George Deeb has a typical story. After a decade and a half building businesses in Chicago, he moved to Cary this summer for warmer weather, a kid-friendly environment and more house for his money.
Along with three kids, a wife and a moving truck, he also brought his investing-consulting-fractional executive business called Red Rocket Ventures.
Deeb started the company in 2010 after he sold his most recent startup and needed time to figure out what’s next. Red Rocket was meant to be a method to find a CEO gig. Instead, it morphed into a business of its own.
That’s all thanks to the Red Rocket blog.
In 2017, many venture capitalists and serial entrepreneurs write about their experiences and observations using publishing platforms like Medium. Deeb got started early—by offering advice for free, he hoped the phone would ring with opportunities.
He used the Red Rocket blog to chronicle experiences building adventure travel startup iExplore, which he sold to TUI Travel PLC in 2008, and as CEO of MediaRecall, a B2B digital video services company that he led to an acquisition in 2010.
More than five years later, Deeb has published 269 lessons on the blog, some of which have been published by national media sources. 101 of them have been bound up in an e-book titled 101 Startup Lessons: An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.
Deeb’s lessons have received more than a million views and led to hundreds of phone calls every year, as well as mentor gigs with Techstars Chicago and Founder Institute. Though he never felt compelled to join another startup, years worth of feedback from entrepreneurs helped Deeb craft a different sort of business with three main offerings:
- Strategy—The majority of businesses that reach out are very early stage and either need help with overall business strategy or creating a sales and marketing plan to scale revenue. Red Rocket can come on as a consultant to help set strategy.
- Execution—The strategy is in place but they don’t have the resources to hire a CMO or executive to hire the right team, create budgets and processes to execute against. Along with the growing national trend toward outsourcing executives, Deeb or one of his colleagues can step in as a temporary CMO or sales leader to set up processes, budgets and build a team. According to Deeb, he can help with “everything that an early stage company hasn’t figured out yet.”
- Capital—Some Red Rocket clients do need to raise capital. They’re figuring out how to grow their companies, and need connections to possible sources of capital or investment. Red Rocket makes few direct investments, sometimes passing along a viable startup to Chicago’s FireStarter Fund, in which Deeb is an investor. Most of the time, it connects viable startups to the 10-20 best suited investors from a network of hundreds in Chicago and across the United States.
Until 2017, most of Red Rocket’s clients came from Chicago. But his move means building a presence in Raleigh-Durham—he’s already published a pair of helpful posts listing local angel investors/venture capital firms and private equity funds.
Deeb’s partner Jay Stocki will remain focused up north, while Deeb starts networking in the Triangle. Due to a relative shortage of local venture capital funds, he’s convinced there are plenty of startups he can connect with sales and marketing support or funding from his large network.
Deeb says his ideal client is early stage, but series A ready with between $0 and $20 million in revenue. Industry doesn’t matter, though B2B or B2C digital technology is his sweet spot. He’s worked with restaurants, retailers and consumer product companies as well.
I asked Deeb for some examples of success for Red Rocket. He gave three.
In one case, he was hired to research a client’s competition. That led to an M&A conversation, and an eventual $23 million exit for the client. In another case, he discouraged a company from raising venture capital and instead paired it up with another company with a complimentary offering. The merger led to a company scaled through M&A instead of sales and marketing.
Perhaps most common is Red Rocket giving “a fresh set of eyes to a marketing message”, Deeb says, changing the strategy to help the client better appeal to the target audience.
Though his 269 lessons are free, his services aren’t. He structures every relationship a little differently, but Deeb says the most common ways he’s paid is on a per project basis (quoted in advance) or an hourly rate retainer, like a lawyer.
“They can use me as much or little as they want,” he says. “I’m like their help desk.”
When he comes in as a fractional executive or a part time outsourced CMO, it’s priced per days of week each month. And when he matches a company with funding, he collects a 5% “success fee” for connecting the dots to capital.
How to get in touch with Deeb? Respond to one of his blog posts, attend a local event (he’s planning to attend as many as possible) or pick up the phone and call.