My time at NetNoir
My time at NetNoir
At the time when the Internet was just barely entering mainstream awareness, America Online (AOL) was the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that put the concept of “online” in people’s minds. AOL then decided to invest in content to further stimulate consumer demand because at that time, there was not much content to cater to the audience outside of the tech community. And when I say tech, I mean in its most basic sense because at that time the Internet was only really known by the IT world. The “internet” industry didn’t even exist yet.
Securing our first million dollars from AOL was the start of an incredible journey because we had to evolve a business quickly and it meant creating a business model (advertising and subscription) that was challenging. Agencies didn’t understand the internet, let alone have budget allocated for it. Most internet consumers were afraid to put their picture online, let alone use a credit card to buy a subscription.
I will never forget pitching Saatchi and Saatchi and explaining what the internet was vs AOL to a room of 30 people. Not everyone had even used email so it was a really interesting time. With all the challenges, we secured a $30,000 ad buy from P&G to gather names of people who wanted a free directly of Historically Black Colleges and Universities they had compiled but had problems with a media channel to get people to submit names and addresses so they could send it to them. Turns out, NetNoir was perfect for it. The millions of visitors were more than happy to get the catalogue and give it to their friends and relatives with kids considering what college to apply to. We felt good helping P&G do something good while also growing our business.
As the ad market grew and brands became more sophisticated, larger and more frequent experiments came. And as the only channel (for a while) at scale we were able to secure a lot of new clients. Our team grew, we raised more money and eventually sold the business to a public company. The first dot com phase, or Internet 1.0 was really exciting for many of my friends from school, like Jerry Yang who started Yahoo! and a long list of other people I met along the way.
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