An Interview With Daniel Yomtobian About the Highs and Lows of His Career in the Online Advertising and Venture Capital Industries
Daniel Yomtobian’s first experience in the professional world was a job working at Von’s supermarket at the age of 17, while still in high school. At the time, his plan for a career was to work hard and earn promotions within that organization, eventually becoming a store manager, and later a district manager. However, this plan was disrupted when fate intervened and Daniel learned that a close family friend had become a professional web designer during the early days of the internet. He talked with the family friend and the resulting conversation inspired him to enroll in a two-day tutorial on web design. Daniel completed it and learned this exciting and-at the time-new trade, whereupon he began offering his services in web design professionally. As that was taking place, Daniel began buying and selling uniform resource locators (URLs) to companies and individuals seeking to stake their claim to specific online domain sites. This practice ignited his natural inclination for entrepreneurship.
Currently, Daniel Yomtobian spends most of his time overseeing daily operations at Bian Capital, his recently-founded private venture capital firm. Operating out of Los Angeles, California, Bian Capital invests in technology-oriented businesses all over the United States and prides itself on being a creative, dynamic, ‘roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-involved’ kind of investment firm. Beyond that, Daniel is an avid philanthropist, always on the lookout for new and effective charities and nonprofits to support.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
As a teenager, my ambitions were modest to say the least. I worked at a grocery store and I was really content. I thought I would spend my career there. I thought I would work my way up through the ranks to eventually obtain a management position, and that would be my profession through adulthood. Luckily, thanks to the advice of one of my father’s friends, I took a course in web design in the early 90s, before it was a really popular thing to do. Basically, I got in on not quite the ground floor of the internet boom, but really close to the ground floor. After I realized there was some serious cash to be made in buying and selling web domains, I went into business for myself. Everything I’ve done as an entrepreneur since then has sprung from that one choice.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I love how fast-paced and exciting it is. I love how you constantly have to post up victories or close up shop. I realize that such conditions wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but in my case, it fuels me to excel.
What would you tell others looking to get into your industry?
If they were looking to break into online advertising, I might tell them to reconsider. It’s not like the old days where there was room in the market for brash startups. These days, four companies control the vast majority of online advertising. If you’re not associated with Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, or Google, competing is next to impossible.
If they were looking to break into venture capital, I would say that there is no such thing as conducting too much research. The more you know about the companies that you’re considering for investment, the better. Get to know them intimately.
What keeps you motivated?
The idea of bettering humanity in some meaningful way keeps me motivated. Now that I’ve achieved a degree of personal success that provides more than adequately for my family and myself, the next logical thing for me to do with my money is use it to help heal society. I’m always on the lookout for new charities and nonprofits to support. One cause that holds a special place in my heart is working with the homeless and other financially disadvantaged people in order to get them three square meals a day, a sturdy roof over their head at night, and a genuine shot at finding a job and, hence, a way out of the poverty cycle. That means a lot to me because my family wasn’t very fortunate when I was young. I understand a little bit about that issue because, to some degree at least, I lived it.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned managing your business team?
The most fundamental thing I’ve learned is to hire trustworthy, honorable people to work for me. Everything else can be taught, but those two traits are essentially innate. So, the real trick becomes determining who’s trustworthy and honorable-but I found a bunch of wonderful people like that over the years, and I’ve hung on to them for dear life! They’re worth their weight in gold.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
It’s come a long way. Frankly, it started out as just myself, a computer, and a dial-up connection. Now, through Bian Capital, we literally use pools of millions of dollars to fund the development of new companies if we think that they hold promise.
If you could change 1 thing you did in the beginning of your career what would it be?
I would’ve dreamed larger dreams as a teenager than simply becoming a regional manager for a grocery store chain. It worked out in the end, but I still look back and marvel at my small-scale thinking.
How do you maintain a work life balance?
From time to time, that balance can tip a little too far over in favor of work. But I’m working on that problem! One step I’m trying to take right now is ignoring my phone after the supper hour and on the weekends. I won’t lie, I find it a bit difficult, but I’m making progress!
What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?
I think one thing that differentiates me from other corporate leaders is that, sure, now I’m the boss, but I also have a personal history of being an employee pretty far down in the pecking order. I know how that feels. I can actually relate to that. As such, I think I have a special bond with all my employees, not just the high-flyers and the up-and-comers. On top of that, I’m a positive person and I motivate people to do their best. Those are both critical traits in a successful leader.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
My parents divorced when I was fairly young. That affected me pretty deeply in a bunch of different ways that weren’t exactly positive. However, as I grew older, I realized it was for the best. Divorce was actually the preferable alternative to them both being miserable and arguing all the time, especially in the way that it affected the rest of the family. My mother and father get along much better with each other these days.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ The Golden Rule always applies.
What is one thing you would change in your industry today if you could?
If I had the power-which I obviously don’t-I would break up the big tech oligopoly of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Google. The fact that startups can’t compete effectively against them and are usually either bought up by one of those four companies or run out of business is not healthy for the industry, and it’s not, frankly speaking, how American capitalism is supposed to work.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
By summer of 2026, I assume Bian Capital will be at least twice as large as it is today. As for me, I’m aiming to make philanthropy a bigger part of my professional role. By 2026, I hope to focus 70% of my work day on the business and the remaining 30% on charitable endeavors.