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Success Story: Sean Byrnes ’00, Cofounder, Flurry

Sean Byrnes
Photograph courtesy of Sean Byrnes.

Nine years ago engineering major Sean Byrnes ’00 cofounded with Daniel Scholnick ’00 and Gabriel Vanrenen ’03 the mobile ad-tech firm Flurry, which Yahoo bought for $300 million in July. Now he’s advising and investing in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as blogging on building companies at Sean On Startups. Here he shares what he’s learned so far.

What was the great challenge to starting Flurry?
Overcoming adversity. When you are starting a company you are, by definition, starting with nothing. Your competition always has more resources, people, and capital, and you need to find ways to succeed when all the odds are against you. The defining characteristic of successful entrepreneurs I know is not intelligence or charisma but simple perseverance. It is the people who don’t give up in the face of certain failure that are able to build successful companies.

What was the key ingredient that enabled you to grow?
I think that everything starts with the people. Having a great team is the most important building block of any company, as it gives you the flexibility to learn from the market and adjust your business. (Our first few employees were Karl Harris ’00 and Dave Latham ’01, who helped build the company into the success it is today.) So much of building a company is adapting to what you learn, especially in the case of Flurry, where the mobile market was literally growing up around us. It is also true that without having picked a market like mobile, Flurry would not have had a chance to grow as fast as it did, regardless of the team. So, in the end, it was the people and the opportunity together.

How do you encourage the innovation necessary to stay on top of the field?
I always assume that anything and everything can be improved. If you assume that you can always improve, you never get comfortable with the status quo, and you always seek to reinvent yourself in better ways. That is critical for a high-growth, high-tech company because the market and state-of-the-art technologies are constantly changing.

What elements of a startup do you enjoy most?
The best part of starting a company is how many different skills and new talents you learn along the way. One thing I always enjoyed at Dartmouth was the diversity of classes I was able to take and the amazing variety of things I was able to learn. That drive to learn many new things and challenge myself differently every day was what led me to want to start Flurry—and what will lead me to start more companies in the future.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently taking some time off to decompress from the pressure of building Flurry and to spend time with my new daughter. Eventually, I’d like to start another company, as there are many interesting problems to be solved. In the meantime I am investing, advising, and mentoring a lot of great new startups that are in the early days of their journeys. I’m happy to say that some of them were founded by fellow Dartmouth alums.

For more photos, visit our Alumni Events and People album on Flickr.

Categories: Alumni News, Success Story

Tags: alumni, entrepreneurship

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