Dipanshu “D” Sharma – Founder & CEO, xAD, Inc.

Dipanshu “D” Sharma founded xAd in 2009 with the goal of conquering the mobile-local search and advertising markets in the U.S. For over a decade, D has found new ways to leverage technology and to improve business models for entrepreneurs and innovative companies. He previously developed new technologies for Nokia, as well as co-founded RockeTalk, India’s fifth-largest mobile traffic site, and Kadonk, the top Microsoft Project Viewer. He was named TeleFusion’s “Technology Leader of the Year” and was nominated for Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.” D sits on the board of directors at xAd and Kadonk, and is a member of Veracity Wireless’ advisory board.

1. How do you define success?
For us at xAd, it’s about a relevant local ad experience that drives consumers to retail stores, and being able to do it at a global scale. For me personally, it’s about products that make our lives better.

2. What is the key to success?
Focus: Entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas and often companies fail from a lack of execution, rather than having the right idea.

People: Hiring “A players” is key. My philosophy is to hire someone who can do your job and make your job redundant. My team is self-sufficient, allowing me to focus on building the future of xAd.

Timing: All products can be too early to market or too late. While it is very difficult to time, there is no point in waiting forever for timing to happen. One way to check is to look at the dependencies for the business to be successful. For example, mobile technology companies before the open AppStore infrastructure could not really have been successful, as they lacked significant distribution. Online companies needed Internet adoption. The question you have to ask is, “Is the underlying infrastructure ready to scale?” Predicting the size of the market can be tricky. It’s easier to make a better product for an already-existing large market, like a better cellphone or wireless router. If you are coming up with something like Facebook or Twitter, then the guiding force is the rate of adoption for your product and/or technology.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
Goes back to the definition of success, as there is a lot for me to do.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Focus on the plan and have the best people. When you face difficulties, just know that you have the right people coming up with the right solutions. Earlier in my career, I used to get stressed and overreact in trying to solve the problem, but that only makes things worse. Keep your calm and work on a solution. Have people with you that will support you through difficult times. When you are changing the world with your innovations, that’s all the motivation you need.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
You can’t force timing. The ecosystem has to be ready for the product to succeed. Mobile companies largely failed until 3G and smartphones were introduced. Make sure you can scale without third party dependency.

There is no substitute for a great team, even if you have the right product, market, and timing. Having the right team is the only way to be successful. Most companies take longer than they should to bring experienced staff to their growing startups to help with the growth. It is very difficult for all the founding/early team members to be able to grow with a fast-growing company’s needs. Some entrepreneurs are great at starting an idea and bringing it to life and not so good at its growth, as they want to focus on the next one. Choose what kind of entrepreneur you want to be—serial entrepreneur: one that is product-focused and can bring innovation to the marketplace several times, or one that has the motivation to build a long-sustaining business. Either is the right answer, just knowing it is hard. Most of Twitter’s original founders are on their next companies that is actually a win-win, as Jack Dorsey (Twitter co-founder) is a very successful Square founder. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs and Larry Allison are classic entrepreneurs who built large successful businesses.

It’s also important to know when to exit. It’s a lot easier to exit a business at less than $20 million than $50 million+ and very hard over $200 million. If you are looking to raise money and also have an offer to exit (sell) the business, you should think very carefully on which path to take. Because you will own a large part of your company early on and a lot less of it as you raise money, your eventual financial outcome could be similar. An example would be Facebook, which did not take a $1 billion offer, and now it’s worth $200 billion. On the other hand, companies like Digg and Color could have had a better financial outcome than it eventually turned out to be.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My family just started a charity to help poor kids with the basics (education, food, etc.). That project is gaining steam. I love watching “Shark Tank” and will have an “As Seen on TV” idea one day!

7. What makes a great leader?
The ability to listen. Ability to hire a great team. Be realistic (not overly optimistic or pessimistic). Surround yourself with very smart people. And while doing all that, have time to take care of your family and friends.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
It’s an exciting time with so much changing in how we spend our daily lives. Find something that defines success for you and do it.


This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.

Craig Newmark – Founder, Craigslist.org

Craig Newmark is a self-described nerd, pioneer of the web, speaker, philanthropist, and a strong advocate of the use of technology for the public good. He is the founder of craigslist.org, which he started in 1995 and is now one of the world’s most-visited websites. He continues to work with craigslist as a customer service representative (CSR).

Today, Craig’s primary focus is craigconnects.org, which he launched in 2011. The mission of craigconnects, in the short-term, is to promote, expedite, and enhance the use of technology and social media for the benefit of philanthropy and public service. He uses the craigconnects platform to support the efforts of those “getting stuff done” in areas such as veterans and military families, open government, public diplomacy, back-to-basics journalism, fact-checking, consumer protection, election protection and voter registration, and technology for the public good. Craig’s long-term mission for craigconnects is to ultimately extend the reach of technology worldwide, to “give a voice to the voiceless and real power to the powerless.”

Craig currently serves on the board of directors of the Center for Public Integrity, Sunlight Foundation, Consumers Union/Consumer Reports, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He also serves as an advisor on the use of technology for more than a dozen other non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Craig was born in Morristown, New Jersey and now lives in San Francisco, California, which has been his home for more than 20 years. He enjoys birdwatching, squirrel-watching, and science fiction. He communicates regularly through his own blog on craigconnects, The Huffington Post, Facebook, and Twitter. He also travels the country speaking about issues, appearing on behalf of the organizations he supports, and delivering his craigconnects message to audiences nationwide.

1. How do you define success?
It’s a matter of what makes you happy. For me, it’s a matter of social impact, by my own actions, and more importantly, by finding ways to get everyone the means to work together for greater social impact.

2. What is the key to success?
Treat people like you want to be treated.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
I’m not successful, yet.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Over time, people of good will prevail.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
If it wasn’t for comedy, I’d have no personality at all.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
What is “spare time”?

7. What makes a great leader?
“Greatness” in leadership involves the ability to inspire and motivate large numbers of people. It includes charisma, which I don’t even begin to understand.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Read Dilbert. Take responsibility for how people perceive you, which is to say, you own your own brand. That includes your use of social media.


This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.

Colin Day – Chairman & CEO, iCIMS

Colin Day founded iCIMS in 1999 and is the company’s president and CEO. Prior to founding iCIMS, Colin worked in sales and new business development at Comrise Technology, an IT staffing firm. After successfully opening a new branch office in Washington, D.C., Colin recognized an opportunity to carve a technical platform out of the company, and iCIMS was born.

In addition to his responsibilities at iCIMS, Colin works to develop Software as a Service (SaaS) industry awareness and to educate human resources professionals on how to evaluate recruiting technology. He has contributed to various publications, including Human Resource Executive, Employment Marketplace, and Human Capital. He has also spoken at various engagements, including ReedLogic’s HR Software Leadership Conference.

Colin has received numerous recognitions and awards. He has twice received Human Capital magazine’s “HR Future Leaders Award,” and has twice been rated one of the top five forward-thinking innovators in Fast Company magazine’s “Fast 50 Readers’ Challenge.” In 2007, Colin was named Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” in the information technology software category. In 2008, Colin was recognized as one of the state’s most dynamic business leaders in NJBIZ’s “Forty Under 40” award program. In 2009, he was a finalist in the “Green Executive of the Year” category of the NJBIZ Green Leadership Awards, and in 2011, he was named a finalist in the “Executive of the Year” category of the NJBIZ Business of the Year Awards.

1. How do you define success?
Stay true to yourself. It’s one thing to get to where you want to be, quite another not to take shortcuts/lose your soul/bend your morals along the way. Our world is too focused on short-term growth. It’s what the analysts/markets applaud right now. It doesn’t necessarily build something enduring for the customer, and isn’t that why we all got into business? You’ve got to wake up and be proud of what you’ve built, and the barometer for success should be beyond money and growth.

2. What is the key to success?
Surround yourself with people who are smarter, more experienced, and more capable than you are, and then figure out how to get them all aligned around a common mission, vision, value system, and culture.

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
Not at all. I knew I always wanted to work for myself, but I didn’t always know I’d be successful. I still wonder if I am, and I constantly try to redefine success each year.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I’ve always had an extreme fear of failure. When I was young, I used to avoid certain things if I didn’t know how to do them or have the confidence that I can do them better than others. I’ve brought that fear to the business world, and I am trying to make sure it’s a healthy fear.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to go in opposite directions. When our competitors started dropping prices, we raised them. When they started building out a broad portfolio, we stayed focused and went deep. When they got “starstruck” by enterprise customers, we remained focused on the small and medium-sized business (SMB) marketplace. Blue ocean strategy allowed us to stand out and win at what we do best.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Sleeping. I have two kids.

7. What makes a great leader?
I am still trying to figure this out. I think it’s an ability to persuade people who are smarter and more capable than you to follow you, and then get the hell out of their way.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Don’t try to chart it all out. Life is random. I graduated with a psychology degree and joined a recruiting firm out of college because it was close to where my girlfriend lived. They built software that we took and spun out. That led to my company, iCIMS, where we now support over 1,500 companies. I never thought following a girlfriend would be the catalyst. Be open to any catalyst, but know an opportunity when you see one.


This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.