Marc Cenedella is the cofounder and CEO of TheLadders.com. Founded in 2003, TheLadders.com is a premier online job board for jobs with salaries of more than $100,000. Prior to TheLadders.com, Cenedella worked as a senior vice president of finance and operations at HotJobs.com and was an associate vice president at The Riverside Company, a New York-based private equity firm. He graduated with a BA in political science from Yale and an MBA from Harvard.
SM: Marc, let’s start at the beginning of your story. What is your background?
MC: I went to school at Yale, where I studied political science for my undergraduate degree. Coming out of school I had no idea what business was about. I knew I wanted to go into business, but I was not really sure what that would entail. I remember that I had to ask my uncle what the difference between sales and marketing was. I graduated in the early 1990s, and at that time the big thing in business was international trade. I figured I should go where the activity was, and that international business had some involvement with my political science training.
I was not sure exactly what to do next or where I should work, but I wanted to try something new. I went out and bought a Places Rated Almanac. That is a book that rates all U.S. cities in various manners. I went through the listings and came down to a decision between Seattle and San Diego. Since I was tired of the cold I decided to move to San Diego. I worked in international trade for a few different companies before I started my own company exporting U.S.-made pet food to Japan. I had that entrepreneurial drive even then.
SM: What are some of your lessons learned as a young entrepreneur?
MC: That is where I first experienced the trouble of being a small business. I was doing $3 million in revenue and I wanted to grow the business. However, it is very difficult to grow if you don’t have the capital. I found it was impossible to raise money for a pet food exporting business. I talked to VCs all over the country, and I can’t even imagine what their expressions were like on the other end of the phone. I am sure they were amused. I was not able to raise money for that business, so after a couple of years I decided that I wanted to go to business school.
SM: Where did you go to business school?
MC: I went to Harvard and graduated as a Baker Scholar. I felt that it would give me more opportunities, and it certainly did. I received a great education that prepared me well.
SM: What did you do after business school?
MC: Coming out of business school, I wanted to become a meta entrepreneur and saw private equity as a path to do that. I figured if I went into private equity, then I could get involved in the financing and debt structuring of small businesses, and that I could do it with a different perspective. I had owned a business. I knew the difficulties operating in a capital-constrained environment, and I felt my perspective would be unique and advantageous.