11. Auren Hoffman – building a LiveRamp to the info highway

Auren Hoffman (@auren) grew up in Westchester County, New York [coincidentally, home of #PaleoAdTech co-host @martykihn] and is currently CEO of SafeGraph, a location data provider. He’s well-known as an investor, author, Quora pundit, fellow podcast host — the recently-launched “World of DaaS” on the Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) sector — drawer of charming two-dimensional graphs, networker and company founder.

Entrepreneurship started early for Auren, who launched his first venture as a student at University of California, Berkeley, where he got his degree in Engineering, having paid for his education via a high-school lawn service and an exit for a consulting firm he started junior year. For some time, he organized salons on deep topics, such as the Meaning of Life, for his mentor Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and noted Facebook investor.

His first real venture in the ad-tech and mar-tech space was Rapleaf, which he co-founded in 2005. Rapleaf was a people-data company that had a number of incarnations, starting as a seller “reputation service” similar to eBay’s and a social network-membership search based on emails, and other forms of people data.

But as Auren tells Marty and Jill in this probing episode, inside the company the team had become “more passionate” about the idea that became LiveRamp — a vision of middleware that could connect an ever-growing constellation of ad-tech and mar-tech applications. Rapleaf was sold to TowerData in 2012, and Auren and team focused on building LiveRamp into a data integration, identity and onboarding powerhouse.

In 2015, its owners sold LiveRamp to Acxiom for a reported $310 million in what Auren now says was “the single biggest mistake I’ve ever made in business.” As he says on the show, the acquisition slowed LiveRamp’s progress, and he believes it would be up to 10X bigger today if it had “remained independent.”

On this thoughtful episode, Auren shares why he thinks networking is “overrated,” why he decided to focus his new venture on location and not people data, and his secret to finding talent in the hyper-competitive Silicon Valley hiring pool.

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