BigDoor Media, Lessons Learned and Second Acts

Keith Smith just announced the public launch of his new company, BigDoor Media. The thesis behind BigDoor was formulated and refined by Keith and co-founder Jeff Malek in their Icarus-like journey at their previous company Zango (a.k.a. 180Solutions). As Keith acknowledges in his launch blog post, Zango was built around a powerful insight about online monetization via superior targeting, but forgot to take good care of the actual source of that money – the consumer – and wound up losing everything they’d worked so hard to build.

Andy and I have known Keith for a long time – we boostrapped our previous company, Judy’s Book, in part by consulting to what was then known as 180Solutions, and Andy remained involved as a board member until almost the very end. And while we may have differed with Keith about the path he ultimately took with the business, our admiration for him as an entrepreneur only grew as we watched him work to build – and fight to save – the business he had created. Keith is hands-down one of the firecest and most mature entrepreneurs we’ve ever seen, so we were naturally interested to see what he’d choose as his second act.

Like Zango before it, BigDoor Media is an online monetization platform. But as Keith notes in his launch blog post, all the lessons from his prior company have been baked into this new venture, including the following:

  • Be good to consumers. Monetization of users and content by its very nature is not going to be directly welcomed by consumers, but it absolutely has to be consumer friendly. The most classic example of this is with network television. Nobody likes to have their TV show interrupted by ads, but doing so was a model that worked for years for the industry. But there is a balance. 22 minutes of show and 8 minutes of ads can be stomached by users. 8 minutes of show and 22 minutes of ads would have resulted in TV sets all over America being turned off and audiences would have dried up. The world has now shifted and this model is showing its age, but the underlying consumer behaviors still remain.
  • Don’t be adware. It doesn’t matter that our move into adware was based on logic that was sound and motives that were pure. Adware became known as a public scourge and trying to fight a broadly based perception is like spitting in the wind. We don’t ever want to write broadly distributed client-side software again.

Founders Co-op is the lead investor in Keith and Jeff’s new company, and we’re very excited about where they’re headed. We expect the investment to raise some eyebrows based on what people believe about Keith’s past company, but we know more about that story than most folks do. We made the investment based on a bedrock conviction that Keith is going to apply *all* the lessons he learned at Zango to build another big business – including the need to take care of the consumer along the way.