In the game of startups, just as in sports, sometimes the most satisfying wins are not the ones that are the quickest blowouts or played against the highest profile opponents. Sometimes the greatest fulfillment comes from the long-game, the marathon battle against a worthy opponent that is witnessed by few, but carries all the more meaning because of the perseverance and resilience required to achieve victory. I was reminded of these qualities with the sale of our portfolio company eBureau to Transunion, and the simultaneous spinout and funding of Tru-Signal, an audience-targeting business incubated within eBureau. This was a triumph by way of a 13-year hard-fought campaign waged tirelessly by founder and CEO Gordy Meyer and his team.
As a VC you invest in people for the long-term and you never know where the journey will take you. Through working with the eBureau team, I’ve come to appreciate the quality of grit as one of the most critical personality traits of a successful entrepreneur. Wikipedia defines grit as “a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.”
And Gordy is as gritty an entrepreneur as they come. I will spare the blow-by-blow account, but along the way to building a highly profitable business and strategic technology platform, Gordy persevered through some epic challenges that included:
- Navigating the 2008 recession, which had a dramatic and prolonged effect on eBureau’s core financial services customer base;
- Surviving two independent instances of government regulatory change that severely impacted eBureau’s customers, in each case resulting in a 30%+ loss in eBureau revenue, and requiring the business to refocus energies in new markets;
- Making the required difficult calls to cut staff and expenses to survive these setbacks; and finally,
- Patiently investing excess cash flow into Tru-Signal over 6 years as we waited for its market to (finally!) develop.
In between fending off some near-fatal blows were prolonged periods of monotonous grinding forward, customer by customer, platform enhancement by enhancement, until it became clear to the data ecosystem just how strategic eBureau could be. Through it all, Gordy kept the team motivated and focused on the hard work of building and growing the business. We are deeply appreciative of Gordy, his team, his resilience, and his grit.
And as luck would have it, the extended timing could not have been better because just as eBureau’s strategic value is being realized, the company’s steady investment in Tru-Signal is paying off in a major way. Tru-Signal has raised a fresh round of capital and is seeing strong customer traction based on the strength of its product and ability to provide immense value to advertisers. We expect that Tru-Signal will also prove itself to be equally strategic over time and through the good times and the tough moments, carry forward some of that eBureau-infused grit.