The Secrets to Success
Tufts alum Jeffrey Stibel returned to campus to bestow some wisdom upon future entrepreneurs as part of the Lyon & Bendheim Alumni Lecture series.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.19.08] Almost in the blink of an eye, Jeffrey Stibel (A'95) went from a Tufts student to one of the youngest CEOs of a publicly traded company in the country. Looking back on how his life has unfolded, Stibel has some advice for future Tufts grads.
"Learn and have fun," he says. "That's the only thing that matters."
Stibel returned to campus on March 10 to share his life experiences as part of the Lyon & Bendheim Alumni Lecture series. His talk focused on what he called "the contrarian entrepreneur."
Watch Jeffrey Stibel's Lyon & Bendheim Alumni Lecture. (47:46; Requires Windows Media; Video by Charles River Media Group)
"This is basically comprised of all the things you think you should be doing, but you really shouldn't be," he says. "So what I hope to do is dispel some of the myths about entrepreneurs, which frankly, are some of the things we always teach people to do, like focus on the business plan, come up with a great idea and get a lot of venture capital money, versus the reality of what really makes a company successful and what really makes you as a person successful."
At the age of 26, Stibel was on a career fast track, starting out as the chairman and CEO of Simpli.com, a search and marketing technology company. A year later he became an executive for United Online Inc., which included service providers such as NetZero and web services like Classmates.com. In 2005 he was named CEO of Web.com, a company which provides all the behind-the-scenes work for companies who provide Web site services, such as Yahoo! and Earthlink. In addition, Stibel has held postions on various boards, including a current position at Tufts on the advisory board of the Gordon Institute.
While a student at Tufts, Stibel met philosophy Professor Daniel Dennett, whose blunt tactics would forever change the path on which Stibel felt he was headed.
"I came to Tufts because I wanted to study philosophy, and when I went to Professor Dennett he told me, 'If you want to study philosophy, don't study philosophy. Study science,'" he recalls. "So he basically kicked me out. I was this young and hungry undergraduate and he said go out and get a real background so you can be a real philosopher."
It was this concept that led Stibel, who refers to Dennett as his "mentor," to eventually obtain a master's degree in brain science from Brown, which he says most of his work has hinged on during his career.
"In a lot of ways I think the Internet is a brain, with different Web sites acting as the neurons," Stibel said. "It is the perfect metaphor."
Stibel says that his early rise to success has been a "whirlwind," which he credits to his multi-tasking personality. His secret to success, however, lies in the people he works with.
"My secret is that I surround myself with really great people," he says. "If I am off doing something else, I know I have left behind this strong pool of talent that I can trust to do great things.
"Tufts has been wonderful and I hold a special place in my heart for the university. The worst thing about Tufts was that I had to graduate and leave. It is a great place that fosters creativity and ingenuity, and that is what makes great people, not just great entrepreneurs."
Profile written by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications