Bio & Background
Jeff Goldblatt is an Atlanta-based entrepreneur with ~15 years experience with various B2C startups (and an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School). As creator of The Rejection Hotline® (and numerous other viral ventures that have engaged audiences of millions!), he became a nationally-recognized authority on viral media and content creation —
"My (relatively unique) experience/expertise is creating and evaluating potentially-viral concepts and content that will resonate with large/diverse audiences, intuitively recognizing/analyzing MANY factors (the art, science, math, psychology, mechanics, etc.) impacting virality and differentiating “ideas” from “IDEAS+++" (ideas plus vision, viability, viral potential, and more)..."
[Editor's Note] ...but then, in 2014, it was like he suddenly just disappeared! Some believe he's dead, some believe he fell off a cruise ship and is stranded on a Caribbean island with no phone or passport, but just last week TMZ reported he's been secretly dating Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, and/or Anna Kendrick, so there are rumors circulating that he'll soon be making a big comeback. In the meantime, below is a sample of 12+ years of his "Viral Whatever" experience, prior to suddenly vanishing into obscurity...
12+ Years Creating "VIRAL WHATEVER" (2001-20013)
NOTE: Each of the following snippets can/will be elaborated upon in future posts. And some still have good potential and/or are poised for a re-launch of sorts as part of The Whatever Network in 2017 and beyond.
2001: AskTheCollegeGuy.com — an online advice/humor column that “went viral” (before Jeff even knew what “viral” meant) and developed a loyal following of online readers on 739 college campuses, received millions of page views, and was syndicated in several college newspapers as large as The Centre Daily Times at Penn State...
2002: The Rejection Hotline® — created as a joke in 2001, the humorous fake phone number service took off virally in 2002 (thanks to word-of-mouth buzz and mainstream media coverage by CNN, the LA Times, and much more). It would go on to average more than 1 Million Calls Per Month for the next 10+ years...
2003: Just Thought You Should Know — a collection of email generators (and phone numbers/messages) notifying people of something they might not be aware of (bad breath, body odor, stuff in their teeth, etc.). In particular, the Bad Breath Notification phone number struck a nerve, went viral, and received more than 20 Million Phone Calls itself...
2004: It Could Always Suck More® — with just the right mix of serious inspiration/motivation and edgy humor, the trademarked phrase resonated with the masses, initially going viral via a Humor Hotline (25+ Million calls), but demonstrated additional viral/brand appeal selling 10,000+ “It Could Always Suck More” wristbands.
2005: Screen Numbers — Recognizing a need for secondary phone numbers (for dating, business, CraigsList, etc.), I haphazardly launched ScreenNumber.com in 2005. Despite decent traction (~10,000 users), it was unfortunately never made a top priority. On Sept. 25, 2006, a company named Grand Central launched the same service (11 months after us). Admittedly, they did it better. But it still stung a year later when Google bought them for $95 MILLION and it became Google Voice :)
2006: SnapVine — I had begun speaking at conferences as a Creativity and Viral Marketing expert and I was approached by the CEO of a startup in Seattle (bringing VoIP to Social Media) to be their interim Creative Director as they sought Product-Market Fit. We found it, scaled the product virally, and SnapVine was acquired by WhitePages.com in 2008 for ~$20 Million.
2007: Get Over It Day® — A goofy idea (to create a national holiday?!), but the core idea (that EVERYONE has SOMETHING to get over) resonated with the masses and we received thousands of emails from people telling us what they needed to get over, there were events across the country, national brands offered Get Over It Day specials, and Get Over It Day was announced to the world by Good Morning America, The Today Show, ESPN SportsCenter and more!
2008–2012: Humor Hotlines (RH Brands) — After firing myself as CEO of my own company, bringing on a business partner, raising ~$1 Million in funding and figuring out the “in-call audio advertising” business model, all my other ideas/projects were put aside and we had a great run (4+ profitable years of 7-figure revenue, 200+ Humor Hotlines, 475 Million calls), until...
2013: The Party Is Over :( After Verizon and AT&T made some big changes to the mobile content industry (our main advertisers), we were unable to pivot successfully, and we made the difficult decision to shut the company down — laying off our employees, and selling off our 2000+ phone numbers. [Note: I personally bought back all unsold assets — including The Rejection Hotline and all Humor Hotlines’ audio files — some of which will be re-launched as part of The Whatever Network.]
2014: PredictionLog.com I moved into the Atlanta Tech Village and, while also investing in and advising a few younger entrepreneurs, I THOUGHT I had decided that Prediction Log would be my next full-time startup (the idea being that predictions are everywhere, yet there is no central location to officially log predictions, so there is a permanent record and “Proof that you called it!” (B2C = User-generated content & freemium models / B2B = users/data and/or SaaS models). I still believe there is a good business opportunity here; BUT, after 6 months development and a moderately-successful semi-private beta test (~300 users, ~500 predictions), I hit the pause button after a few big epiphanies...
#1) My (First) Entrepreneurial Epiphany #IamNOTaCEO
~ I REALIZED... that being a CEO (or at least a successful one) requires a very unique set of skills — which I believe the majority of entrepreneurs / startup founders do NOT actually (inherently) possess.
~ I REALIZED... that the following are actually three VERY DIFFERENT things:
A. Starting a business
B. Growing that business into a company
C. Successfully running that company
(...and that A. B. and C. can often require three very different mindsets, skill sets, personality types, etc., particularly for the CEO - or at least a successful one.)
~ I REALIZED:
A. what my strengths are (the FEW things I'm GREAT at) and what my weaknesses are (the MANY things I SUCK at!),
B. how my brain works and how some of my personality traits impact me as an entrepreneur,
C. and for which part(s) of the startup process I’m best-suited (and at which parts I’m most likely to struggle!)
NOTE: The fact that many (most?) startup founders never realize/accept some/all of the above -- due to ego? lack of self-awareness? or just never really stopping to think about it (until now?)? -- is one of several reasons why I think there is an unnecessarily high failure rate for startups (~99% Will Fail!). But I’ll get into that and more thoughts/theories in future columns...
#2) I'M FIRED?!? #BestDecisionEVER
Back in 2007, I had a “company” (a term I use loosely, hence the quotes) which was a collection of viral “Humor Hotlines” (the first/biggest of which was “The Rejection Hotline®”) which were collectively reaching / entertaining / engaging MILLIONS of people and receiving huge amounts of media coverage; yet I had (half-jokingly) dubbed myself “America’s Worst Entrepreneur” because, despite the success/growth on the consumer-facing/product side, we were still losing money on the business side. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Congratulations — you just read the longest one-sentence paragraph in the history of the internet!]
[Even CNN thought we were making lots of money! But despite receiving MILLIONS of phone calls and tons of media coverage, we weren’t profitable until I realized: “I am NOT a CEO” (and subsequently fired myself as CEO of my own company)]
So, after much soul-searching and internal debate, I decided to “fire myself” as CEO of my own company. I brought in a business partner to be the new CEO, to run/grow the company, to handle the parts of the business that I wasn’t particularly good at (or excited about), allowing me to focus on the parts of the business that I was best at (the content, the creative, the ideas, the vision, the strategy, etc.).
That realization that “I am NOT a CEO” was absolutely the catalyst for the success of our startup! Within 6 months of replacing myself as CEO, we had raised a million dollars in funding. Within 6 months of the funding, we were a profitable 7-figure company — after YEARS without any significant revenue!
In conclusion (as I am optimistically hoping that someone is still reading at this point), my “I am NOT a CEO” lesson is one that I hope to encourage other entrepreneurs to seriously consider for themselves; and it is the backbone for how I plan to write the next chapter in my startup career by embracing both my strengths (as an idea guy, a vision guy, a startup-STARTER) and my weaknesses (execution, operations, sales, getting distracted in the middle of
#3) Strengths & Weaknesses #SelfAwareness
With 15 years experience in startups (including: VC-funded, angel-funded, bootstrapped... acquisitions, asset-sales, dissolutions... successes, failures...), I've seen/learned A LOT - not only about the startup world in general, but about myself as an entrepreneur. I have become keenly aware of my (few) entrepreneurial strengths... as well as my (many) entrepreneurial weaknesses!
WARNING to Future Employees & Partners!
TOP 12 THINGS I SUCK AT:
- presenting / pitching / selling
- networking / schmoozing
- And doing things the normal/traditional way (particularly in regard to "rules" / "best practices" in the startup world -- where there is currently a ~99% FAIL rate(?!?) so I kinda feel like maybe it's not such a bad thing to be shaking things up a little - ReThinkingStartups.com)
In response to the list above, many will say "Well, then clearly this guy doesn't have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur - because he literally just named ALMOST EVERY IMPORTANT CRITERIA for being a successful entrepreneur!"
I get it. And I completely respect that opinion. Heck, it's exactly what I would say if the person we were talking about was almost anybody/everybody else!
But I would argue that I actually just listed criteria for being a successful CEO or COO... and that it is possible (albeit more challenging) to be be a successful FOUNDER and/or a successful ENTREPRENEUR even if you are NOT the CEO/COO type... particularly if you are able to truly understand your strengths/weaknesses and find partners with complementary skill-sets...
So, I listed above some of the MANY things I SUCK at... There are, however, a FEW things that I'm
pretty f*ckin' good great at...
- I am a startup founder and a great strategy/vision/intuition guy. My (relatively unique) experience/expertise is creating/evaluating potentially-viral concepts and content that will resonate with large/diverse audiences, intuitively recognizing many factors (the art, science, psychology, math, etc.) impacting virality and differentiating an “idea” from what I call an "IDEA+++"
- An IDEA+++ is an idea PLUS vision, PLUS viability, PLUS *viral potential (at least a 10x-better-than-average potential to achieve a viral coefficient of 1+)... PLUS it remains promising even AFTER enduring a critical analysis and evaluation process (consisting of a proprietary mix of analyses including but not limited to: risk-reward, cost-benefit, competitive landscape, degree of novelty/improvement, required-resources, and some good ol' fashioned devil's advocate / hole-poking from the perspective of multiple potential audiences).
- I was at my creative best (numerous viral ventures, engaging millions of people, huge amounts of viral buzz and national media coverage) back when I was embracing my “Entrepreneurial A.D.D.”, working on many ideas/projects simultaneously. I intend to get back to that in 2017 and beyond - IF I can figure out some creative ways to start pitching for partners and assembling teams of entrepreneurs with complementary skills sets...
- Will ALL my ideas/ventures be successful or go viral? Of course not. But I’ve achieved viral traction with ~12.5% of all creative concepts/content I’ve launched over the years; so, with the quantity / quality of ideas, products, content I plan to launch (and the cross-promotional “Network Effect” of it all!) - and *IF* I’m able to find some great execution partners - I'm extremely excited and optimistic about our plan for 2017 AND BEYOND (see below)....
***UPDATED FEB. 2017*** "WTF have I been doing for the last 3 years?!?" (AND PLANS FOR 2017 AND BEYOND!)
WTF have I been doing for the last 3 YEARS?!?
Honestly, even my family and closest friends don't really know what I've been doing / working on all this time (and I truly feel bad for my parents when their friends ask "So what's Jeff up to these days?"), but I think I'm finally getting closer to being able to explain it all...
I’ve basically spent the last 3 YEARS (2014-2016) on a ridiculous (albeit insightful) exploratory journey inside my own head: Thinking... Re-Thinking... Reflecting… Questioning... Debating... Observing… Analyzing… Pondering… Reading… Writing… Theorizing… Brainstorming… Planning… and Embracing my Entrepreneurial A.D.D. to explore/evaluate literally thousands of thoughts, theories, and ideas — a fraction of which will be shared via StartupWhatever.com and serve as the foundation for "The Whatever Network" master plan for 2017 and beyond!