Sramana Mitra: Just one little piece of information, did the previous company where you were head of sales exit?
Feris Rifai: Yes, it was a sale to another company.
Sramana Mitra: Was it a good exit? Did you make money off that company?
Feris Rifai: Yes, it wasn’t just through the exit. I had done pretty well. Prior to the exit, we did a private equity infusion into the company. Parts of that was the management founding team.
Sramana Mitra: You had a successful exit in a company that you had joined and rose through the ranks. Then you tried to do a dot-com that was, timing-wise, not a very good time. Then you joined another company and that’s where you and Ryan met. While we are there, why don’t we stop and get a bit of Ryan’s history. Ryan, what’s your background?
Ryan Stolte: I’m the CTO of Bay Dynamics. I grew up in Iowa. I lived there my whole life. It was a small town environment. My brother had gone to engineering school at the University of Iowa. I followed in his footsteps and decided to be an Electrical and Computer Engineer. I went to my hometown school. I was starting school in the 1995 timeframe when there was a big explosion of e-commerce activity out. I started working to learn as much as I could. I really had a passion for what was happening on the Internet.
I got attached to some great advisors in the engineering school who encouraged me to be entrepreneurial. I started a web development company called Website Dynamics in my sophomore year of college. That really took off. I found myself doing great in school and having a passion for this new Internet technology. Ultimately, I found myself doing more teaching in classes with these advisors who were extremely helpful and encouraging. I started taking less and less classes. After a few years in 1998 before I finished school, we ended up selling that company to my biggest customer. It was a $100 million advertising agency. It was at a time when the advertising industry, as a whole, was looking for ways to capitalise the rising wave of Internet and e-commerce.
I had a choice to make – either pass on that opportunity, slowly finish school, and continue with the business, or go all in. I decided to go all in knowing I can go back to school if I wanted to. I spent a couple of years building out that team and becoming a very significant part of their business. I was in my very early 20s at that time. We grew that. We got a really good presence. It really helped me mature my focus, which is a big part of what we do even today. It is background analytics and how to monetise and understand what people are doing in a way that can help you do business better on the Internet.
I was actually on HotJobs at that time looking at other people’s job descriptions. I was actually going to list somebody else’s job description to put a few new positions out there. I came across this stealth posting. It just said, “Top startup. Stealth mode.” It was just really intriguing to me. In the position I was in, I was the entrepreneurial spirit driving this inside of a larger organization. I took the opportunity and flew out to Cupertino and became his first employee. That’s where Feris and I originally met.