Disrupters – Howard Lerman

Howard Lerman is the former CEO of Yext, a company that put geo-marketing on the map.  Howard not only founded Yext but took it public at a multi unicorn valuation.  On this episode of The Yield – Disrupters, Yieldstreet’s CEO Milind Mehere sits down with Howard for a conversation about his journey and what we can learn from him.

Key Takeaways:

[6:38] Finding the opportunities that become major market disruptors. 

[10:16] The early days of disruption and reacting to the naysayers. 

[17:30] What might the future of AI look like?

[23:42] Common challenges founders need to be aware of as their company is scaling.

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The path of an entrepreneur has been glamorized by Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but a true disrupter rarely has the kind of lightbulb moment that changes everything in a flash.  Instead, like Howard, most entrepreneurs have a long view of affecting change by chipping away at a problem until they have figured out the best way to solve it. The story of Yext is one of a bunch of smart, talented people chipping away at a huge opportunity over a long period of time.  And according to Howard, nothing about it was ever easy.  Every single thing was earned every step along the way. 

But how does one identify the opportunities that become major market disruptors? Howard recalls the progression of his company from its focus on free gym membership trials to business listings synchronization. As he puts it, sometimes the best ideas are just the ones that no one else has thought of yet.  For him, synchronizing phone numbers, addresses and business information across Google Alexa and Apple Siri turned out to be a homerun idea.  After years of chipping away at a big idea, the lightbulb moment came when they realized they could hijack a Google listing and knew that companies would want to protect it.  And by creating a product that was 10 times superior to anything else out there, they stunned the entire industry and grabbed all the market share. Despite the naysayers, they knew this kind of thing should exist in the world, and that tends to win out over the long run. 

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Howard details the role of AI in automating business listings for 800 million data points, and offers his insights into the future role of AI. Singularity may still be many years off, and there is plenty of other stuff to figure out before we get there. 

What does the IPO process look like when taking a company public in this disruptive environment? With a multibillion dollar IPO, it’s important to not get caught in the frenzy of valuation, only raise capital when you need it, and lastly, recognize that an IPO is just one more milestone in the evolution of a company.  There are many additional common challenges that founders need to be aware of as their company is scaling.  From an overfixation on stock price and maximizing valuations to accumulating an overabundance of capital, founders have to be careful to stay focused on what really matters most. 

Howard is a disrupter who doesn’t simply want to be an investor.  His place is in the arena, and he’s already spent two years working on his next breakthrough company.  To learn more about the disruptive investments that can be part of your alternatives portfolio, visit www.yieldstreet.com today.

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