TubeMogul was doing OK, but Brett Wilson knew it could do even better

Give your team the tools

As his team comes up with new ideas, Wilson is big on getting that idea in front of the customer to get feedback.

“We have a huge bias for action,” he says. “If we are spending time with clients, we are going to quickly follow up and build something, even if it has a minimum feature set to get it to market in a production environment and get real feedback so we can figure out if we’re onto something or if we need to iterate.”

Focus is another key element. Moving quickly doesn’t mean throwing ideas together in a reckless manner.

“We very much believe in the power of focus,” he says. “We’re building a company in a big and growing market. Companies that lose their way forget why they exist. So we’re constantly just turning down great ideas so we can stay focused on being the best in the world at one thing. In our case, it’s building software for brand advertisers.”

TubeMogul has grown from $15.6 million in 2011 revenue to $181 million in revenue for 2015. The company has built or expanded partnerships with Discovery Communications, Facebook and Snapchat, among others thus far in 2016. But Wilson knows the future, especially in the world of technology, can change in an instant.

“Our advantage can’t come from just the products that we build,” he says. “It needs to come from our people and our culture. Our people and our culture are designed to keep us ahead. I’m always worried that there could be competitive threats that we didn’t anticipate. In technology, it happens more than in other industries. So you have to build a team and a culture that is designed to constantly be improving and iterating.”

Takeaways

  • Don’t make changes without a plan
  • Think about how you can do it differently
  • Focus on what you do best

The Wilson File

Name: Brett Wilson
Title: Co-founder, president and CEO
Company: TubeMogul Inc.

Born: Joliet, Illinois

Education: Bachelor’s degree in strategic management, California State University, Chico; MBA at University of California, Berkeley.

What was your very first job? My parents used to call me Alex P. Keaton from “Family Ties.” I would devour the Wall Street Journal as a kid. I always had jobs. I can remember selling rocks to the neighbors and I was a paperboy for the Green Bay Press Gazette in fourth grade. I looked at the opportunity to work and earn money as my ticket to freedom.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life? My dad. He was in technology and was head of sales for a software company and ended his career as a CEO at a software company. I still call him almost every night on the way home just to debrief and get his advice on life. He’s the wisest person that I know.

Who would you like to meet and why? Maybe my dad’s dad to understand more about our family and where some of our family’s values and norms came from.

Wilson on kindness: To win, you need to be hard charging and never satisfied. But if you can build a company that is kind, that is nirvana. I believe kindness is underrated. People are proud to work at a place where the company wins and does what’s needed to win, but also takes care of each other. I’m sure people think of me as demanding and relentless, but I hope they think of me as being kind as well.