for the future because the deal was a cash deal. It was more to do with people and what they wanted us to build.
Alejandro: If you could go back in time, Rene, would you sign that deal again?
Rene Rechtman: Absolutely. I’m very thankful for that experience. Quite frankly, AOL was not for me, but I got some really good friends for life in that short period I spent there, and I really appreciate that.
Alejandro: One thing that I’ve gotten from getting to know you and your story is that you’ve always surrounded yourself and built your network in a way in which you seem to be at the right time with the right people. So, how do you go about building your own network?
Rene Rechtman: The simple answer is, I don’t even know that I’m doing it. It’s not even anything that I’m thinking about. I’m a very curious person, and I like when people are having big visions. I like when people try to make a difference. I almost demand from people around me that they’re trying their best to make a difference. So, I’ve always been attracted to people like that, and therefore, I’ve been very lucky to meet interesting people, people who are trying their best. Therefore, I’ve been building a strong network. But coming from Europe, coming from a small country in Europe, moving to the UK quite early to London, in an industry and ecosystem that didn’t exist — to be part of that ecosystem and be part of something that has been created by entrepreneurs, by investors, has been phenomenal. Of course, you take the steps, and you develop as a human being, but you also grow with the people that you’re surrounded with. As a lot of my clients, historically, a lot of the partners I’ve had, a lot of the businesses I’ve built and join, also enter global markets, not only Europe, but Asia and the U.S., I’ve been very lucky to meet driven, ambitious, and nice people in those continents. And therefore, I have a network. It’s been phenomenal. Some of these people are my very dear friends today.
Alejandro: And you had another friend from Endemol that asked you for your advice, and this led into another big success story. What kind of advice was your Endemol friend looking for?
Rene Rechtman: Yeah, and now your friend to Ynon. Ynon Kreiz was the CEO of Endemol, and he was trying to convince us at goviral to sell to Endemol and to him. That’s how we became good friends. We had lots of mutual friends both from the neighborhood, but also from business. He was also a curious person. He wanted to understand a new digital ecosystem. We talked about what is the next big thing on the internet? I was convinced it would be entertainment because the broadband was getting faster and faster and enabled us to do even more things, a lot of social things on the internet. He agreed with me. Back then, you had Vice, you had a few other interesting companies growing, and I knew Vice well. Basically, together, we were mapping some of these interesting companies. Before I knew it, he was all over these companies in deep conversations. At that time, I was actually in dialog with a private equity trying to buy one of these new, fast-moving digital companies, and I can probably tell which one it is. But it was Machinima that was interesting. For many reasons, it didn’t happen, but I was lucky that I bumped into an old friend, Courtney Holt, who is a dear friend of mine today, who was just joining Maker Studios. He introduced me to Maker Studios, and I was fascinated by the founders, by the business, by the movement it was. Then I introduced Ynon at an Excel event, I think, in Munich to Courtney and the Maker guys. Ynon, being much faster than I was all over the company and invested in the company. Months later, he called me and said, “Rene, you need to come and join me on this journey.” I was still in dialog with Courtney. I said, “No, I’m not interested. I promised my wife that I will take it a bit easier and do some investments and not be operational for a while.” But Ynon is very convincing. He got me on board. I invested in the company. The idea was for us to raise a lot of money and take it to the next level. But then, Disney came in.
Alejandro: Here, Rene, what you guys were doing with Maker Studios was creating and distributing video content. Was that it?
Rene Rechtman: No, there was more to goviral business. But Maker created a platform for creators to upload their content to a particular YouTube, and then be able to get data and monetization sorted out by Maker Studios. It was a studio CMS system who helped create us and get discovered and then monetize.
Alejandro: I understand.
Rene Rechtman: It was what’s called, back then, MCN. It was one of the first and one of the most successful MCNs. Then Ynon decided to pursue the Disney conversation, and that ended up with the acquisition.
Alejandro: Very nice. You guys had something like 5.5 billion monthly views. You had like 380 million subscribers. It’s a very interesting business. At what point does Disney come to the table, and why with this impressive growth do you guys decide it’s time to pull the trigger on it?
Rene Rechtman: I have to say that when I knew that this acquisition would happen, I didn’t sleep that night. And I can tell you I never have problems sleeping. I thought it was too early. However, when that is said, MCNs, including Maker Studios, were not businesses. They were phenomenal growth companies who created a fantastic revenue growth, but they could never make money. The simple reason was that MCNs did not own any IP, any content. So the water flow would never create enough to the pocket when you go through it. So we needed to raise much more money to take the business to a next level and start investing in our own IP in order to see any margin. That’s how Disney came into the picture. One of the greatest IP companies in the world.
Alejandro: Then, how did they come into the picture?
Rene Rechtman: They came in because of Ynon’s personal relationship with Bob Iger.
Alejandro: Okay. So how was it doing a deal with Bob Iger? Bob Iger is—
Rene Rechtman: I didn’t do any deals with Bob. That was Ynon, together with Bob’s team. So I cannot take the honor at all for that transaction.
Alejandro: 675-million-dollar transaction, Rene. Not bad.
Rene Rechtman: Yeah. Listen, I’m not going to comment on the number, but it was not a bad outcome. I can tell you that.
Alejandro: Very nice. Very nice. How did you celebrate? What an outcome.
Rene Rechtman: Quite honestly, for me, the great outcome, which I didn’t expect, was to spend some time at Disney. It’s a phenomenal company that is unbelievable in their focus and unbelievable in their processes. It was quite fascinating to spend time in the company. And have in mind, being non-American, I don’t have the same emotional connection to Disney, like Americans. For me, it’s a great brand that has done some phenomenal content over the years, that of course, all of us have grown up with. But I don’t have any religious connection with the brand. I’m not going to go to Disney Land and get married or celebrate my anniversary, but that’s how it is in the U.S.
Alejandro: It’s unbelievable. Right?
Rene Rechtman: It’s unbelievable. It’s so amazing. And understanding that, for me, was an eyeopener. Understanding the importance of thinking big and understanding the importance of having brands was phenomenal. It was such a learning curve for me that I’m really proud that I’ve taken away from spending some years at Disney after the acquisition.
Alejandro: Once an entrepreneur, Rene, always an entrepreneur. Working at such a large organization, just like you were experiencing as a trainee in the European Commission. Things go slow, and obviously, in Disney, you had this idea for building a strong business within the brand, but for them, it was too small. What did you decide to do next with this? What happened?
Rene Rechtman: Yeah. You’re completely right. It already started during the Maker Studio time what was clear in the data from our CMS. Remember, we had over 50,000 YouTube channels under management. I could see in my data a lot of what was happening on YouTube, which is probably the biggest free-to-air network in the world. What was clear was that 50% of all the viewership was music-related. But maybe, 25% was kids’ related. I found that very fascinating, especially when I dived further into the data. I discovered that what our kids are watching and spending two-and-a-half hours of their screen time a day watching, is what I call mom-and-pop shops. There are no brands that we’re aware of. There are many reasons for that, but that’s where our kids are spending two-thirds of their time. I started going further and further into that and said there’s a huge opportunity here to buy these great content-creators who are creating great IP for the new generation that our kids have complete affection to and are engaging with every single day, and make it better, create more, stronger narrative, better animation, etc. Then distribute it all over the world, and create new digital franchises. I pitched that internally at Disney. My two bosses, at that time, were Andy Bird, international president of the Walt Disney Corporation, and Kevin Mayer. They really liked it, but we needed to find a home. Finding a home for a new business, incubated inside this institution is very difficult, especially if it’s not creating billions of dollars in EBITDA overnight. It was a strong business plan that every private equity, every investor will jump on, but it was difficult. It was difficult in the business that was getting disrupted by streaming and to focus on it, which understandable. I said, “This is too good to be true.” There’s a huge market opportunity. There’s a market fit, obviously, and nobody’s doing it. I went around to a few investors, and all of them, I knew very well from the last many years. One of them was Reign, who specialized in the entertainment industry, broadly speaking. For them, it was a no-brainer. They’d been looking at the kids’ space for a very long time but were waiting for the right business model and the right team. For me, knowing them very well, and I needed a big check to go and consolidate and invest in the business, we just did it right away. Again, back to your previous question, what makes you realize that they’re the right partner? It was clear — Fred Davis, Joe Rabbids, Jason, and all the rest that I knew. I just put chemistry. They are great guys. They have phenomenal knowledge of the industry. But they’re also very nice and good guys. I thought I could definitely go and create a partnership with them and create something big. That’s how Moonbug Entertainment started.
Alejandro: Your Series A — what a Series A. It has to be one of the largest ones that I’ve seen at least in the last couple of days: 145 billion of a Series A. Not bad.
Rene Rechtman: No, not bad at all. But you know, it’s just a different way of raising money. First of all, if you have done a few exits before, and if your model is to buy IP and grow that way very fast, it’s just a different way of raising money. You go directly to the growth phase rather than start with seed capital. But I guess we all end up at the same place. It just goes faster with a raise from day one. It’s two different strategies. I believe that sometimes, you need to go full-in. I just spent almost four years at Disney, one-and-a-half in earn-out, and then two years afterward. As I told you, thinking big is a very important element of Disney, and that’s what I took away from it.
Alejandro: Got it. Earlier, you were talking about you have no problem sleeping at night. So, let’s say that you go to sleep tonight, and then you wake up a couple of years from now, and this is a world where the vision of Moonbug is fully realized. What does that world look like?
Rene Rechtman: If I have just gotten close to my vision, I’ll be a very proud person. I have not talked to you about my vision, but as a parent of three kids, for me, the vision of Moonbug Entertainment is very clear. I want to influence kids around the world just a tiny, tiny, little bit, with strong values like compassion, empathy, kindness, and resilience, and help kids around the world just a little bit to develop their life skills. If I’ve lived out that vision and you speak to me in a couple of years, and you say, “Rene, I think you’ve actually achieved just a little bit, then I’ll be very proud. I’ll be very, very proud. That’s the vision with this business. I think we have a unique opportunity in the times we’re living to actually try to be global because there are so many global platforms now speaking to kids all around the world. It’s an opportunity that I’m trying to implement.
Alejandro: Absolutely. There’s one question that I always ask the guests that come on the show. You’ve done multiple companies. I think that after all these deals that you’ve done, I think that I’ve run out of zeros to put on the righthand side. It’s unbelievable. If you had the opportunity, let’s say, to go back in time, Rene, and have a chat with your younger self. That younger Rene that perhaps was about to launch the first business and to embark on the first business, what would be that piece of business advice that you would give to yourself before launching a business and why knowing what you know now?
Rene Rechtman: It’s a very good question. I think there are a few things that I probably would have told myself. In the first one, TradeDoubler, I will have known the rules of the game much better than I did back then. Every single element of the trip we took was a surprise — good and bad. We are very lucky that we did some right choices, but we could have easily have done the wrong choices. I think from besides the technicality of setting up companies, what I was lacking in the first few businesses was a strong impact vision. It was much more product and market-fit focused. I wouldn’t say I regret it because I didn’t know better, but I would have liked to have had a much stronger vision. Strong vision-based businesses get further — not particularly financially, but they get further from living out and making a difference. So I would have wished that. The second thing I would have done differently was I would have gone full speed and full power into the U.S. right away. I think both in TradeDoubler and goviral, although both were a successful exit, I think it was a mistake looking back not going in with full-speed into the U.S. right away. I think that was the learning. The last one, I can probably say is that I would probably — and that’s what I’m doing more — understand the business model much better than we did when we started the other companies. That was another thing that was clear for me at Disney. If there’s not a clear business there, then you will never go all the way. You can argue the other way in saying, “Look at Facebook. Look at these phenomenal companies.” They may not have had a business model in the beginning, and that’s why they’re so successful today. So you can have it both ways. But I think the vision part is really important, and it’s related to thinking big. I think these two things are important.
Alejandro: That’s very powerful, Rene. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Rene Rechtman: Anyone can always contact me either on one of the social platforms or just write to Moonbug, and I’ll come back to them.
Alejandro: Rene, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Rene Rechtman: Thank you for having me. It’s cool talking to you.
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