Ted Murphy | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ted Murphy

Background:  

IZEA connects brands with influential content creators and publishers and has a platform that enables content and influence marketing at scale.

The Mistake:

I thought that I could force a market ... and that it would happen overnight.

In 2006, we launched paperpost.com. That was at a time when blogs weren't being monetized. There was no advertising on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, and people very much thought that social media was going to be this fantasy of no corporate involvement and people sharing their thoughts. 

I thought that I had a great idea and that I was going to come out and create this platform that would allow people to get paid from brands. But what I didn't realize is just how difficult that was going to be, because there was no framework for regulation and there was no budget for what we were doing for the brands. A lot of people had this very visceral reaction to what we were introducing – monetization with social media. 

The mistake that I made was: We went out, we raised money for venture capitalists, and within two years, we raised $10 million, and we built out this huge sales force. The company went from me to 50 people within two years. And I thought that I could kind of brute force a market, and that I could basically just start knocking on doors, and that things would open up, and that this was such a great idea, and that it would kind of happen overnight.  

We blew through millions, upon millions of dollars, because no matter how much we thought we had a great idea, the market just was not ready for us! And the truth is, it wouldn't be ready for us for another six to seven years. Because we raised money ... now the VCs had this expectation of what was going to happen. We hired all of these people, then the recession hit and things still hadn't taken off, I had to lay off half the company, restructure everything, and raise more money. I was further deluded in the process.

You can’t force a market into existence overnight. 

The Lesson: 

You can’t force a market into existence overnight. It's got to be a process, and it's not flipping a switch. It's adjusting a dimmerRecognize that there are other things around you that needed to happen first in order for your vision to really materialize.  

I think that you have to really be true with yourself and look at what all the potential barriers are, and then how you're going to systematically destroy those barriers. Some of them are going to take longer than others.

Follow IZEA on Twitter at @izea.

Photo courtesy of IZEA

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