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CrowdGather Chairman and CEO Sanjay Sabnani is a serial entrepreneur and business strategist with a long-standing passion for the Internet and Technology industry and online network community building. Sabnani has been an active proponent of message boards since 2002, when he acquired General Mayhem, his first message board community. He continued acquiring forums until he decided that it was time to focus on turning this portfolio into a business with the launch of CrowdGather in 2008.
Sabnani has occupied senior executive positions in several publicly held companies: as EVP Strategic Development at Hythiam, Inc. (NASDAQ:HYTM), as Director of Business Development and Strategy at OSI Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:OSIS), and as President and Director at Venture Catalyst, Inc. (NASDAQ:VCAT).
Tell us a little background info about yourself. Where are you from? How old are you? How long have you been making money online?
Indian guy born in Hong Kong and educated and now residing in the US. I am 40 years old which makes me a senior citizen when it comes to the online space, but I have been on a PC since 1982 and online since 1994 so my old age is balanced with a wee bit of experience.
Do you have any experience with affiliate marketing? If so, to what extent?
As an entrepreneur, I find people with the expertise I need. Most of my expertise is in display advertising and word of mouth campaigns. Affiliate is a space that I am getting ready to make a big splash in 2011.
What accomplishments so far are you the most proud of?
Other than having a beautiful wife and three lovely daughters, I am most proud of my current company- CrowdGather. We are working on unifying the entire world of online forums so that it can collectively command the respect it deserves.
How did you become successful? Why did you choose this career? When did you first realize the full potential in the Internet? When did you first “hit the big time?”
I was in love with the online world from the earliest days of dial-up in the mid 90’s. As for realizing my full potential with the Internet- I think it is happening right now with CowdGather. We are publicly traded and growing at a pretty solid rate through acquisitions. I would say that my earliest realization that there was big money involved in this field when I sold a domain name for $1 million in 2000: http://www.webb-site.com/articles/hktcompletion.asp
What do you think it takes to be successful?
Intelligence combined with relentless persistence.
What have been your biggest failures and frustrations?
There are far too many failures to list within this interview. My only hope is that I have learned enough from my earlier mistakes in order to not repeat them. If you are not making mistakes then you are not really trying.
What is the single toughest problem you’ve had to face, and how did you get through it?
The roughest experience in my life has been keeping CrowdGather funded and growing over the past two years which have been very difficult times from an economic perspective.
Is there anything that you don’t like to do, that you just hate working on?
Anything that involves looking at or creating spreadsheets is my least favorite thing to do.
What is the future of marketing?
I have no idea, which is terrifying and exciting at the same time.
What have you been up to recently? What projects are you working on?
CrowdGather is my fulltime focus now and it keeps me occupied day and night. The world of forums has been overlooked for too long and I believe that people will be impressed with what we are working on.
What problems have you had with those new projects?
Time and money have been constant frustrations, but we have learned a lot by having to work on leaner budgets. 2011 is our year to scale and get on the map.
Do you think anything particular in your past prepared you for this industry? Your education? Jobs you’ve held before?
My industry (forums) is where geeks hang out and communicate with other geeks. You could say that as a lifelong geek- my whole life has been training for the CrowdGather experience. I majored in English Literature from UCLA so I have pretty decent reading comprehension and communications skills- both invaluable in the world of forums.
What are your greatest strengths?
The ability to rapidly make big decisions.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
The ability to rapidly make big decisions.
What motivates you?
The ability to build a company that can change the world. I want to gather a big crowd.
What are some of your long-term goals? How much is enough? If money was no object, what would you be doing?
I am fortunate enough to be doing exactly what I want to do. Money is important, but fortunately for me I have the ability to choose how to lead my life and what I do with it.
Where do you want to be ten years from now?
I have a stubborn survivalist streak in me and for some reason I often day dream about what my survival bunker and compound will look like. In ten years I expect to have my hideout completed. Not really sure why, but this is a goal that makes me happy.
How do you like to spend your free time? What doe work-life balance mean to you?
As a CEO, husband, and father- I have no free time. Work and life have to balance because they are both priorities and I am unwilling to compromise on either. I have a good life and get plenty of quality family time by doing things such as coaching and encouraging my daughters to play soccer.
If you could go back to being 18, what different career choices would you make?
I would have learned how to write code so that I could build stuff instead of waiting to hire someone to build it for me.
What is your greatest achievement outside of work? What are some of your unfulfilled dreams?
I am a published co-author in a couple of psychiatric textbooks. I like the thought that med students will have to read what I have written. I would like to write more if I earn enough free time in my life.
Do you have a Twitter account or Facebook “Like” page?