Is Jon Carder from Mars? The Contrarian Views of Mogl’s Founding CEO

The Mogl headquarters in San Diego is designed around two long tables with dozens of workstations, where staffers manage different aspects of the company’s business—a Web-based platform for cultivating customer loyalty.

In one corner, there is a game room with a foosball table and video games. Mogl founder and CEO Jon Carder, who is leading my tour, says employees give the foosball and video games a pretty good workout. In another corner, there’s a shiny bar with unopened bottles of liquor and magnums of lux champagne. In more than 30 years of reporting, I’ve never seen booze displayed so prominently in a workplace. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to be getting much use. Carder explains it’s for celebrations. At the opposite end of the long central work space, there is a “crash” room for occasional all-nighters and a gathering spot for Mogl’s “virtual” meetings, conducted online every weekday morning with staffers working at Mogl outposts in Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Francisco.

I make an observation: “This is so-o-o-o Silicon Valley.”

“You just made his day,” says Jenn Gartz, Mogl’s director of marketing & promotions, with a nod to Carder. Creating a sense of Silicon Valley in San Diego is exactly what he’s trying to accomplish.

As one of San Diego’s most-experienced Web entrepreneurs, Carder understands better than most what he’s up against. It’s not just that Mogl faces intense competition from venture-backed rivals in the Bay Area, such as Performance Marketing Brands, the San Francisco-based company that operates Ebates.com, FatWallet, and other online shopping programs. It’s the gravitational pull that Silicon Valley exerts on Web startups in general, and in particular on the West Coast startups that aren’t in the Bay Area.

The pull can be difficult for entrepreneurs and programmers to resist, which is one reason why Carder strives to emulate Northern California’s workplace culture at the Mogl headquarters. “I literally had Kleiner Perkins say if you move to the Bay Area, we may invest,” Carder told me during my visit. “But if you don’t move up, there’s no way we’ll invest.”

Carder might sound like he’s from another planet, but he says he loves the San Diego region, and he wants to keep his Web startup here. He must be doing some things right. He says Mogl, which now has about 70 employees, grew its revenue by 800 percent over the past year. Mogl also somehow managed to raise venture capital without … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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