For some entrepreneurs, the goal is to create a product that can be quickly sold for a nice profit, freeing them to move on to the next venture. This is a fine aspiration, which also often aligns with the needs of VCs, who normally want to see rapid returns on their investments. For many technical founders, though, there is a different, often more elusive dream, which is to create a sustainable business that they can continue to run and grow indefinitely, perhaps involving family members or with an eye towards building something that can be passed down for generations to come. Not everyone wants to sell their baby. Many want the ongoing satisfaction of nurturing and growing the thing they spawned, and the joy that comes from being able to earn a living doing the thing they enjoy most.
Yakov Kamen is an example of one such entrepreneur. Early on in his career, he recalls a prominent VC who described the VC-entrepreneur relationship as similar to that between a farmer and his animals -- one ought not fall in love with something that one intends to slaughter. Years later, as Yakov was figuring out the best way to use the exciting new semantic technology he created, he recalled this admonition and wondered if he should seek a different sort of partner to help him grow his then-fledgling business.
At that point, he was introduced through a fellow entrepreneur to Brian Flynn, who at the time had just facilitated the sale of Macromedia to Adobe.
Relevad began as a company that licensed its semantic tech to other companies. With Brian’s guidance, the Kamen brothers came to see that their clients were making more money using their own tech than they were, and shifted the company’s focus to becoming a competitor in the marketplace rather than just a tech provider. The business soared with this new direction, and has remained a viable, dividend-paying business ever since.
Brian continues to be a Relevad board member, helping with business strategy and development and whatever else is needed on an ad hoc basis. Even years after profitability was reached, Brian remains available to the company whenever market or economic changes require a shift to keep the business running smoothly.
When asked to describe his working relationship with Brian, Yakov commented that Brian believes in human companies. He won’t change a business just to suit his own immediate needs and goals. Secure in his own knowledge and experience, Brian has the patience and understanding to settle in for the long haul, digging deep to discover the best, which is not necessarily the fastest or most expedient, route to success. Somebody with a whip over your head and an agenda of their own may turn you into a successful soldier, but Brian will help you become the general of your own army.
And that’s how, with only a $230k initial investment, Brian has helped Relevad become a profitable business which hasn’t had a losing month since its second month of existence.