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For Buddy Media, different was good

June 11, 2012, 11:52 PM UTC

The best part of venture capital is working with great founders. And my favorite thing about working with these founders is that they are all so different. The good ones have a big vision, a deep understanding of the product/market, and an ability to hire and retain individuals more talented than themselves. But the best ones have something so unique that you can’t always put your finger on it.

Last week, Buddy Media agreed to be acquired by Salesforce (CRM) for $745 million. It’s a great win for Buddy Media, Salesforce, the investors (including IVP) and employees. But I’m happiest for Mike and Kass Lazerow, the company’s co-founders.

They did so many things well that great founders do. They saw the market opportunity first. They recruited an incredible team in co-founder Jeff Ragovin, Susan St. Ledger, Dennis Morgan, Patrick Stokes and Michael Jaindl, among others. They built a world-class product that anticipated what their customers needed. But they also did things their way – even if it was different. Here are a few of their lessons:

  • Ignore Typical Rules: Most venture capitalists don’t back husband and wife teams. Mike and Kass didn’t care. Mike is CEO. Kass is COO. They are married. Deal with it.
  • Culture Matters: When Mike and Kass presented to our partnership in September 2010, they highlighted the key aspects of their business: Team, Product, Market, Competition, Financials and…Kickball. They care deeply about culture and wanted an investor to understand that without kickball and bobble-heads, the rest of it doesn’t matter.
  • Take Risks: At our first Board meeting in November 2010, Mike and Kass proposed an ambitious multi-million dollar airport advertising campaign. We’ve never had a startup at their stage buy airport ads. It was controversial. It was risky. It worked.
  • Give Back: Mike and Kass care deeply about giving. In 2012, they raised over $250,000 for Cycle for Survival, an organization supporting rare cancer research. A focus on giving helped Buddy Media’s business by motivating employees and inspiring customers. And it was also the right thing to do.

Too many entrepreneurs try to copy the idiosyncrasies of great founders. They conduct “walking meetings” like Steve Jobs or wear hoodies like Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t forget that your quirks make you special. Different is good. Stay true to yourself and go build the next big company.

Jules Maltz (@julesmaltz) is a partner with Institutional Venture Partners, which was the largest outside shareholder in Buddy Media.