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A Serial Entrepreneur’s Lessons Learned: .CLUB CEO Colin Campbell (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 21st 2016

Sramana Mitra: That company was also bootstrapped?

Colin Campbell: Yes, bootstrapped. Talking about bootstrapping, I actually used some of my student loans and credit cards to start the first company. There was no funding when I started. In any case, we sold the company. My other company, Internet Direct, went public and we sold that company. It was a $180 million transaction. The partners owned 40% of the company.

It was a dial-up Internet company and we applied to the government in Canada to get a license for wireless Internet across the country. It was actually granted to us for free unlike in the United States where they auction it off. It went to over a billion dollar market cap.

Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking?

Colin Campbell: 1999.

Sramana Mitra: Peak of the bubble.

Colin Campbell: Yes. In Canada, when you do a stock transaction it’s a stock-for-stock swap. It was a cable company that bought our public company. Our shareholders got 40% and the new shareholders took 60%. I only owned about 12%. It was granted 50% of the wireless license for all of Canada. It was a pretty big story up there in Canada.

On March of 2000, the judge announced that Microsoft is going to be broken up. We were raising $50 million at that time. I was not CEO of the combined entity. I was the Executive Vice President of the Internet Division. The people that ran it decided to pull the offering because they thought NASDAQ was at 4,000. It went from 5,000 to 4,000 and they thought that it wasn’t a good environment to raise money. Little did they know, it was going to fall to 1,100.

It was interesting because I was locked up with all my stocks and had a lot of arguements about the decisions that were being made – just in the way that we spent money as we were a billion dollar company. We might have been that on paper but we were not that in reality. Fast forward 18 months later, the company files for bankruptcy. My shares that were once worth $19 ended up selling at 6 cents a share. I lost virtually everything after working on it for 10 years. After that, I had a new mantra, which was liquidity or control. The mistake that I had made on that transaction was I was locked up. I had no liquidity and no control over the company.

Sramana Mitra: This brings us up to what year now?

Colin Campbell: After that company, myself and my brother started to build another technology company. We launched a company called Hostopia. Hostopia was a web hosting and email company. We obtained venture financing from Telus Ventures. I took that company public in 2006. It was a US company but we took it public on the Toronto stock exchange. Then we sold that company in August of 2008.

Sramana Mitra: That was a hosting provider?

Colin Campbell: It was a hosting and email provider, yes.

Sramana Mitra: What was the sweet spot of that business?

Colin Campbell: It’s like GoDaddy for telecoms. If you use AT&T’s email or small business services, that was us.

Sramana Mitra: You white-labeled your hosting solution to telecom providers?

Colin Campbell: Correct. In fact, we became the largest in the world at it.

This segment is part 2 in the series : A Serial Entrepreneur’s Lessons Learned: .CLUB CEO Colin Campbell
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