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Crain’s, Madison Park – “If I Knew Then” with Sharat Sharan, Co-Founder and CEO of ON24

Crain’s, Madison Park – “If I Knew Then” with Sharat Sharan, Co-Founder and CEO of ON24

About the company:  

ON24 is a multimedia marketing platform that uses webinars and virtual training. It helps companies generate pipeline with engagement-driven webinars and video content. Its patented cloud-based platform features an interactive and immersive user interface and industry-leading webinar analytics for events, campaigns and benchmarking.

The Mistake:

We were coming out of the housing crisis and the company was doing reasonably well, it was 2012.

We made our first acquisition of a company in Spain. We’re a private company and we spent a decent amount of money, but I thought we’d buy the company at a good price because of the downturn.

[We bought them because] they had a product synergistic in virtual events. I thought I saw entrepreneurs there. We had London-based operations that were smaller and we thought we could make our center of gravity Spain — that it was going be less expensive.

But, the business began to bleed cash. Within a year after that, it was not working. What we bought it for, we lost 80 percent of that. I wanted to get out.

It was time to eat humble pie. We decided to sell the company back to the people we bought it from. We acquired the company in the second quarter of 2012 and we sold it back in early October 2013.

“Whether it’s decisions about strategic direction or employees, if you prolong things it just impacts the company.”

The Lesson:

You have to be decisive. That acquisition was bleeding cash. I had decided I was moving the company into full SAS framework and (the company) was not synergistic with our direction as Software-As-Service (SAS).

The decision that I made, which in hindsight didn’t work out, was buying something in Spain when the market was tough.

The positive lesson for me was the execution of pulling the plug. What it reiterated for me was the importance of being decisive. Whether it’s decisions about strategic direction or employees, if you prolong things it just impacts the company.

It was a tough decision. I could’ve stayed on, taken more time and taken more losses. But within a year it’s time to make a decision to get out fast, to cut your losses.

keith