“A Reason Bigger Than Myself” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kean Graham.
Kean Graham is the CEO of MonetizeMore, an 8-figure ad tech company that is a Google Certified Partner with 100+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet. MonetizeMore was conceived in the mountains of Machu Picchu and has grown to $17M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 80 countries during the 8 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
I originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.
Five days later, I’m on a plane to South America to go on a life changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:
I will work and travel when I want, where I want.
I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. Seven months later I started the digital business called MonetizeMore which now offers this autonomous lifestyle to every member of our team.
Since then, the company has grown to $17M in revenues that is a Google Certified Partner with 90+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As a location independent business in a relatively traditional advertising industry, MonetizeMore has been an enigma. We approach ad optimization from a create value first then charge after perspective. All our competitors charge a revenue share of all their publisher clients’ revenues. We charge a percentage of the increase we earn for them. Therefore, we charge nothing if we do not increase their ad revenues. We live and die by our performance which has propelled us to build the best ad optimization practices and technology which has lead us to become the best performing ad optimization company in the industry.
Location freedom has been a differentiating benefit that we offer our team members and we’ve been able to attract A-level talent as a result, especially since it is rare for other ad tech companies to offer location freedom. For example, we were able to attract our Chief Product Officer to MonetizeMore because location freedom was such a unique and valuable offering to his work lifestyle. He had been receiving new offers from ad tech companies on a weekly basis, however, it was the aspect of location freedom that cut through the clutter for him.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Publishers who monetize their audience via display ads can either outsource their ad operations so that one of MonetizeMore’s ad optimization teams will handle all their ad optimization tactics, execution and strategy. If publishers prefer to keep their ad operations in-house, they could use PubGuru (The Hootsuite of the ad technology industry) to get access to powerful ad technology to boost ad revenue performance and optimize via an easy-to-use platform while still getting full reporting transparency and maintain full ownership of their ad inventory. MonetizeMore developed PubGuru to compliment any in-house ad operations team.
PubGuru is going to be released in Q3 2018 and will establish itself as the go-to product to compliment any publisher’s in-house ad operation team to maintain and achieve:
- Full ad inventory ownership
- 100% transparency
- Ad revenue potential via sophisticated machine learning tech
- Optimization of their ad inventory auction on the fly via an easy-to-use platform
- Receiving notifications of ad ops errors and optimization suggestions
- Proactive traffic quality management
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Four Hour Work Week: My inspiration to start a location independent business with the 80/20 principal and automate as much as possible came from this book. During my backpacking trip through South America, I reflected on what I learnt from this book. This book planted the seed in my head which eventually inspired me to start MonetizeMore and apply most of the principles it introduced.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Where we’re going: I learned from a mentor to not communicate the company in terms of ‘where we are’, but ‘where we’re going’. This adjusted framing makes it much easier for early stage entrepreneurs to sell their offerings especially when they are competing against larger more stable companies.
- Ask Why: Those who are not satisfied with ‘how’ or ‘what’ tend to be entrepreneurs. My yearning to know ‘why’ and need to have a deeper understanding has driven me to create better solutions to the biggest problems in ad tech.
- Deny the Status Quo: Those that question and get frustrated by the status quo tend to take this as fire to make a difference via their own venture. I hate the answer, “Because that’s the way it is.” I have channeled this hate to breaking the status quo and build innovative solutions.
- Grounded: Too many entrepreneurs get big-headed as soon as they achieved any type of traction. As soon as somebody assumes they have more to preach than learn, they stop learning and lose crucial awareness. I have learned the importance of staying grounded as I’ve seen other entrepreneurs that were clouded with arrogance crash and fail. Traveling has been a great avenue to keep me grounded.
- A Reason Bigger Than Myself: Entrepreneurship is a grind that takes a lot of drive, persistence and suffering. Many get into it for fame or fortune but end up burning out. Having a bigger reason than myself (eg. Kid’s future, get parents out of debt) is much more powerful and will propel an entrepreneur further. As a result, I have found the drive factor outside of myself which has enabled me to go further.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Antonio GarcíaMartínez: He is a true pioneer in the ad tech industry within his own startups and several influential companies. The innovation that he drove is impressive and his level of versatility between small startups and large tech organizations is incredible. If I could sit down with Antonio, I could learn more about the inner-workings of ad tech publishers like Facebook and learn how to better spur technology development and innovation. I would love to pick his brain on how to better navigate the political tendencies of some of the largest ad tech companies in the World.
— Published on June 27, 2018