DigitalMoses: 10 Questions With Wicks Walker

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DM CONFIDENTIAL: DIGITALMOSES: Wicks, we saw the news of your debt financing deal. We thought it would be a good chance to catch-up with you and hear more about what the company has been up to. Mostly everyone knows W4, but why not take us through the story?

WALKER: I can tell you that the first priority in building W4 as a replacement for our last company, was to take our successful priorities running that company into W4 — to do a better job than anyone we knew of in the market, and to deliver a level of personal service deserving of full marks. It gets a lot more detailed than that, but those are the sort of guiding principles.

Your last venture went through a few rounds of financing. Did that impact your decision to seek it here?

Very definitely. We financed W4’s seed and angel rounds with our personal funds – a good couple million bucks. This allowed us to retain full control of course, with no room for conflict. The current partnership has no risk of trust problems, which was a plague for us in that last enterprise. We prefer to focus on the customers; our publishers and advertisers.

How did you decide between debt versus an equity investment?

WW: The way I’ve structured our financing here with 100% debt, we have an obligation – but we don’t have a problematic involvement with investors who don’t understand the business or how to make key management decisions for a growing company. Not all institutional investors are going to have the right management skills to bring to the table, although some I have worked with do. But don’t count on it.

We take it you didn’t raise debt to buy yourselves nice cars. How will you use the proceeds?

Strictly used in the company to finance growing cash flow. We also have a little skunkworks project going that we can tell you about later. ;)

We’re used to CPA network bashing, yet you had one of the prestigious banks involved. How did you manage that?

Parts of the industry run on a lower standard than we set for ourselves, which we think is reflected in the way our company looks when a bank or anyone putting themselves at risk comes for a visit.

Networks come and go. What has been the secret to your success? (You are not allowed to say fast payouts or top offers.)

Those things are important. But without a long-term focus they won’t keep a company afloat. A top management policy for us is that nothing should stop a relationship with an advertiser or publisher to grow over many years. And since we have the best people at W4, we are making that happen year in and year out. Many of our revenue-generating relationships in this space date back nearly a decade.

You have weathered more than a few storms in this industry? Any tricks?

We weathered rougher storms elsewhere before we showed up here. And we also have experience and involvements in other companies in different spaces to draw upon, as investors, founders, board members, and so forth.

What do you think will be the next big vertical?

Now why would we want to tell everyone that? ;)

What vertical doing well today is at the greatest risk for collapse?

We are noticing a big shift in the education vertical as schools are cracking down on transparency and quality. It will be interesting to see how it impacts the advertisers, publishers and networks who are focused heavily in this category.

How about the same for traffic sources?

We didn’t get an answer to this question, but it didn’t seem intentional. It’s too bad that we did not get a chance to hear his take on traffic. Of all the questions to not answer, though, that was strategically the best, to our dismay. Regardless, we get very interested when companies place big bets on the space. The only thing we forgot to ask was how much it cost to get the domain name w4.com.

Originally published at DMConfidential.com; reprinted with permission.

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