Posted on Friday, Jul 31st 2020
Fascinating story of MediaAlpha, beautifully told by Co-founder CEO Steve Yi, relates how the team has navigated through various experiments to over $100 million in revenue.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background? Steve Yi: I was born in Seoul, Korea. When I was seven, my family immigrated to Minneapolis, which is where I consider myself to have grown up. I went to high school in a small town. I went to Harvard College and majored in East Asian Studies. I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards. I gravitated towards professional services. I worked at a company called Mercer Management Consulting, which is my first introduction to the business world. I opened my first spreadsheet working in management consulting.
After management consulting, I had some ideas about potentially going in and working with some social justice issues. I went to law school instead of business school with the thought that if I didn’t want to do that and I wanted to go back into the business world, I could effectively use my law degree in lieu of an MBA. After law school, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to go back into the business world, in part, because creating and running a great business that values its people and does something interesting and good for the world was one of the most impactful things that someone could do.
From law school, I looked forward to the path of having my own company or having my own startup. I graduated from law school in 1999 at the height of the first Internet boom. I went to go work for Goldman Sachs with an eye on using that as a platform to jump to the Internet space. After a year at Goldman, I took a job with an Internet company here in Los Angeles.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking? Steve Yi: This was in 2000. Sramana Mitra: In 2000, you quit Goldman and took a job with an Internet startup. Steve Yi: Yes. The timing wasn’t great because a few months into that job, the crash started to happen. In 2002, we did have a sale of that company for a relatively modest amount – not the billion dollars that we were expecting. At that time, I think I really had to make the biggest decision. The veneer was off working in the startup space. What a lot of the colleagues who I worked with at that startup and other startups ended up doing was go back to management consulting, investment banking, or law.
I had already taken those professional services routes and I knew that I really wanted to build a business. I decided to stay with the Internet startup path. I worked for a series of Internet companies here in Los Angeles and focused on Internet advertising because that was one area that Los Angeles – not Silicon Valley – was particularly strong at. I worked for a variety of bigger and smaller companies, had my own startup, failed miserably, and tried again, and then failed not so miserably.
Our conversation continues
here. This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to Unicorns More »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million . How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana . How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million . Death by Overfunding . How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+ . How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck . TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage . The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance . BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering . Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania . Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million . SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida . Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million . Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK . Ownership Matters . Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland . Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado . Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada . Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia . Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand . PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina . Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits . Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million . Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M . Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million? . Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M . Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success . From a Small Town to $12 Million . Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A . Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million . Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million . Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later . Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US . English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company . Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee . Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US . 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