Welcoming entrepreneur Brett Wilson back to the Trinity Family as EIR
Trinity’s newest Executive in Residence (EIR) is anything but new to Trinity. Ten years ago Trinity general partner Ajay Chopra backed Brett Wilson’s then-fledgling programmatic digital advertising company TubeMogul, which Brett and his team later took public and eventually sold to Adobe for $540 million. Now, a decade after first joining the #TrinityFamily, Brett returns to Trinity to share his deep knowledge, thoughtful mentorship and entrepreneurial pixie dust with the next generation of Trinity entrepreneurs. Here’s a bit more about Brett’s journey and his plans for the future in his own words.
You were co-founder and CEO of TubeMogul, which you took public and eventually sold to Adobe. Tell us how that journey began.
The TubeMogul experience was transformative. My co-founder John Hughes and I founded the company while attending Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. We started with just $22,500 in funding that we received after winning the Berkeley Business Plan Competition. This in 2009 just after the recession, and we struggled to raise venture capital. Fortunately, Trinity’s Ajay Chopra was bold enough to lead our Series A at a time when few venture deals were getting inked.
At TubeMogul we built a culture where people got stuff done but were also kind and respectful. We also had a lot of fun turning the advertising industry upside down as our programmatic ad buying software empowered digital advertisers with unprecedented transparency into what they were actually buying. By building a culture with a high “Do:Say Ratio” and always doing what’s best for advertisers, we created an execution machine that grew triple digit percentages annually for a decade.
What was the IPO experience like, as well as selling your “baby” to Adobe?
Our IPO was particularly memorable…and scarring. We had a strong start — it took just five months from deciding to go public to filing our S-1. Unfortunately, the ad tech companies that went public just before us were arbitrage ad networks that performed poorly. Our IPO roadshow was brutal as these ‘comps’ declined by 20% over the course of the two week process. We reluctantly lowered our price range to get a deal done. Fortunately, the stock popped 60% on the first day of trading.
Being a public company was positive for our business. In addition to enabling liquidity for our employees, the IPO was also a massive branding event that helped us win in-market and attract great talent. After two and a half years in the public markets, Adobe acquired TubeMogul. That acquisition help transform us from a point solution to something far greater.
While we ended up changing an industry and generating a lot of shareholder wealth, this wasn’t a “lightning in a bottle” kind of company. We grinded it out for 10 years swimming upstream every day. We’d all love to be overnight unicorns, but I believe that our experience was a more common entrepreneurial narrative.
What did you do immediately prior to joining Trinity Ventures as an EIR?
I was Vice-President and General Manager of the Adobe Advertising Cloud business, a role I came into via Adobe’s acquisition of TubeMogul. My time at Adobe was challenging and fun. We combined TubeMogul (and our 650 employees) and several existing Adobe teams into a single large team and integrated advertising software platform. We may have taken on too much too fast as we definitely had some “rage against the machine” moments, but ultimately we launched the only independent alternative to the Google advertising stack, retained most of our key team members and were named by Forrester as a leading omnichannel advertising solution. I’m grateful to Adobe for the brilliant experience and for being a perfect home for our team.
What are you hoping to get out of this experience?
I’m looking to meet fellow entrepreneurs and to help them stay in the game. Building something valuable from scratch is crazy hard and often takes longer than expected. I certainly had a lot of support along the way and am eager to pay it forward. I’m also excited to see the Trinity “behind-the-scenes magic” that has led to multiple decades of success. I promise not to disclose any VC secret handshakes or signs!
Building something valuable from scratch is crazy hard and often takes longer than expected. I certainly had a lot of support along the way and am eager to pay it forward.
What types of companies are you interested in exploring?
It’s all about the people for me. It’s energizing being around entrepreneurs with audacious goals and who can’t wait to smash the status quo.
What else should people know about you?
Officiating weddings is a bit of a side hustle. I’m up to nine weddings now and still have a perfect record. When I’m not working, you can find me road biking, cheering on Cal football or wrestling with our standard poodles. You can reach me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit www.trinityventures.com