Rand Fishkin is the cofounder, and Wizard of Moz. He co-authored the Art of SEO from O’Reilly Media, co-founded Inbound.org, and was named on PSBJ’s 40 Under 40 List and BusinessWeek’s 30 Best Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30. Rand is an addict of all things content & social on the web, from his blog on entrepreneurship to Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and FourSquare.
He’s actually a pretty interesting guy. His blog probably wouldn’t interest those outside of the entrepreneurial or SEO niches. He’s a compelling writer that prefers to be in the trenches.
I first became involved with the World Wide Web in 1993, while still in high school. After playing with MS Frontpage and building websites in the late ’90’s, I moved into consulting on the usability side of the equation, assisting local Seattle-area banks, law firms, doctors and small businesses with their domains. It wasn’t until 2002 that I got involved in the field of search marketing.
The major forums of the SEO world were my training ground, and after months of lurking, I started posting my questions, responses and experiences. In 2004, the scope and size of my material outgrew the forums and I began posting reports, data, and tools on a website that eventually became Moz.
From 2007-2013, I was Moz’s CEO, but have moved into a new position as an individual contributor, while our longtime COO, Sarah Bird, takes the CEO reigns
via his about page
Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World
A lot of Silicon Valley wisdom misleads founders and startups into doing dumb things. This book is here to help you avoid them. Through the journey of Moz, from $500K in debt to $47mm+ in revenue over 17 years, Rand walks through the many mistakes he’s made, and the handful of tactics that can help you do better.
The book’s central tenet is this: A ton of traditional Silicon Valley startup “wisdom” biases companies and founders to do a lot of dumb stuff. This book will help you avoid those pitfalls. It’s told through stories from Moz’s years of growth and struggles, paired with advice and hard-won experience that’s helped us. If you’re a contrarian, or a skeptic of valley startup culture, you’ll probably love it. And if you’re an entrepreneur, marketer, or technologist who believes all the hype, maybe it can at least help you know what to watch for.
Over 6 years as CEO, Rand grew Moz from 7 employees to 134, revenues from $800K to $29.3mm, and traffic from 1mm to 30mm annual visitors. He raised two rounds of funding ($1.1mm in 2007 and $18.1mm in 2012), led three acquisitions, and, in 2013, re-branded the company from SEOmoz to Moz, shifting focus from exclusively SEO tools to broader web marketing software.
Rand stepped down as CEO in February of 2014 during a rough bout with depression and promoted longtime Chief Operations Officer, Sarah Bird, to the position. He moved into an individual contributor role with the company and retains the title “Wizard of Moz,” as well as the stuffier, less-fun title “Chairman of the Board of Directors.”
Here are some of my favourite posts about how the business has evolved:
- Misadventures in VC Funding: The $24 Million Moz Almost Raised
- Moz’s $18 Million Venture Financing: Our Story, Metrics and Future
- My Complicated Relationship with No Longer Being CEO
- Moz Returns to SEO Simplifying their product offerings and making tough choices
- Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018
- The “Click-My-Bio” Litmus Test
- Two Psychological Triggers that Make Viral Content More Viral
- A Healthy Dose of Fear is Appropriate When Dealing with the Press
Depressed Rand is weird. Don’t get me wrong, regular Rand is weird, too. But depressed Rand magnifies the bad 10X and minimizes the good. He refuses to even acknowledge good news and, because he’s a pretty smart guy, he can usually argue for why that good news is actually just temporary and will turn to shit any minute. The weird part is, I think depressed Rand is actually a very authentic version of myself. When I felt depressed, I upheld TAGFEE – particularly the values of transparency and authenticity – as the reasons why I could and should be such a raging, all-consuming, negative naysayer.
I loved the above post. While it primarily focuses on the issues Moz (the company and brand) had, it also highlighted how it can be difficult for some people to separate business problems from their own mental health issues. This is a concept I’m hoping to explore.
In this interview, he compares it to a reverse flywheel:
And as a result, you almost get a reverse of the flywheel concept where every bad thing you’re doing to not take care of yourself builds upon the despondence and the frustration and the anxiety or depression or whatever it is that you’re feeling, and your situation gets worse and worse.
And the longer you’re in it and the harsher it is, the harder the cycle is to break.
On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is “fired and escorted out of the building by security” and 10 is “left entirely of his own accord on wonderful terms,” my departure is around a 4. That makes today a hard one, cognitively and emotionally. I have a lot of sadness, a heap of regrets, and a smattering of resentment too. But I am, deeply, deeply thankful to all the people who supported me and Moz over the last two decades. The experience of building a company like this, of helping to change and mature an industry, of learning so much about entrepreneurship, marketing, and myself has been an honor and a privilege
As he prepares to leave the company he founded to start anew, Fishkin shares details on how Moz built its product and audience, the importance of owned assets, and what he’s thinking of next…
- How Moz Built A $35M Company Without A Single Salesperson
- How SEOmoz’s Founder Went From Deep Debt To $4+ Mil Per Year
- Ep02: Moz CEO Rand Fishkin Reveals How He Built A Company That Did $21.9 Million In Revenue
- Interview at My Morning Routine