If you think venture capital is the only path to funding companies, you are, obviously wrong. Chris talks about a whole other world of OTC.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Chris Miglino: I was born in Statten Island, New York. My parents grew up in the Lower East Side. My mom grew up in Brooklyn. We spent a lot of time in New York. Then my parents moved to Mexico City, and I lived in Mexico for a good part of my youth. Then, we moved back and I ended up going to high school in Northern California. I left to go to college at USC. I never left Southern California after that. Once I graduated from USC, I started my first company.
Sramana Mitra: What years are we talking?
Chris Miglino: I graduated in 1991. I started my first company in 1993.
Sramana Mitra: What was that company?
Chris Miglino: It was called Center Link. It was a combination of a touchscreen interactivity kiosk that went into shopping malls. We created frequent shopper loyalty programs for very large mall developers. We understood the shopping patterns of consumers that were going to malls.
We collected a lot of data about who the consumers were and what they were doing. Then we built that into an advertising network that we sold back to retailers. We sold advertising inside the mall environment to help drive consumers back into the store to buy more products and incentivize them with different points and rewards.
Sramana Mitra: Was that a bootstrapped company?
Chris Miglino: It was. We started it off in 1993. We did it on our own and wrote the software. Then it started growing. It was a little capital intensive because it required certain hardware to be installed in the malls. We ended up raising money from a very big out-of-home billboard company that actually owned the rights to the advertising in the malls. Their business was to sell the posters and all the out-of-home static media in the malls.
They were interested in our product because we had contracts with the largest mall developers in the country. They invested in the business. Ultimately, we sold the business to a company that was going public in 1998. They were doing around $50 million a year in product sales on a direct marketing basis, but they needed some dot-com-oriented technology so they could be more successful. We put our company in with theirs and we ended up going public on NASDAQ. We did that from 1998 until around 2001 until right after September 11.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of an exit are we talking about?
Chris Miglino: We raised small amounts of money. It wasn’t that much. The growth didn’t take place until we rolled into the public company. I do not remember exactly what we raised back then but I’d say it was the sub-$5 million range before we ended up going public and rolling into the public entity. Once we were inside the public entity, then the company skyrocketed to a $700 million market cap during that timeframe. It did really well.