Co-Founder and CEO of Anura, proud father of four, and serial entrepreneur Rich Kahn is a dedicated professional with decades of experience in digital marketing. He started Anura, an ad fraud solution designed to improve campaign performance by accurately exposing bots, malware, and human fraud. His track record of success includes operating a business that made the Inc. 5000 list for five years in a row, achieving an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for technology, and operating one of the fastest-growing advertising & marketing companies in the U.S.
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Table of Contents
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Rich Kahn: I never wanted to be a CEO, I just wanted to make enough money where I could put enough money in the bank to live off the interest. That was my goal for as long as I can remember. When we started the company, I wasn’t trying to be CEO, I just had an idea and started building a company. I remember this one moment, when I had several companies where I held the title of CEO. One of the sales reps was bringing somebody around and introduced me as his boss, the CEO of the company. That was the first time I thought, ‘When did I become the boss?’ Up until that point, I never considered myself a boss or a CEO. I just considered myself one of the staff. We’re all in this together; each one of us has our own job to do.
I always just focused on doing what I needed to get done. I always tell people my job is to make sure that everybody on the team has what they need to do their job. That’s really what my job is all about. In this company, I spent a little bit more time selling because we didn’t have a large sales team. Now this team is starting to grow and starting to put deals on themselves. I’m hoping to step away from sales and just focus on making sure everybody has what they need and directing the company more than being one of the workers.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Rich Kahn: Founded by husband-and-wife team, Rich and Beth Kahn, Anura is an ad fraud solution designed to improve campaign performance by accurately exposing bots, malware, and human fraud. The couple, who owned a company that was featured in the Inc. 5000 list five years in a row, have a long track record of entrepreneurial success—including earning an Ernst & Young entrepreneur award in technology.
Anura’s solution mitigates ad fraud allowing advertisers to invest more resources towards growing their business. The Anura solution works to eliminate false positives by only marking visitors as fraudulent when it is 100% confident the visitor isn’t real.
Benchmarked against validated conversion data, Anura is able to ensure the accuracy and thoroughness of the solution. Anura also offers the most detailed analytics dashboard to provide proof of fraud. With a combination of machine learning and experienced engineers, Anura can detect even the most sophisticated fraud techniques in real-time.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Rich Kahn: For me, the CEO of a company is the number one salesperson in the company. They are the one who have to sell the product, not just to customers but to the industry. If I’m going to buy a technical solution from somebody, I just need to know they know what they’re doing, so I never cared about education or anything like that. I respect a CEO in a tech company that understands their tech. Some companies I work with have a CEO who built the original system. With those types of leaders, I can talk tech. Take Elon Musk, for example. He was developer. He did a lot of work on his own credit. Now he’s got teams of people that do the work but you talk technical to him, and he understands it. Those are the ones that I respect in the tech industry.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Rich Kahn: In our space, there is no secret to becoming CEO; you put up the money and the idea and you start a company, It really is that simple. Maintaining your business and the title is the hard part. You have to hold your team accountable. You have to set the examples on how to get things done. You have to be able to direct the company and not just focus on your day-to-day tasks. That’s something I always have a challenge with because I tend to lean toward just getting the work done.
A role model for me was Nolan Bushnell, the creator of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. Without his video display chip, video gaming wouldn’t exist today, so some people call him the father of video games. In the ’70s, seven big tech companies came to him and paid him a million dollars each to stop producing things for seven years. They paid him to stop working because they were afraid he was gonna put them out of business. That’s how advanced some of his stuff was. He disappeared for seven years and when he reappeared he came out with a series of robots that blew everybody away. However, he never hit it big because he was always working on things that were always so far ahead of his time. The execution wasn’t quite there. I look up to him and feel like we’re similar because I’ve been in the space for a long time, but never hit it big. I’ve done well for myself, but I’ve never really hit it big because I’m always trying to create something different, something new. That’s just who I am and he was kind of the same way so he’s always been a role model for me.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Rich Kahn: I have the same problem. I’m all over the place, because there’s so many things that have to get done and not enough time to train people up on how to do it. What I have to focus on is just leading the company. I’m heading each of the departments to make sure that as a whole, the company’s heading in the right direction, focusing on marketing and making sure that marketing is growing and bringing in more leads for the company.
I make sure the sales team is growing and hitting certain metrics, and make sure developers are on track with their projects and goals. That’s really the focus of a CEO. I try to lead the company with big deals and try to land deals with large agencies that can drive in tons of business – that’s a big part of the CEO’s job – and then keep an eye on issues and prevent issues from popping up and causing harm to the company.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Rich Kahn: My biggest challenge was managing our employees to work from home because things were not getting done. There’s just too many distractions, working from home. I don’t like working at home; I like to work from here, even when the office is closed I’m here because there’s just too many distractions at home. There’s laundry, kids, animals, there’s 1000 things in the house you want to do. How do you monitor that?
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Rich Kahn: Some mistakes I saw some leaders make was with working from home. When they first went home, they saw the production go up in the first month. When they saw that, they shut down the office and kept everybody home without giving it some time to see the long-term effects. After about 6-12 weeks, people started tending to their homes and families during work hours, and then productivity dropped significantly.
Some people work really well from home, which is nice because then you’re not confined to one area for employees. But for several clients and colleagues of mine, several months later regretted going entirely remote and got another office and told everybody to go back to the office. They just weren’t getting things done and they were spending a fortune on human resources.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Rich Kahn: When we initially built the software and got client feedback on the software, we knew we had something special. While we migrated a lot of our staff from one company to another, which wasn’t the best decision at the time. We really should have stripped down and tightened up our staff, but I have a hard time getting rid of good people just because we didn’t have a position for them. That’s probably a bad business decision, but it’s just who I am. My wife and I invested significant resources into the company in order to see it through to the profitability state, because we believed that strongly in this product. If we hadn’t done that, the company would have died. We knew eventually there would be positions for our staff and we would need them then. Finding help is easy, finding the right person for a position is hard.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Rich Kahn: My biggest challenge right now is finding a way to get my salespeople in front of more people. It’s very difficult because if people have a fraud problem, they don’t realize it or don’t want to want to know about it. Because once you know about it, you have to do something about it. They feel that it will cost them money but it’s exactly the opposite. We’re trying to isolate those people online and explain to them in short marketing messages that you have a problem that we can fix and it’s a positive thing for your company. We’re trying to find a scalable way to get in front of more of the people.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Rich Kahn: The most useless skill was from college in one of my robotics classes. When I originally enrolled in college, I chose Robotics as my major. I took electrical engineering 101 or something like that and the assignment was to design a circuit board, solder a bunch of parts to a board and build a signal injector. The project I built looked pretty, but I haven’t built anything like it since, because shortly after that, I switched my major to business management.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Rich Kahn: Most companies during the pandemic decided to go remote, thinking that they’re going to be able to find talent in different locations and take advantage of not having to pay for a big office and all the expenses that go with maintaining office. We could have easily saved that and invested in more employees.
But I’m kind of old school. I also like that if I need to talk to somebody, I can just walk into somebody’s office to have a conversation rather than trying to track down on instant messaging or slack. I’m more of a face-to-face person. While we made the decision to stay in the office and take on that expense, I believe it’s been a positive impact on clients because clients can pick up the phone and call us. How many companies can you call and get somebody on the phone? We actually have phones and when they ring we actually answer them. I think we have a closer-knit group of people that work closer together because we’re in the office. I think the decision to continue working in the office has been a positive one for both employees and clients.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Rich Kahn for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Rich Kahn or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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