Alicia Navarro – Skimlinks 2 of 2

“Have conviction in your vision, but listen to the market.” Skimlinks is a free web service that helps website owners monetize their content in a seamless way.

Matthew:
Can you tell us about your cofounder? How did you meet and what qualities were you looking for and how’d you know they’d be a good fit?
Alicia:
So, my cofounder cofounder is a lovely chap called Joe (unintelligible 0:00:18.7), and we went to university together, so I – you know, we met when we were 17 years old. We were – you know. We did the same course. We had the same friends. When I moved to London, he moved to London shortly after. We were housemates. I’m really close friends with his girlfriend, now wife. So we’ve lived together, traveled together, studied together, and when I’d already start… I’d already spent sort of a year and a half with the original business and he had been concurrently doing other Internet marketing stuff. He had his own business doing Internet marketing. He’s very entrepreneurial. We used to talk all the time about our respective businesses, and I realized after a year and a half of doing (unintelligible – 0:00:59.9) on my own that I just couldn’t contemplate the next few years doing this without someone by my side that I completely trusted and I could kind of, you know, rely on, and so I said to him, you know, do you want to come onboard, and he, you know, when we talked about it for a while, he realized yeah, and he came on, and he’s, you know, you couldn’t ask for a better cofounder He’s… completely balances me. We’re both very product-centric, really good tech backgrounds, but he’s got a lot more process and structure and I’ve got a bit more mayhem, but the two of us together work fantastically as a team. So I can’t wait to do it again with him one day.
Matthew:
Are there any unique metrics or social proof about SkimLinks that you’d like to share with our audience?
Alicia:
Metrics or social proofs. Well, we’re on a, I think, we’re on over 700,000 domains around the world, and I think we’re, you know, I think our code’s being served several hundred times a second, and our publishers love us. You know, we’ve been with publishers from the very beginning and they really believed in our overall vision, and so the challenge that we’ve got is that is, from a merchant’s perspective, fantastic because they only pay when there’s an actual sale and so there’s no compensation if a publisher’s driving traffic and that’s creating, you know, a purchase intent that then is fulfilled through a (unintelligible 0:02:30.8) comparison site or by the ease of going to the store and buying something, and so we’re thinking of different ways to really get around that limitation of and our publishers believe us in that vision and are sticking around for the ride. They’re making, you know, very good incomes in the meantime. Less than they would probably get with high-end banner ads or in some cases even AdSense, but the key to publishers at the moment is diversification of revenues. So you know, if they can make an extra 10, 20% with us on their overall revenues then that’s pretty good.
Matthew:
We know founders face unique challenges when they start a company. What was the hardest part about starting SkimLinks and how did you overcome this obstacle?
Alicia:
I think the hardest thing was that first year when I still hadn’t turned the business into SkimLinks was just the crazy panic. So I had friends invest. I had my boyfriend at the time invest. I’d invested. I’d gotten a bank manager to trust me and you know, get me a bank loan, and you know, I was running out of money and you have that crazy terror every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up that you’re about to disappoint everyone that trusted you. That was the hardest thing, but that was also the fire that kept you going and you just kept going and kept going and eventually… and I think the key is also to make the necessary tweaks to what you’re doing because trying again and again and not changing what you’re doing is just an exercise in beating your head up against a wall. So instead it was have conviction in what you’re doing but listen to the market, listen to the feedback and use your gut to find what the right advice is amongst all that noise and that was what got us through. You know, in the end it was one crazy bit of gut instinct at 10 o’clock at night on Friday that saved us. So you need to count time for that kind of stuff.
Matthew:
Lots of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make starting companies look easy. We know it can be very difficult. We want to dispel some myths here, so my question to you is what is it that comes intuitively for you? What skill or talent is natural and easy that you’re good at, and what has been difficult and how’ve you managed that?
Alicia:
God, that’s a good question. First of all, it’s not easy. I think that it’s like you see movie stars that, you know, suddenly you know, act in one film and they’re suddenly a success but you don’t see the like ten years of waitressing and you know, bad ads that they’ve done and similarly you hear the stories of the founder that got funding straightaway, but you don’t hear the much greater majority of cases of people that’ve given up everything. There’re a much larger proportion of stories of people that give up everything and still failed, and what’s hard about it is that a lot of founders are… won’t share that because they need to maintain that veneer of self-confidence and protection around them. So very often, you don’t hear the real stories and it really comes to forming really close relationships with other entrepreneurs that you finally see behind the veneer and find out that everyone’s got that same inner core of utter panic and terror that everything they’re doing’s wrong and it’s all going to come crumbling down around them, and I think that the big differentiator, you have to have, you have to have that inner core of complete confidence that you’ll find the answer and I think that’s the biggest challenge that people have that want to do entrepreneurship and don’t. They think that oh, I don’t know enough of the answer so I’d better not.
I have made so many mistakes, big mistakes, that’ve had massive repercussions and I will continue to do them and that’s the only way, really, that you’ll learn, and the only thing that gets me through is that every time you make a mistake, you just know that somehow you’ll get through it and you’re smart enough to work out the way to deal with it or you’ll find the right, you’ll find the right person to give you assistance and you just have to have faith and it’s just that little personal core of conviction that you have to have as an entrepreneur, and that’s what gets you though the tough times, and I’ve just had really good faith and been very lucky, I guess to a large degree, but I think also to a degree, you make your own luck. I think I’m very… my gut instinct I think is right about 80% of the time, and that’s pretty good, and I think that for the rest of the 20% of the time, you’ve just got to acknowledge when you’re wrong and react quickly and not be ashamed of it, and I think if you can do that, you’re above most people. (Laughs)
Matthew:
That’s great advice. Thank you for sharing. What bit of advice do you wish you would’ve known prior to starting SkimLinks?
Alicia:
Good question. I think that sometimes when you have too much money, it can be a bad thing, and that some of the best decisions we’ve made are when we didn’t have a lot of money, and I think that that’s the danger with companies raising too much money too quickly. I think we’ve made the best decisions that we’ve ever made in our company when we didn’t have a load of money and I call it the (unintelligible – 0:08:00.1) principle in the company. So sometimes the best things you can do are when you’ve got nothing but you know, a piece of string and a paperclip and you have to diffuse an atom bomb, and I think that there’s an incredible creativity and passion that comes when you’re up against the wall, and I think that companies that raise too much too quickly are probably going to be a little bit disadvantaged. You can throw money at great staff, you know, at people that have the right credentials. You can throw money at things that you think are important, but what’s really important is finding people that really care to work with you, giving them an office environment that’s safe and happy, and really focusing on company culture in the team and everything else is almost superfluous to that. You can make do with almost nothing and still succeed.
Matthew:
What mentors played an important impact in your professional development?
Alicia:
Good question again. I think my chairman is kick-ass. He was my advisor for a year before we got funding, and then I brought him on as chairman, and he kept me sane during that awful year of panic when I didn’t think I’d get funding, and now he’s still the person I can call any time, day or night, and he’ll always have faith in me and my ability to get through things. I’ve also, yeah, met a great collection of people (unintelligible – 0:09:31.7) downstairs at True Ventures is a good friend (unintelligible – 0:09:36.2) who is on the board of LinkedIn and Cambridge University is one of the most fabulous women I know and who I want to be when I grow up, and a whole host, and I think that’s a really important thing. You’ve got to find mentors and treat them well, and they’ll treat you well, and I’ve had an incredible amount of support and advice from a wide range of people both here and in the UK.
Matthew:
Before we close, I would love for you to share with our audience your vision for SkimLinks and how you hope it will change the world.
Alicia:
I am really excited by the idea of making the in-text space be something that all parties find welcoming. So at the moment, you’ve got the very lucrative forms of in-text like (unintelligible – 0:10:27.1) and InfoLinks and Vibrant , but no one… users tend to find them annoying more than useful, so I think there’s a real opportunity to find a perfect solution that publishers are well paid from, that uses (unintelligible – 0:10:43.1) experiencing and that merchants don’t mind paying for, and if, and I’m really excited by the idea of (unintelligible 0:10:51.0) that challenge that hasn’t really been tried yet and making publishers who, you know, the creative content out there, that power of the Web, be rewarded for what they do.
Matthew:
Excellent. Well, Alicia, it’s been a great honor having you as a guest on FounderLY.
Alicia:
My pleasure, thank you.
Matthew:
We’re rooting for your continued success at SkimLinks. For those in our audience who’d like to learn more about SkimLinks and register to become a user, a member of their community, you can visit their website at www.skimlinks.com. This is Matthew Wise at FounderLY. Thanks so much.
Alicia: Thank you.

 
 

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