I love success stories, especially when it comes to young people making money and investing – in themselves and in the stock market. I find these stories to be inspiring, and I enjoy learning from the success and failure of others.
With that being said, I'm kicking off a new series of interviews today with young entrepreneurs (you can follow the entire Young Millionaire Investor Series). Some you may recognize, others are more secretive. Regardless, they all have insightful lessons that we can apply to our own lives.
To start the series, I'd like to present Chris Huse, who is the co-founder and CEO of Media Strike, which is the largest sports ad network in the United States. He is essentially an online entrepreneur, and has been working in the ad network space for about 10 years.
Let's get to know Chris Huse a little better…
Getting Started – The First Million
The first thing people want to know is who you are and how you made your first million?
Chris: Well, I'm currently the CEO of Media Strike. We are the 4th largest collection of sports properties, just behind NFL.com. We help premium sports publishers monetize their online ad inventory We currently have 900+ publishers who rely on us to bring them quality campaigns from Fortune 1000 companies like Nike, Sports Authority, Nissan, and more.
I've been working in the ad network space for about 10 years, and spent time working for companies like ValueClick, Dotomi, Zack's Investor Reach, and HotChalk Media. My goal to get to my first million was to build a low overhead, highly profitable company (which is Media Strike).
Our focus has always been on maximizing profits and keeping margin as high as possible by stripping away cost centers. We have a very lean and mean operation which has been very financially rewarding for my co-founder and myself. This allowed us to become profitable after 6 months of operations and garner a recent valuation of $14.5 million. We were able to fund the company ourselves, so we own 100% of the company outright. I believe this is ideal if you can manage it – you retain complete control over the direction of your company with no outside pressure from VC's or Angel Investors.
Where do you currently invest your money? Why?
Chris: I currently invest my money in high growth public companies in the technology space. I look for publicly traded companies in my industry that I know a lot about. I believe that you should only invest in equities if you have an edge over the normal investor. I never touch anything outside my industry and only look for companies that I believe are undervalued based on my own domain experience.
Has that changed over time? Why?
Chris: Yes, I used to be a very conservative investor. I bought into ETFs and stocks in the S&P500 with high dividends, but I decided to move into tech when I began to discover quite a few companies I work with on a daily basis that I believed were being undervalued by the market.
Many millionaires have made their money through real estate. Not you. Why?
Chris: I'm not sure, I'm the wrong guy to ask about real estate. Again, it's a market I know nothing about so I stay clear of real estate investments, even though most define it as a safe investment. I would always suggest to rent until you can safely purchase real estate in cash without taking out a mortgage.
Is there another way to be a young millionaire without starting your own business or being an entrepreneur?
Chris: Yep – have a 98 MPH fast ball.
What's the biggest risk you ever took? Do you regret it?
Chris: Leaving a very cushy job to start my own company. I don't regret it for a second. I'm having the time of my life building a company with an amazing team!
If you could make one change, what would it be?
Chris: I would have started earlier if I could change anything. I would have liked to start my current company, Media Strike, in 2009, in the heyday of the Vertical Ad Network. The tech industry goes in waves, where Silicon Valley is obsessed with certain sectors. Right now it's cloud computing, big data, and 3D Printing. Back in 2009 is was Vertical Ad Networks for a few months until they found a new shiny object/sector to obsess about.
Advice for Young Adults
What advice do you have for young adults and college students when it comes to entrepreneurship and money?
Chris: I would say continue to educate yourself after school. The business world changes by the day and you need to continue to build your skills as you progress in your career. You earn what you learn.
What I Learned from Chris Huse
I appreciate Chris taking the time to share his story with me. I love success stories, and I love how Chris made the jump to self-employment by leaving a cushy job to start his own company. That is inspiring to me.
There are three key themes that really resonated with me from talking to Chris:
- Only Invest in What You Know
- Be Debt Free
- You Earn What You Learn <- Click to Tweet This Awesome Saying
Invest in What You Know
I'm a huge believer in focusing on what you know. In Chris's case, he focuses on technology stocks, which makes sense because that is his core business. However, that doesn't always work for the rest of us. I've mentioned before that the easiest way to find great companies to invest in is to focus on companies that you know, or that you're a customer of. If you're using their product, there is probably a reason why, so it could make sense to invest.
Be Debt Free
This is Goal #1 of The College Investor. Chris threw out a challenge that you shouldn't buy a house until you can pay for it in cash. That's tough for 95% of people, but it is solid advice. He suggests that most people should rent, and I agree, especially when it comes to young adults. In my article Should a College Student or Recent Grad Buy a House, I highlight that there are more cons to buying a home compared to renting. Being debt free is huge!
You Earn What You Learn
I love this phrase, and I'm going to start using it a lot (I hope Chris doesn't mind). It's key though – knowledge is power, and your earnings are directly correlated to your knowledge. Remember, its your secret financial weapon. It doesn't have to be book smarts, it can just as easily be street smarts. But like Chris said, the world is always changing, and you have to adapt and build your skills to continue your career. The tools you have inside you at 18 don't always cut it at 22, and definitely don't work when you're 30. It doesn't mean that the core skills change, but you need to learn, adapt, and tailor your style to your circumstance.
What are your thoughts on Chris's advice and story? Do you focus on what you know to succeed?