After the sale of his first agency Rooster to Havas Worldwide, Sebastian realized that there was a unique opportunity to build Anchor Worldwide, a new-breed, data-driven agency that removes the inefficient silos of traditional agencies. Within three years, Anchor expanded from one location in New York City to five locations in North and South America and was named the #16 fastest growing company in 2019 by Inc. Magazine. Sebastian’s past includes working in the accounts, planning, and creative departments of award winning agencies such as Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, SS+K, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Sebastian currently resides in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife and two young daughters.
Tell us about the early days of Anchor Worldwide.
I started my first company, Rooster, in 2010 after becoming apathetic to the way the advertising industry worked. There were always, and to a large degree still are, three main silos: Advertising Agency, Production Company, and Media Agency. Each comes with their own fee structure and layers of bureaucracy, not to mention that each agency in the structure has their own agenda. It made for a cumbersome process, and a lot of unnecessary output of funds from the client side.
My goal was to break the walls between these three silos and combine all into one, with one simple fee structure. I didn’t have funding, but I had the vision. It worked.
We were wildly successful without taking a dime from anyone and pumping profits back into the company, which was a novel idea that was disruptive to the status quo and that also made us an attractive acquisition target for the big holding companies.
After meeting with four out of the “Big Six,” I took the bait and sold the company with a five-year earnout model. By month six, it was evident that the deal wasn’t all it was chalked up to be. Lofty financial targets coupled with private equity-style tactics didn’t jibe with my mission of creating a culture that fostered talent and great work at any cost. I ended up getting out of the deal eighteen months in, and in turn, leaving a lot of money on the table.
But the thing was, and still is as an entrepreneur, if you’ve done it once, you know you can do it again. The challenge of creating something from scratch that is actually useful, and building a culture, is more intoxicating than money.
I’m sitting on a plane right now heading back to New York from SFO after being there for a total of 12 hours for a 1 1/2 hour meeting with a POTENTIAL client to talk ABOUT an upcoming pitch….not the actual pitch itself. That’ll be in another two weeks after many more thousands of dollars spent on hard and soft costs and not to mention time. This is all while being away from my two young children and wife who has just started a new job and needs the support.
This might sound like a complaint, but is anything but. This was an opportunity that was given to me, not a task or hindrance. Being an entrepreneur means being the master of your own destiny. It’s about choice and knowing that when an opportunity presents itself, you gotta jump.
Would you choose to stay back and sit behind a computer screen and opt for a video conference to learn more about that potential client or would you press flesh, notice the body language, and meet the receptionist of your potential new partner for the foreseeable future?
What would give you the edge? Being there. Spending the money, time, and the resources to make sure you have the edge.
One thing that I’ve learned over the course of my entrepreneurial days (Anchor is my second company) is to take the chance. Just fucking go. Go “do the thing” is what I say. Because if you don’t, you won’t ever know, and that would just be sad, wouldn’t it?
I don’t come from money. The exact opposite, actually. A single mother and starving artist with two kids. We grew up in ~10 different homes in three different cities from childhood through adolescence. So when I hear people say to go and try something just to try it and see what happens, I too am skeptical if they have a “net.”
While we didn’t have money, what my mother taught me was to “Do the thing.” Her thing was art. She couldn’t live without doing her art and eventually she carved out a means for herself and us. She was chasing her dream and she did it, eventually.
What she taught me was to manifest what you want. Come up with your goal, whether it be long-term or short, and just manifest that shit. Talk about it to people as if it’s already a reality. Chant about it to yourself when you’re driving to work. Go to bed with it. Wake up with it. Live it and it will become.
That was what it was for Anchor. Selling Rooster made me realize…fuck that. I had let someone else manifest my destiny.
That would be my singular advice: manifest what you want and don’t let anyone take that away. Just do the thing.