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Kean Graham: “Investing During The Pandemic; What Should I Do With My Money Considering All of the Volatility and Uncertainty Today”

For safe long-term investments, I would go for mutual funds. They are at great prices right now and the economy will eventually rebound. The key is to keep them for decades to see the steady return. Best of all since they are diversified, you don’t have to lose sleep over them and you don’t have to spend time managing them.

As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, 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 $23M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 90 countries during the 10 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

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.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

A digital nomad friend and I were on a safari in Okavango, Botswana during our digital nomad trip about a week ago. We were lucky enough to come across a pride of mother lions and their cubs feasting on a water buffalo they killed the previous night. The driver brought us dangerously close to them as you can see from this photo. As we got close, the lions stared right at us and got into pouncing position. One even got up and starting pacing.

We knew if we made any sudden movements or sounds, we could become lion lunch. I had my phone in my pocket and I couldn’t remember if the ringer was off. I was one impromptu client call away from being the next kill for that pride. Luckily, I had no calls during those moments that felt like hours and we got away safely.

I learned that there’s a time for business and there’s a time to be in the now. That was a time to be in the now and having any rings or buzzes could have messed things up in an even bigger way. Since then, I have turned all rings and buzzes off my phone unless I’m working and expecting a call.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Many large publishers that have ad space as a revenue source, have a major pain by having many ad revenue sources that have their own reporting interfaces. In order to find out the ad revenues they made that day and the overall ad revenue performance, most publishers copy and paste the ad revenue stats to an Excel spreadsheet.

We are curing this pain that many publishers experience with a PubGuru feature called unified reporting. Instead of publishers having to assign someone to spend hours on data entry, they can log into an interface to see their real-time ad revenue stats on one dashboard. In addition to this, PubGuru helps ad monetized publishers by solving the below pain points:

- No idea what parts of their publisher business are most profitable: PubGuru’s revenue attribution report provides revenue stats for each traffic source so they can decide where to invest in next.

- Publisher ad inventories tend to break often: PubGuru Ad Inspector crawls their page in real-time and uncovers any ad setup issues and how to fix them.

- No clue how to increase ad revenues: Smart notifications can be found in PubGuru to specifically recommend what to adjust on their site via step-by-step instructions to increase their ad revenues.

- Invalid traffic could destroy their business overnight: Traffic Cop detects and blocks invalid traffic to prevent any ad network account bans and revoked revenues. It also boosts traffic quality to entice bidding from the largest advertisers that watch traffic quality metrics per domain.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I couldn’t say all my success came from the mentorship of just one person but rather many. My Mother has been a huge inspiration in terms of raising me to be balanced, grounded, prepared and generous to those that deserve it. I can attribute my analytical skills and frugalness to my Father.

I learned a lot of important business lessons early on from a business consultant involved in many self-employment seminars that I took. I still use some of the core business principles today that he taught me.

I remember how shrewd he would be during the business plan phase. While it was tough at the time, looking back, people can be quite vague and fluffy with their business plans which leads to low quality execution. He would do a great job not accepting this and resting till every detail of our business plan was specifically explained so our business plans would be more executable.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

For those feeling anxious during these difficult times, I recommend the below:

Conversations: Making yourself vulnerable and to talk about your mental wellbeing can prove to be a great healing process and can promote greater awareness of your mental wellbeing. Talking about your problems with those that you can trust will alleviate anxiety and improve your relationships which is the source of support you’ll need through these difficult times.

Stay Busy: Boredom can fill you with negative thoughts and anxiety. Do your best to seize the moment by filling your day with positive activities. When have you ever had so much free time due to having to stay at home for most of the day? You’ll finally have that chance to learn another language, grow that skill you’ve always wanted to develop, re-kindle a relationship remotely and so many other possibilities.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?

While financial and health crises are a scary time to invest, they are the best opportunities to get the highest return on investment (ROI). While most people are making emotional decisions and pulling out of investments at relatively low prices, you can buy at incredible prices. Recessions are cyclical and as long as your patient, the market will eventually recover. If you have cash on hand, now is the opportunity to invest at incredible prices!

Investment comes in many forms, but the prices are relatively low across many of them. If you’re focusing on stocks, you can see stock prices are relatively low. With real estate, less people are buying and you have lower competition which brings real estate prices down.

Our bread and butter is buying online businesses. We have already seen online businesses being sold at lower multiples. Since we have an ad auction technology that immediately increase ad revenues, we have a tried and tested method to get immediate positive ROI on ad monetized websites. With this recession, we’re able to purchase them at much lower prices and choose from a greater selection of content websites.

While recessions can be nasty, it’d be a shame for you to miss out on the unique opportunities! Gain the skills to run an online business and buy one. There are many greater online brokers to buy businesses that have passive income coming in every month that can be grown. This is a way to invest into passive income and yourself.

Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?

If you’re in a hurting industry, you can’t work because your employer is currently shutdown or somehow have been negatively affected by the pandemic, take this opportunity to get ahead of the curve. This is your opportunity to break into a new industry, develop new skills and perhaps spur that change you’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Businesses that are able to deliver their offering without in-person interaction will come out of the recession the least scathed. If you want to start a business, bolster your current business or find a career with strong job opportunity, go for the industries that will be stronger after a paradigm shifting pandemic like this. There are many online learning resources to build any skill or develop niche knowledge to break into any industry. You just need to find it!

Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?

Below are the top investment opportunities coming out of this recession:

  • Connected TV: Usage of connected TV has spiked during the pandemic for obvious reasons. Companies like Netflix have received new users that thought they would never use Netflix. This pandemic will be long enough for people to form new habits that will be hard to shake. People will continue to engage with Connected TV after the pandemic much more than they did pre-pandemic.
  • Short Commercial Real Estate: Many office workers will work from home for the whole pandemic. Some will be called back after the first wave of Covid-19 but then will have to go back to work in future waves. Some employers will not call back employees to offices and others will leave it up to the employees. Once the pandemic is completely over, employers will be more open to relaxed remote work policies. That will cause less need for office space and less demand for commercial real estate.
  • Traditional to Virtual: There are many staples that have been forced to go virtual like schooling, religious ceremonies and business meetings. Some will come running back to the traditional way but many will become accustomed to the new virtual way and the additional convenience. As a result, new companies and offerings will emerge and thrive. For example, home schooling offerings and virtual church streaming will become more main stream.

Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?

eSports: This was already a fast emerging market before the pandemic. With so many people spending most of their time indoors and traditional sports being canceled, eSports has been accelerating. Interest will spike, sponsorships will grow and it will become more mainstream and accepted.

Delivery Services: Use of delivery services has obviously spiked during the pandemic but the demand will plateau after the pandemic. People using it for the first time will have wondered why they haven’t used it before. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of delivery companies and they will be mainstream after the pandemic.

If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long term investment what would you advise them to do with it?

For safe long-term investments, I would go for mutual funds. They are at great prices right now and the economy will eventually rebound. The key is to keep them for decades to see the steady return. Best of all since they are diversified, you don’t have to lose sleep over them and you don’t have to spend time managing them.

Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

Invest in Yourself: There is no better ROI then investing in yourself. Invest in your education, skill development, taking risks on career growing opportunities and most of all, invest your time in developing yourself. If you don’t value investing in yourself, the rest of the investment principles fall by the way side. I studied business at University and use things that I learned every day in my business. I couldn’t be successful without what I learned.

Invest in Your Expertise: As a company that can consistently increase ad revenues for publishers, MonetizeMore acquires websites that monetize via display ads. After acquisition we are able to apply our ad optimization model and increase ad revenues by 2x — 3x within 6 months with the same ads per page and traffic. After 6 months we either flip the site for 2x — 3x the value or continue to earn passive income. We cannot get a better return from any other investment opportunity. I recommend for others to find the equivalent investment opportunity where they can acquire, enrich then flip a business for much greater value.

Sleep Test: Don’t make risky investments that will keep you up at night. The level of risk people are willing to take depends on the person. Therefore, you know you’ve taken on too much risk if you can’t sleep due to worrying. Know your risk preference and don’t surpass it. For example, I’ve considered huge acquisitions that would have taken a big chunk of MonetizeMore’s cash reserves. I had trouble sleeping deciding on that investment and decided not to as it didn’t pass my sleep test.

Forever Companies: Invest in companies that will last forever for safe long-term bets. There are proven everyday products out there like toothpaste, soap, chairs, etc. People aren’t going to stop using those types of products anytime soon. For example, at one point people went crazy over fax machines and they received significant investment. Look at them now!

Niche and Boring Companies: If you want to find the bigger win investments, look where no one is looking. Stay away from vanity industries and well known countries. Instead, find boring companies in countries that people don’t even know about. That is where you’ll find the “market mistakes”. Eventually the market will correct for it. The key is for you to invest in them before that happens and enjoy the high ROI.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You will never write an extraordinary story until you realize you are the author”

This is an incredible quote because it enables me to enjoy my victories more and bounce back from my failures quickly. For victories, I know that even if there was a bit of perceived luck involved, it was my previous actions to inevitably lead to that event.

For my failures, I am able to learn from them immediately because I take responsibility and reflect on how I could have prevented the negative situation so that it never happens again. From there, I change a good thing into a bad thing by approaching the negative situation from a new clever angle. For example, we were disapproved by Google several years ago and lost millions as a result.

We responded by improving our screening processes, diversifying our revenue streams and creating invalid traffic detection and suppression technology called Traffic Cop to prevent this issue from happening again. As a result, we have re-built the company to be more sustainable and resilient than ever. It ended up being a blessing in disguise!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

MonetizeMore is one of the pioneers of location independent businesses. We have proven that it is possible to run an effective business without any offices and over 150 full-time team members. Location and schedule freedom has shown to be competitive advantages for MonetizeMore in an industry where that is rarely offered. As a result, MonetizeMore has been able to acquire incredible talent, minimize turnover, out-innovate competitors and better tailor to international clients.

Now more than ever, people can see the advantage of remote work. MonetizeMore has been relatively unscathed since remote work is part of our DNA. We can already see the effect of the influence of location independent business pioneers like MonetizeMore has had on the technology industry. The pandemic has only accelerated the trend towards location independence. I believe in the next ten years when someone mentions a new business, the next common question is: “Is that business location dependent or independent?”

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Jason Hartman

Jason Hartman

Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar

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