Founder CEO Jamie Tedford bootstrapped Brand Networks to a highly profitable, large business, leveraging the disruption in brand marketing caused by social media. He then sold minority stake in the company to a private equity firm. Excellent execution!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Jamie Tedford: I was born in a town north of Boston, Massachusetts. It’s a very typical middle-class story and family. I’m third-generation Jamie Tedford. My grandfather started a family business. He was actually an MIT alumnus. He came out of MIT during the Great Depression. He went to work for a paper company and decided to start a lumber mill. He is the first of the family that I can track back who’s an entrepreneur. The business eventually turned into a commercial lumber yard. The family stayed pretty close to home. My dad went to work for him.
Growing up, there was an expectation certainly from people in town that I would eventually run the lumber yard. I was never quite sure what I was going to do. It became pretty clear to me as I got deep in my education that my interest was elsewhere. From that point on, my parents celebrated the fact that I was going to break free from the family lumber business. They had other aspirations for me in a lot of ways. Because of my family upbringing, I never really imagined myself climbing the corporate ladder.
Sramana Mitra: Can you put dates on all this?
Jamie Tedford: I was born in 1969. I went to college at the University of New Hampshire. I had a Business minor and a Political Science major. I went to Washington DC as a junior in college and did a semester there. I fell in love with the culture there and specifically, the international business part of politics. I knew, after that, that when I graduate, I was going to move to Washington DC, which is actually what I did. Within six months, I decided that Politics for me is really a great hobby but it was a really hard way to make a living.
Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to?
Jamie Tedford: I came out of college in 1991. I spent two years in Washington DC.
Sramana Mitra: When you decided that that was not your path, what was the next step?
Jamie Tedford: The next step was to come back home and think about how to get into a high-growth industry. I had an opportunity to join a fairly new startup. At that time, I was employee 12. It was in the college marketing space. It helped brands and companies market their products to college students. This is pre-Internet. We did that through events in college campuses. It was a crash course in marketing and business and also, towards a very specific niche market. I had a really great experience with that. I found my passion around marketing. That company eventually got acquired.
This was really where tech started to meet my marketing interest. I was senior enough during that acquisition that I had options in the new company. This is now 1999. I rode the 1.0 tide, celebrated it with a bunch of people who were young and hungry like myself. In 2001, that company imploded. I certainly learned a lot on how to build a company and eventually see an outcome.