Value Added: Serial entrepreneur hopes third time is the charm

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By Thomas Heath
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 10:26 PM

I read recently where someone said you have to win once in life to be successful.

Some lucky ones hit their home run the first time. But most have to keep trying. Serial entrepreneur Elie D. Ashery is on his third start-up, and he is confident this one is a winner.

He is president and chief executive of Gold Lasso, a Gaithersburg-based technology firm that develops personalized e-mail to help companies sell more and associations recruit new members.

"We help them get the right message to the right person," said Ashery. "It simplifies an extremely complex marketing process."

Gold Lasso has 17 employees (including four in India) and 150 clients, including Ford Motor, Kraft Foods and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Revenue has grown from $80,000 in 2006 to around $1.5 million. The young company breaks even, and Ashery just received $500,000 in funding that he thinks will put it on a path to growth and profit.

Ashery has many characteristics of an entrepreneur: an aversion to being managed. He is scrappy, focused and persistent."As a kid, I was thrown out of every overnight camp and every academy I attended," said Ashery, who said he grew up "on the poor side" of Potomac. But "I was a decent student because education was important to me."

After Churchill High School, he attended the University of Maryland, where he was hungry to learn. He worked at a small investment banking firm during college, learning investment research, finding small companies and developing an ability to spot investment trends.

Ashery became comfortable with technology early on, mastering early versions of Bloomberg's financial data program. He was the research gofer, using the emerging technology to find financial information.

"I knew it like the back of my hand," says Ashery, 35. "I knew how to get bond formulas. How to get streaming videos."

In 1997, when he was in his early 20s, he started his first company, Newsletters.com, out of his mom's Potomac basement with a childhood friend.

Newsletters.com sold research and newsletters to investors, employing recent Maryland grads who were familiar with the Internet. The company took off, and Ashery raised $1 million from venture capital firms. Newsletters.com eventually moved to office space in Rockville. The investors brought in new management, displacing Ashery and boosting payroll, rent and other short-term obligations. The firm grew from 15 to 90 employees in two months as it tried to expand. The market imploded, and Newsletters.com's cash dried up. The company was sold in 2000 to marketresearch.com, a division of Chicago-based Tribune Co.

Ashery's ownership stake netted him less than $100,000, which he used as a down payment on his first home. He also took away an important lesson, though, one that has stayed with him: "Hyper-growth has to be managed very, very, very conservatively."


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