Kim Perell is an award-winning entrepreneur, bestselling author, executive and investor. She has been a digital marketing technology CEO for the last 20 years, scaling companies from $0 to $1B in annual sales and leading thousands of employees on a global scale.
Laid off at her first job out of college at an internet startup that went bankrupt, Kim began her journey as an entrepreneur from her kitchen table with a $10,000 loan from her 80-year-old grandmother, and grew the company to over $100 million in annual revenue. Kim went from broke and unemployed to selling her first company and becoming a multi-millionaire by the time she was 30, and selling her last company Amobee, for $235 million in 2014 to Singapore Telecommunications.
Kim has authored two books, The Execution Factor: The One Skill that Drives Success, and Jump: Dare To Do What Scares You In Business And In Life.
Her achievements as an entrepreneur and executive have been widely recognized. She has been named one of AdAge’s Marketing Technology Trailblazers, Business Insider’s Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising, is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Association of Female Executives.
In our interview with Kim she shares her entrepreneurial journey and success story with us.
Hello Kim and thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your entrepreneurial journey.
Over the last 20 years, you’ve established a reputation for being one of the world’s top tech entrepreneurs, a renowned CEO, author and a marketing genius. At the core of it, did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur or is it something that just happened to you?
Kim: Actually, I didn’t know I wanted to be an entrepreneur until later in my career, in fact I was strongly opposed to the idea of entrepreneurship for a while. I grew up in a house where both my parents were entrepreneurs. So a lot of my childhood gave me a front-row seat to the roller-coaster ride that being an entrepreneur can be. As a new college grad, I believed that working for an established company was the most stable and secure path to success. But that perspective soon changed when the first company I worked for after college went bankrupt. I suddenly found myself depressed, unemployed, and broke. I could either let those circumstances define me, or I could take my career into my own hands and create the future I wanted. I chose the latter. I sat down at my kitchen table, set up my home office, and took the jump that started my journey into entrepreneurship.
I find that when you have a deep understanding of your customers and are comfortable with the leading edge of technology, it enables you to find new solutions that aren't yet obvious to everyone in the industry. - Kim Perell
What are the key challenges you have faced in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you navigate them?
Kim: One of the challenges that I faced, and that every entrepreneur faces, is how to move on despite the fear of failure. I quickly had to learn to navigate my own fear and develop a muscle that allowed my fear to fuel me instead of stopping me from taking action. I figured out that the key isn’t to magically make your fears go away or pretend they don’t exist. To succeed at your jump, you must acknowledge, address, and conquer your fears, so they don’t control your life. The mile-long list of reasons you can summon up to justify your fears and “protect” yourself from risk will destroy your dreams. But if you learn to deal with excuses whenever they arise, you’ll soon be able to ditch the fears they represent.
To succeed at your jump, you must acknowledge, address, and conquer your fears, so they don’t control your life. - Kim Perell
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Kim: I have been lucky to have incredible mentors throughout my career. I have been hugely influenced by their invaluable advice when it comes to relationships, business experience, and guidance in navigating setbacks. I’ve often gotten exceptional advice from mentors who work in different fields than I do, this includes Fashion, Fintech, Finance etc.
I would encourage all entrepreneurs to seek out guidance from a diverse set of people. It will help give you perspective you might not have otherwise had. A good tip for anyone who is seeking advice from successful business leaders, is to see if they have written a book!
Overall what do you attribute your success to as an Entrepreneur?
Kim: I attribute my success to trusting my vision and gut, and having the courage to jump into new endeavors.
Even when I don’t know how I’m going to land, I trust my vision and myself enough to know I will figure it out. I love to create and I am always hungry to start something new. That restlessness turned me into an entrepreneur who embraces opportunity and always chooses to jump rather than stand still.
Even when I don’t know how I’m going to land, I trust my vision and myself enough to know I will figure it out. - Kim Perell
You have successfully launched, grown and scaled marketing tech companies over the last 20 years. Why have you chosen the marketing sector as your niche and what’s your secret to consistently launching successful marketing tech companies?
Kim: When it comes to marketing, I’ve always had an innate vision of what will and won’t work. It’s how I was able to start my career 20 years ago during the dot-com burst. It's also enabled me to understand what marketers need for reaching their own audiences. My secret though, is embracing sectors of technology that some people run away from because it seems too “new” or “risky”.
I find that when you have a deep understanding of your customers and are comfortable with the leading edge of technology, it enables you to find new solutions that aren't yet obvious to everyone in the industry.
In 2021 you launched an AI driven startup called 100.co. Please describe what this company does, it’s unique value proposition and its target market?
Kim: 100.co is a consumer brand group that leverages AI to disrupt the CPG market. We make purpose-driven products that we co-create with the world’s most influential founders. Our goal is to reinvent and modernize the product development process that legacy CPG brands have relied on for decades.
Please give us an overview of your proprietary AI marketing platform called CLAIRE™, and how you use it to create new brands?
Kim: By using big data and machine learning to inform every decision, from product development to sales and marketing, less is left to chance or gut instinct. We use AI to better understand the market and combine it with data signals across retail, social and direct-to-consumer commerce to understand not just what consumers are buying in a category, but WHY they're buying. This enables us to better understand consumer trends, identify emerging whitespace and new product opportunities. It’s an incredible combination of art and science.
By using big data and machine learning to inform every decision, from product development to sales and marketing, less is left to chance or gut instinct. - Kim Perell
In 2021 you launched your second book called “JUMP”, which is now a bestseller. Please tell us what this book is about and who its target audience is?
Kim: ‘JUMP: Dare to Do What Scares You in Business and Life’ shares the journey of how I took the life-changing leap into entrepreneurship after the company I worked for went bankrupt. I breakdown the lessons I learned along my twenty-year career as an entrepreneur, executive, investor and mentor to help readers navigate their career choices. I also reveal my tactical secrets for facing fear head on, ditching the excuses, and technique for preparing to jump into a new endeavor. This book is truly for anyone who wants to make a change in their personal or professional life. Readers will walk away with the tools and inspiration they need to overcome their fears and finally take their JUMP.
As a serial investor and the Founder of Perell Ventures, where did your passion for investing in other entrepreneurs come from?
Kim: I define success by the number of lives I can positively impact. I love supporting entrepreneurs so they can change the world with their ideas. My true passion in life is to inspire, motivate, and mentor others to achieve their dreams. My grandma made a bet on me and I want to pay her generosity forward. It’s why I became an angel investor; I love innovation, I love creation, and I love spending time with entrepreneurs.
We would like to conclude this interview by thanking you Kim, for participating in this Q&A session. We wish you all the best in your endeavours.
Kim: Thank you.
I define success by the number of lives I can positively impact. I love supporting entrepreneurs so they can change the world with their ideas. - Kim Perell
This interview was originally published in Issue 12 of The Business Anecdote.