Want a $425m Exit? Heidi Messer is Ready to Advise You How!

Heidi Messer is Co-founder and Chairman of Collective[i]™The NextWomen is busy re-launching our Business Advice Programme so that we can help get you the advice and expertise needed to make your business a real success. We have some incredible NextAdvisors already lined up and amongst our new recruits is Heidi Messer.

Heidi Messer is Co-founder and Chairman of Collective[i]™, a cloud-based business intelligence platform that enables business leaders to answer their toughest questions through big data analysis. Heidi is also Co-Founder and CEO of World Evolved, a global investment and expansion platform.

Prior to Collective[i]™and World Evolved, Heidi and her brother, Stephen Messer, co-founded LinkShare Corporation, which is host to one of the world’s largest online affiliate networks. Heidi and her brother built and managed LinkShare until its sale to Rakuten for $425 million in 2005.

For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here. 

We have interviewed Heidi twice in the past couple of years. Here are some highlights ... 

On the launch of Collective[i]™...

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch Collective[i]™?

HM: When we started LinkShare in the mid-1990s, the digital world was all new. Everything required reinvention and innovation because nothing existed. The area we focused on was quantifying the value of advertising space, and a method that could support the creation and proliferation of free Internet based content.

My co-founders and I saw that what’s now referred to as “Big Data” was exactly that.

We believe that the next generation of highly successful companies will be organized around data.

You see the seeds of this happening as companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon demonstrate that they can sustain billion dollar valuations by incorporating the data they collect into their strategy, operations and marketing. 

The opportunity is huge and the market need astounding. So large that I’m not sure people have fully internalized how much of their organizations are compromised by the pain of managing the incredible amount of data they now collect. The solutions to how to manage data sets that large aren’t easy.  Equally important is making sure that data is accessible within an organization so that it becomes a useful compass for important creative and strategic thinking. We spent three years creating a platform to accomplish that purpose.

TNW: When you built the Collective[i] team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?

HM: It’s key to have the best players on your team.

Smart people can fix almost any problem whereas in the battle between an idea and mediocre people, you can expect that mediocrity will win.

I recently heard Reed Hoffman, CEO of NetFlix, speak about the importance of speaking honestly about what you expect from employees. His point was that great companies are like championship sports teams where the culture is based on recruiting the right people and judging them based on execution.  I think that is a pretty sound strategy.  

TNW: Did you learn lessons when launching LinkShare which you applied to the launch of Collective[i]? Which aspects of your launch strategy did you keep the same?

HM: A key lesson I learned was how important it was to find and manage talent.  We spend a lot of time recruiting, vetting and training.

I also learned that entrepreneurship isn’t just about starting companies; it’s about being adaptable and focused at the same time. 

We are applying the same intense focus that we had at LinkShare to Collective[i]. In both instances, the companies had a clear strategy but remained very agile about the tactics we used to execute.

On scaling a business...

TNW: A topic which often comes up in The NextWomen and DWEN communities is scalability. What is your advice for entrepreneurs looking to scale their businesses?

Make sure you have the foundation in place—the right people, the right funding and the right technology—and then stay focused.

TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?

HM: I’ve made some terrific friends and business contacts through DWEN who have, in turn, expanded my network. DWEN is unique in its global focus and by the amount of support it has from Dell’s senior management, I have also been very impressed with the extraordinary team they have assembled to manage and grow the network.

TNW: Do you have a motto which sums up your approach to business, and to life?

Dream big, recruit the right people, stay focused and execute. 

Read the rest of this interview here.

On founding LinkShare Corporation...

TNW: You founded LinkShare Corporation with your brother Stephen and ran it together until its sale to Rakuten for $425 million in 2005. Tell us a little about how you came to found a company with your brother.

HM: Our family tree is filled with entrepreneurs.  Virtually every relative we knew was running or had run a business.

Growing up, our mother operated a real estate and corporate maintenance company where Stephen and I worked together as teenagers. The experience was good as we saw all aspects of that business, which was tough and the opposite of a technology venture – low margins, unskilled labor, unions, conducted in physical spaces and easily commoditized.

The fact that we worked together and got along in that atmosphere was a good sign that we could succeed in a more exciting business with higher growth potential.  The collective experience we gained in that business and working together as teenagers also proved to be great training for us, given how young we were when we founded LinkShare.

TNW: How did you divide responsibilities between the two of you?

HM: Our roles were determined by our respective strengths. It was a slightly less conventional approach than you would see in a large corporation or even start-ups with less familiar founders. Responsibilities were divided based on skill, timing and need.

There was no ego involved. We didn’t care about titles and both innately understood that we needed to do whatever was necessary to make sure that LinkShare was a success.

On how Collective[i]™ is developing...

TNW: What have you been up to since we last interviewed you in 2012? Any exciting developments at Collective[i]?

HM: Yes! The company is growing by leaps and bounds. We have a great team and incredible advisors. Collective[i]’s mission is to transform the universe’s most valuable data and information into answers, knowledge, decisions and actions that are accessible to any business user when they need it for an advantage. Our technology is outstanding. It’s been exciting to launch as one of the first Application Service Providers in this space and know that we were there before the value of data was a topic of mainstream business.

Collective[i] is one of the only ways to access business intelligence, on demand, without building a proprietary system or hiring an army of data scientists. 

We are extremely well positioned for what we see as the next big wave of innovation.

Read the rest of this interview here.

Heidi is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here.

Lucy gained a First Class Honours Degree in English Literature from the Open University before developing a career in Senior Customer Service Management. She has recently taken a change of direction and is enjoying a new challenge in Bid-Writing and Business Development for a mobile alarm and tagging company. Alongside this and being a mum to two young daughters, she is pursuing her passion for writing, editing and publishing by interning with The NextWomen where she is inspired daily by the stories she reads.

Sign Up to our Newsletter

So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.

We try hard for smart reading.