5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO: Christopher Miglino, CEO of SRAX
I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Miglino, founder, CEO and chairman of SRAX. Based in Los Angeles, SRAX is a digital marketing and data management platform company delivering the tools to reach and reveal valuable audiences. Publicly-traded on the NASDAQ, Miglino founded SRAX to deliver a digital competitive advantage for brands and content owners to surpass today’s marketing challenges.
Thanks for doing this with us. What is your “backstory”?
From the time I was a kid mowing lawns, I have always been an entrepreneur. I thought I wanted to be in the real estate business when I got out of school, but found myself creating CRM software to track my leads. That’s when my love for software began. My first company, started in 1993, tracked the sales of products in large shopping malls. We built software that was a loyalty program for some of the largest mall developers in the country. I sold this business to a NASDAQ company in 1998 and we ended up living inside it until 2001. During this time, I fell in love with the public markets, so when I finished working at that company, I started to trade the Futures markets. I wrote algorithms to trade the S&P, Russell 2000 Index, Oil and Gold Futures. After trading in the morning, I would do a lot of yoga later in the day. This started a journey of regularly traveling to India and spending time with spiritual teachers. It was an amazing moment in my life and shaped the rest of my path.
In 2004 I founded another company that owned websites, magazines and videos targeted to the green, healthy living and yoga markets. We sold that business to a company called GAIAM in 2007. In 2010, we started SRAX. We began with a contract to sell all the ads on a large Facebook application and that allowed us to get the business off the ground. We decided to not take any venture money, but we took the company public on the OTC and over time up listed the company to the NASDAQ.
During this run, I got married and had 4 kids. By far, this is the best thing I have done.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading SRAX?
Miglino: We were selling ads for a large Facebook gaming app that had an office in Mexico. One of my partners and I went to visit them to look at the possibility of opening an office south of the border. The contact, who is now the General Manager of our Mexico office picked us up in a car with no air conditioning and we were both in suits. We were in Mexicali, and if you have not been there, you may or may not know that it gets very hot — I mean 120 degrees hot. We spent the day looking for office space and talking to programmers and it was just miserably hot. Needless to say, it wasn’t fun. To add to that misery, upon crossing the border back into the U.S., we found ourselves standing in a two-hour line in 100+ degree heat. We finally got back to the U.S. and the second we walked over the border, my partner and I looked at each other and said, “We are never going back there again.” Fast forward three months and we had an office there. Five years later, we have 60 people in Mexicali and have just finished building a new office there.
So what exactly does SRAX do?
Miglino: SRAX is a digital marketing and data management platform. We are delivering to brands and agencies, and content owners, the tools to reach and reveal valuable audiences. Our platform’s machine-learning technology analyzes marketing data to identify consumers and their characteristics across marketing channels. Our technology takes an omnichannel approach that integrates all aspects of the advertising experience into one platform, discovering new and measurable opportunities that amplify campaign performance and maximize profits.
What do you think makes SRAX stand out? Can you share a story?
Miglino: We have always taken a vertical approach to the market. Instead of trying to build a typical DSP (Demand Side Platform) or DMP (Data Management Platform) we are focused on building technology with amazing data.
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?
Miglino: I have a few people. One is my Dad. He taught me an amazing work ethic and I learned a lot about business from him. My wife has been an amazing pillar of support to me and our family — she has helped us to get where we are today. Then there are many different teachers on the spiritual side of my life that have contributed, including Pujya Swami Chidan Saraswatiji (I made a movie about it called “A Day In The Light.” You can watch it on YouTube), OSHO, and Mooji.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Miglino: My wife and I have a non-profit that brings kids from financially poor neighborhoods to India each year. It is called The Chandanni Scholarship Fund. It has been an amazing experience and we are able to have a significant impact on many high school kids each year. There are no fees paid to run the organization. We love doing this and it brings us so much positive energy.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why? (Please share a story or example for each)
1. Be careful of wolves in sheep’ clothing: I tend to see the light in everyone, and in business that can be dangerous. Let me be clear: I still do see the positive, but am much more cautious about how quickly I trust everything that people tell me.
2. Get ready to travel: As a CEO I find myself traveling all over the world talking about our products and meeting with customers, investors and prospective clients. If you want to be a CEO, you better be ready and willing to fly the friendly skies.
3. Your stock will go up and your stock will go down: As a public company, NASDAQ: SRAX, the price of your stock is a key metric for your success. When it is up people love you and when it is down you find out who your real friends are.
4. Just because you love a product you created does not mean the market will love it too: We have had a lot of products that I loved but had to kill because the market just did not care and did not embrace it. It is a hard thing to do, but sometimes you must let your favorite products go. On the other side, there are products that takeoff and you need to feed those.
5. Stay Frugal, but hire the right team: Sometimes those two things don’t work together, but people are the most important part of your company and are worth every penny.
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 just see this :-)
Miglino: I would love to sit down with Marc Benioff of Salesforce. I think his work with non-profits and the way he runs his business are amazing. I had the chance to meet him briefly once, but would love to spend more time with him. In addition, who would not want to spend some time with Richard Branson? What an amazing leader and inspiration. I had to have 2!