Interview by Kevin Ohashi of Ohashi Media
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Rich Langdale is the CEO of DOmedia. Rich is a serial entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded more than a dozen companies. A few examples are Submit Order, the first e-fulfillment company, and Digital Storage Inc. which provides wholesale computer storage supplies. Rich also played a large role at his alma mater, The Ohio State University, helping co-found and co-fund their Center for Entrepreneurship. He also taught undergraduate and MBA level courses on topics such as entrepreneurship and commercialization. Rich serves as managing partner of NCT Ventures, an Ohio based VC firm.
DOmedia is a media planning and buying platform that covers alternative, traditional and digital out-of-home (OOH) media. The technology company has created a powerful search algorithm that allows advertisers to perform highly targeted searches based on demographics, geography, and category that makes buying OOH media as easy as buying television media. DOmedia has built the world’s largest database of OOH media complete with all the necessary information to make a media buying decision. Currently, over 550 agencies and advertisers are registered and searching DOmedia’s database of over 700 media selling companies and their media inventory.
How do people currently buy and sell media and why do we need DOmedia?
Currently, the planning and buying process for out-of-home media (anything from digital screen networks to billboards to street teams) is labor and time intensive. Days are wasted sharing redundant information between the buyer and seller via email, phone, and fax (if they can even find each other). Part of the reason of this inefficiency is due to the fragmentation and lack of standardization in the industry. OOH is actually the second fastest growing advertising channel (behind online), and in order for this industry to accelerate, standards and processes need to be created using technology. DOmedia’s technology creates an easy and efficient way for advertisers to find OOH media, have access to advanced planning data, and facilitate the request for proposal process in a central location online. All the information a planner or buyer needs – specific locations, planning rates, impressions numbers, demographic data, pictures, videos, contact information and more – are all in one place, 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. DOmedia’s technology significantly reduces the time it takes from idea generation to placing a media insertion order.
It can take up to weeks for a media planner to contact a dozen media providers to get their most up to date media kits, planning rates, and location capabilities – and that’s if they have the correct contact information in the first place! With DOmedia’s powerful search tools and rich database, this process can go from weeks to minutes.
You started as an investor in DOmedia, did you also take the CEO position from the start? If not, when and why did you become the CEO?
DOmedia was actually a green field investment for NCT Ventures. In the beginning, I was heavily involved in forming the key management team and strategic plan for the company as well as providing the initial seed investment. The leadership team did an excellent job proving the business model, building out the database technology and creating relationships with over 700 media sellers across the country. I transitioned into interim CEO in July 2010 to guide the next phase for DOmedia and raise additional capital to accelerate the growth of the business.
You’re a serial entrepreneur and have started and invested in many companies. How has the way you look at business ideas and opportunities evolved? What have you learned from wearing both hats that someone who is only an entrepreneur or investor wouldn’t know?
Over time, we at NCT have learned to apply our skills in what we know (marketing and logistics), industries that are cash efficient, scale with technology (not people), and have decent margins when ran correctly. This has led us to opportunities like DOmedia where technology can create great efficiencies and effectiveness in a large growing market.
In the early days at Digital Storage, the margins weren’t as good. In the RPA days, we scaled with people. From these experiences we learned it is actually easier to scale a business with higher margins and technology.
As for wearing both hats, the attributes that make a company a great investment really are the same attributes that make a great company as an entrepreneur. Take DOmedia for example, we see a fragmented, growing industry like Out-of-Home Advertising that needs a technology solution and standardization. That’s what makes DOmedia an attractive investment and why we’ve made a commitment to the buyers and sellers in the industry.
You’re in the Columbus, Ohio area as an investor and entrepreneur. It’s not a known tech hot-bed as far as I know. What is it web/tech scene like in the area? What keeps you there? What types of trade-offs are there being located there?
Actually, Forbes recently rated Columbus as the number 1 up and coming tech city in America. We have strong research institutions like Ohio State and Battelle, a long history of technology firsts like CompuServe, Check Free and Sterling Commerce – all of which perpetuate a vibrant technology community. Further, the area has only a small percentage of venture capital available that a market like ours would warrant, which makes it a great investment opportunity. These qualities have consistently allowed NCT to make top percentile returns, and the only trade off is that we also get a lower cost of living.
You’ve played a big role in the region and co-founded and co-funded the Center for Entrepreneurship at The Ohio State University. What inspired you to do this? Can you tell us about some of the success stories coming out of the program?
At the beginning of the Center for Entrepreneurship, it was our goal as a family to give back and help a community that has done so much for us. What has evolved is an amazing business opportunity as we see over $800 million in annual research that is vastly uncommercialized and hundreds of new, bright and talented entrepreneurs coming to Columbus every year to develop their next cool thing. DOmedia itself is a success story, the vast majority of the people here came from relationships we’ve developed within the center for entrepreneurship, and in turn these people have made DOmedia a great company.
What do you teach in an entrepreneurial program? What can be taught? What can’t be taught? How do you balance the academic demands of a university and the practical needs of an entrepreneur?
I’m still not sure that entrepreneurship can be taught, but I am pretty sure that steps can be taken to help people understand the path of a successful entrepreneur and increase their likelihood of success if the appropriate steps are taken.
I have had to cut back on my teaching as the venture fund has launched, but have taken all that we have learned, applied some academic rigor against it, and have launched a company (Venture Highway – www.venturehighway.com) that makes the cross over between theory and execution.
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