Is Jon Carder from Mars? The Contrarian Views of Mogl’s Founding CEO
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Kleiner Perkins—a total of $14.5 million from Sigma Partners, Avalon Ventures, Austin Ventures, and other investors.
Carder told me he’s always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he began by selling hot dogs on a street corner in Placentia, CA, as a 12-year-old. He said he started his first “legit business” while attending San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University, where he graduated in 2001, by selling baby products online. He quickly expanded his “Baby Heaven” business into eHeaven, an e-commerce dot-com that was on pace to generate $2 million in sales in its second year.
However, Carder said he was forced to sell eHeaven for “not very much” in 2002—after learning some painful but valuable lessons about consumer chargebacks, accrued liabilities, and the reserves that banks require of some businesses. Perhaps more importantly, Carder said he also learned a lot about e-commerce and online marketing. After selling eHeaven, he immediately started ClientShop.com, an Internet marketing business that matched prospective borrowers with lenders—much like Charlotte, NC-based LendingTree. Client Shop’s business model enabled consumers to compare several mortgage loans, while simultaneously providing new customer leads to financial service providers.
As Carder put it, “I went from eating Top Ramen and having hardly any money in the bank to a $100,000 profit in the second month.”
The San Diego Business Journal ranked Client Shop as San Diego’s fastest-growing company in 2005—and in 2006, El Segundo, CA-based Internet Brands acquired Client Shop for what Carder would describe only as an eight-figure deal. “It was great,” Carder reminisced. “I kind of retired, and went surfing in exotic locales.”
It was during one of these surfing expeditions that Carder experienced what he calls “my self-realization moment of Zen…I had been so focused on the destination, which was making money, that I really hadn’t been able to think about how much fun I had on the journey in building things.”
He returned to San Diego in 2006 and started Mojo Pages, an Internet business that combined a directory of local businesses with online comments that enabled users to share their experience with each business. “Little did I know that the day we launched, Yelp had raised $10 million,” Carder recalled. “So I learned a valuable lesson about speed with that one.”
It’s a lesson he thinks a lot of other startups in San Diego still need to learn. Carder said he doesn’t see the same work ethic in laid-back San Diego that he’s experienced in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs. Web entrepreneurs here haven’t yet grasped it’s not just a competition—it’s survival of the fittest.
Mogl began within Mojo Pages as an expanded service offering for restaurants, but strong user demand led Carder to … Next Page »
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