Personal and Professional Growth – Enabling the Founder’s Dream
Musings on Mondo Media
I was asked recently what I’m proud of in my career. Easy – I helped realize my boss’s dream.
I am proud of my entrepreneurial experience at Mondo Media, a digital production studio in San Francisco, where I helped grow the company and my career through four promotions over a nine year period.
I am proud of the trust the owners had in my ability to help shape company direction and the confidence they placed in me to step up to the plate to take on various roles as we pivoted.
The owners were passionate about the company they were building and their passion became my passion. I accepted responsibility to stretch my own experience. My success was defined not only as ROI, but as the:
– Pride and joy in the work being created
– Opportunity to work alongside talented artists, developers and managers
– Confidence, personal growth and influence on company direction I was afforded
– Company culture I helped create
– Role I played in evangelizing multimedia in the community
Here’s how the story unfolds:
I chose to move to San Francisco after a career path on the business side of creative companies. It was a bold move. I didn’t know anyone in San Francisco but New York City was at its worst and I heard about the Bay Area’s burgeoning computer game development sector. My single-minded goal was to find a job in the exciting field of “multimedia” and computer games. I searched for and found a need to fill at Mondo Media and reached my goal.
The husband/wife owners of Mondo Media had built a team of 10 animators and developers and needed help growing their company. I was their first middle management hire, even though I didn’t know anything beyond “dumb” computer terminals. The owner, John said, “I’ll teach you everything I know about computers if you’ll come work for us.” So I said yes and was hired to manage the studio and win new contract business.
Mondo Media’s clients included Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, MediaVision, San Francisco ad agencies and others. We created product demos (Windows NT, Intel Graphic display cards) and designed the first iteration of “banner ads” in NAPLPS 8 bit color for Prodigy ads (imagine creating Mickey Mouse’s ears in low resolution, 8 bit graphics – like MineCraft). We were on the bleeding edge of Internet advertising and pushing the envelope of bandwidth.
The owners and I discussed moving on from the low resolution bread-and-butter work for ad agencies to move into higher resolution, more glamorous graphics for game development. This was a pivotal moment for the company. They agreed to take a chance. It meant the three of us forgoing salary as we ran out of money. We rebranded and transitioned into a game development studio for our own two games and for contract work. I helped secure contracts with clients such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Disney, Microsoft Encarta, Berkeley Systems, Sega, Dreamworks, and others.
As Director of Marketing, I was involved in evangelizing multimedia and Mondo’s work. At the time, “Multimedia Gulch,” hailed as a trendy interactive media district, was booming. Thousands of jobs were added. I was asked to represent Mondo Media, recognized as a leader in multimedia creation, and showcase our work at monthly “First Thursdays” events where I rubbed shoulders with Craig Newmark, Mark Benioff (a client at Oracle), Mark Cantor (Macromedia/Flash) and other future leaders. I was often seen lugging around external speakers and CD-ROM drive, which were needed for the 386 PC, on my hands and knees plugging them in.
In another pivotal moment, the founders decided to go all out and open a sister company, Mechadeus, for game development. We broke ground with the first computer games to use live action video dropped into 3D environments. I was promoted to Director of PR at Mechadeus, helping garner extensive coverage by writing press releases, story pitches, setting up interviews, exhibiting and demoing at trade shows (CES, E3) and lining up speaking engagements for the co-owner/creative director.
As Mondo Media’s reputation for game development grew, we added designers, 3D modelers, developers and animators to continue contract work. The company made the list of the Bay Area’s “Fastest Growing Companies” four years in a row. I wrote sales and marketing plans to manage growth and when we were invited to pitch for investment at Sand Hill Road, I helped prepare the pitches.
Mondo Media, boot strapped to this point, sought and received investment first from Sand Hill Road VCs, after many investor presentations (I assisted with), then from Softbank. Pressure to profit from an advertising revenue model was at its highest when the Dot Com bubble started to burst. It was a revenue model at odds with the company founders.
My last role was Director of Syndication for distributed online content to gain ad impressions. “Interstitial ads” were too early an idea and “eyeballs” for the edgy 2D cartoons were hard to find as portals like Netscape and Excite were bought then closed. Sadly, Mondo peaked at 120 employees, then had to make cuts due to Softbank’s demands. It was a hard lesson in stakeholder conflicts.
The good news is Mondo Media regained control, focused on a core competency, and is one of the most popular YouTube channels today. The Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer is doing what he truly loves – being a creative director and curating animated shows for licensing.
It was a fun ride with lots of twists and turns and career growth.