20 VC 060 12 Acquisitions, $1bn In Exits, Mike Jones, Former MySpace CEO on Life At Science Inc

Summary Notes


In the 60th session of the 20 minutes VC, host welcomes Mike Jones, founder and CEO of Science Inc., a company known for creating and scaling successful digital businesses like Medium, Dollar Shave Club, and Dog Vacay. Mike shares insights from his entrepreneurial journey, starting from his high school ventures to his pivotal role in attempting to turn around Myspace. He discusses the philosophy behind Science Inc., which focuses on providing resources and support to help entrepreneurs succeed rather than just financial investment. Mike emphasizes the importance of passionate founders with a mission, the ability to inspire teams, and the need for a business model that supports growth through paid media. He also touches on the evolving LA tech scene, driven by venture capital, and the excitement of launching new mobile-driven initiatives.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Mike Jones and Science Inc.

  • Mike Jones is the founder and CEO of Science Inc., a company specializing in media, marketing, and e-commerce.
  • Science Inc. has a portfolio with successful companies such as Medium, Dollar Shave Club, and Dog vacay.
  • The company has achieved twelve acquisitions and over a billion dollars in exits.
  • Mike was previously the CEO of Myspace, where he led a high-profile turnaround before its sale to Specific Media.
  • He is an active early-stage investor with personal investments in over 30 startups, including Klout and ShoeDazzle.
  • Hiring Screen is mentioned as a tool for recruiters to build consistent candidate profiles.

"Mike is the founder and CEO at Science Inc. A disruptive media marketing and commerce company that creates, invests, acquires and scales successful digital businesses."

This quote introduces Mike Jones and his role at Science Inc., emphasizing the company's focus on creating and scaling digital businesses.

Entrepreneurial Origins

  • Mike comes from a family of entrepreneurs and started his first significant company in college.
  • He sold his first company at around 22-23 years old, which sparked his interest in building and selling businesses.
  • After his first exit, Mike founded a second company, which was sold to AOL.
  • Mike's career includes working as an SVP at AOL, in private equity, and at Myspace before founding Science Inc.

"I came from a family of entrepreneurs and I began starting companies in high school."

This quote highlights Mike's early exposure to entrepreneurship and his initiative in starting companies from a young age.

Myspace Experience

  • Mike was recruited to Myspace after News Corp's acquisition to lead a new management team.
  • He faced the challenge of leading a much larger company than he had previously, dealing with intense media scrutiny and internal politics.
  • Despite the daunting task, Mike appreciated the learning opportunity in handling a significant business entity.

"I jumped into Myspace where I was recruited to come in after News Corp had purchased Myspace and they needed a new management team to try to figure out the strategy."

The quote explains Mike's entry into Myspace and the strategic role he played in the company's management after News Corp's acquisition.

Science Inc. and Its Mission

  • Science Inc. was founded to leverage resources to build successful businesses, differing from the typical angel fund model.
  • Mike's experience in angel investing and working with entrepreneurs informed the creation of Science Inc.
  • The company focuses on providing early-stage companies with the necessary resources to succeed while removing obstacles.

"I felt that instead of me starting a typical angel fund, it'd be really great if I had a company and if that company could have a bunch of resources and we could leverage those resources to build successful businesses."

This quote outlines the rationale behind founding Science Inc. as a resource-rich company to support and build successful startups.

Founding Vision and Methodology of Science Incubator

  • Science Incubator was created to nurture businesses by providing resources and full teams to help entrepreneurs execute their visions.
  • Success is determined by ensuring companies have a multi-year support system.
  • A team of experienced professionals was hired to dive into businesses and support their growth.
  • Initial capital was raised followed by subsequent funding rounds to continue building companies.

I want to start this thing called science and I want us to kind of incubate businesses. We'll find great entrepreneurs. Let's put a bunch of resources around them. Let's make sure they have full teams that can allow them to really execute their vision, and we'll be with them on that journey.

This quote outlines the core mission of Science Incubator: to support entrepreneurs with resources and guidance throughout their business journey.

Company Selection Criteria at Science Incubator

  • Science Incubator looks for companies with strong teams and products that resonate with consumers.
  • Preference is given to companies that can effectively use paid media to drive growth.
  • The team's expertise is focused on industries they are knowledgeable about.
  • It's important to have connections with funding groups and the M&A environment for financing and exits.

I look for things that we have exact tactical knowledge on how to grow and build.

This quote emphasizes the targeted approach of Science Incubator, focusing on industries where they can apply their specific expertise to support growth.

Characteristics of Successful Founders

  • Great founders are passionate about solving problems that are personal to them.
  • They possess a mission-driven attitude and are not primarily motivated by money or titles.
  • Successful founders inspire others and can attract talented individuals to work with them.
  • They are seen as spiritual leaders who people want to work for and believe in.

We look for people that are very passionate about a problem and that they really personally believe they have a solution to a very intimate problem that's very personal to themselves.

This quote captures the essence of what Science Incubator looks for in founders: a deep personal connection to the problem they are trying to solve.

Company Culture and Environment

  • Science Incubator recognizes that larger companies need to create their own culture in their own spaces.
  • For companies within the Science building, there is an emphasis on creating an engaged and united culture.

Well, many of the big companies at this point are outside, you know, dollar, shave, club, dog Vacay, home, hero, fuse. These are businesses that operate in their own environments and their own offices, and they really need to create their own culture.

This quote indicates that while Science Incubator provides initial support, successful companies eventually develop independent cultures as they grow and operate on their own.

Company Culture at Science

  • Science's culture focuses on fast learning, problem-solving, and scaling businesses.
  • Portfolio companies under Science, such as Famebit and Prizekindle, are encouraged to develop their own unique cultures.
  • The role of Science is to support these companies while remaining in the background.

"Science's culture is really driven around fast learning iteration, diving in on really big problems, coming to quick solutions, figuring out ways to scale businesses in a highly repeatable fashion."

This quote highlights the core values of Science's culture, emphasizing rapid learning and growth, problem-solving, and the ability to scale businesses efficiently.

"The stars in our building are the ceos and the teams that run these great operational businesses and my team."

The quote underscores the philosophy at Science where the focus is on the leaders of the portfolio companies, positioning them as the key figures in the organization.

Involvement of Science's Team with Portfolio Companies

  • Some team members work closely with portfolio companies on a regular or as-needed basis.
  • Team members like Jason Rapp engage in large-scale business development (BD) deals and mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
  • Dave Fink is operationally involved, assisting with growth, staffing, and finance management.

"Part of my team has kind of dedicated involvement with portfolio companies."

This quote indicates that certain members of the Science team have specific roles that involve regular engagement with portfolio companies to address various business needs.

"Jason Rapp on my team works on larger scale bd deals and M A events."

The quote specifies the role of Jason Rapp, who focuses on business development and strategic events such as mergers and acquisitions for portfolio companies.

"Dave Fink on my team is highly operational, and he might be on kind of a day to day basis working with the Famebit team or the prize candle team..."

This quote describes Dave Fink's operational role, highlighting his hands-on involvement with companies like Famebit and Prize Candle on a daily basis.

Growth Strategy at Science

  • Science looks for business models that can scale through paid media.
  • The team conducts extensive testing on business ideas and customer reactions.
  • Growth is pursued by identifying and supporting successful strategies with investments.

"We know that if we get something right, money will directly impact the trajectory of the company."

The quote explains Science's approach to growth, which involves investing in proven strategies that can directly influence a company's success.

Disruption in the Mobile App Network

  • Science believes the mobile phone is a tool for rewriting the world.
  • The focus is on building services, products, and content that change people's lives.
  • Science Media Group includes companies focused on advertising, content, and mobile applications.

"I firmly believe that the world's being rewritten through the lens of the mobile phone."

This quote reflects Science's conviction that mobile technology is a transformative force in society and a key area for innovation.

"Our parent moniker is the science Media group. And inside the science Media group we have advertising and content companies, and then we also have a mobile division."

The quote outlines the organization of Science Media Group, detailing its focus areas including advertising, content, and mobile applications.

Tech Growth in Los Angeles

  • Venture capital drives the growth of the tech scene in LA.
  • Proximity to Silicon Valley and a flow of investor capital contribute to the city's innovation.
  • A strong venture capital presence is seen as essential for continued innovation.

"What drives the growth is venture capital."

The quote identifies venture capital as the primary catalyst for the tech industry's expansion in Los Angeles.

Quick Fire Round: Personal Preferences

  • The book "The Power of Habit" is favored for its relevance to habit formation, an area of interest in relation to mobile phones.
  • Career highlights include the relaunch of Myspace, suggesting significant professional milestones.

"My favorite book right now is the power of habit."

This quote reveals a personal preference that aligns with professional interests, highlighting the importance of understanding user behavior and habits in the context of mobile technology.

"Career highlights. Although Myspace, the relaunch."

Although the quote is incomplete, it suggests that the relaunch of Myspace is considered a career highlight, indicating its significance in the speaker's professional journey.

Myspace Platform Relaunch Effort

  • The relaunch of the Myspace platform was a significant undertaking, involving a reduction in operational costs and team size.
  • Despite the team's dedication and hard work, the relaunch failed to reengage the consumer base.
  • The speaker expresses pride in the team's effort, despite acknowledging the near impossibility of the mission.

"There was a moment when an incredible amount of employees of mine worked extremely hard on rebuilding the Myspace platform... people were so passionate about the project that they put cots inside the office and they spent multiple nights there prepping for what was a massive code relaunch."

This quote reflects the commitment and hard work put into the Myspace relaunch by the team, demonstrating their dedication and passion for the project.

Inspiring Leadership Amidst Challenges

  • The speaker faced the challenge of inspiring a team within a large corporation without the standard startup incentives.
  • Inspiration was achieved through the passion and vision shared by the executive team, even in the face of negative press and declining revenues.
  • The speaker attributes the team's inspiration to "pure leadership" and the ability to lead through difficult circumstances.

"And amazingly enough, even in the midst of everyday horrible press and everyday layoffs, and just massive, as you can imagine, traffic declines and revenue declines, we hit this moment that everyone was inspired and they worked really hard in that journey."

This quote highlights the difficult environment in which the team was inspired to work hard, emphasizing the leadership's role in overcoming negative circumstances to motivate the team.

Consumption of News and Information

  • The speaker does not rely on a single news source but uses Flipboard to consume a variety of RSS feeds, curating their own daily stories.
  • This approach reflects a preference for a diverse range of information and the use of technology to personalize news consumption.

"I use flipboard to consume a ton of RSS. I don't have one single news source. I have a lot of news sources."

The quote explains the speaker's method of staying informed, showcasing a personalized and broad approach to news consumption.

Challenges in Building Science Incubator

  • Building Science, as an incubator or studio, presents unique challenges compared to starting a venture fund or a single company.
  • The difficulty lies in conveying the strategy and vision of Science to investors and the press in a way that accurately reflects the daily operations.

"So honestly, one of the most challenging parts has been conveying the strategy and the vision for science to investors and the press to actually reflect what we do here every day."

This quote identifies the communication challenge the speaker faces in accurately representing the incubator's strategy and vision to external stakeholders.

Excitement for Science Company Initiatives

  • The speaker is enthusiastic about several initiatives launching within the Science company portfolio.
  • Excitement stems from seeing projects at different stages: those scaling up, about to launch, or facing challenges with potential solutions.
  • The speaker's passion for their work and the people they collaborate with is evident.

"I have a lot of excitement right now, even this week, I think there's three major initiatives launching, and I kind of can't wait."

The quote conveys the speaker's anticipation and enthusiasm for new initiatives within their company, reflecting a passion for their work.

Acknowledgements and Resources

  • The host thanks Christopher Jones for introducing them to Mike, the interviewee.
  • The host expresses gratitude to Hiring Screen for providing a valuable assistant through their platform.
  • The host offers to answer questions about Hiring Screen's services and directs listeners to resources mentioned in the interview.

"And I'd like to say a special thank you to Christopher Jones, who was the second interview guest we ever had on the 20 Minutes VC. And this interview would not have happened without his introducing us to Mike."

This quote shows appreciation for the connections and introductions that made the interview possible, highlighting the importance of community and networking.

"Thank you so much, hiring screen. And you can check them out at ww hiringscreen.com or you can follow them on Twitter at hiring screenrh."

The quote provides a testimonial for Hiring Screen's service and directs listeners to where they can find more information about the company.

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