Experience counts. Jeff Stibel may be just 33, but he had packed in enough leadership roles for a much more senior businessperson before becoming chief executive of Atlanta-based Web.com (WWWW), which provides Web-hosting services to small businesses and consumers. Stibel credits this background with helping him become one of the youngest CEOs of a publicly traded company.
At 26, Stibel was already chairman and CEO of a privately traded search and marketing technology company, Simpli.com, now owned by ValueClick (VCLK). From 2000 to 2005, he held executive positions at United Online (UNTD), which owns ISPs such as NetZero along with such online services as Classmates.com and Freeservers.com. Before that, he went to business school at MIT's Sloan School of Management, pursued a doctorate in brain science at Brown University, and also held roles at Verizon (VZ), a law firm, and a consulting group.
Living to Grow
In other words, he's used to being busy. "I knew that I wanted to build a company," Stibel says. "I wanted to get that technology experience, as well as that business experience, as well as be around people who were exciting and innovative and work toward being the motivating force to drive things forward."
Stibel joined Web.com, then called Interland, in August, 2005. Shares of the stock have more than doubled since then. On Nov. 7, the company reported third-quarter revenue of $12.3 million, its first-ever organic revenue increase, on 11% year-to-date subscriber growth. During the third quarter, Web.com also started to diversify into patent licensing.
Looking ahead, Stibel's goal is for more growth. "I'm incredibly passionate about growth, whether it's individual growth and learning or whether it's company growth," he says. "I always want to be doing something new, exciting, and rewarding, and that speaks both for myself personally and for the company."
Still, Stibel's accelerated experience hasn't come without sacrifices. "I ended up waiting to marry my wife for seven years because I was focused on building my company," he says. The two have also moved back and forth across the country numerous times as Stibel moved from Simpli.com in the East Coast to United Online in California, and back to Atlanta for Web.com. Nevertheless, Stibel says the sacrifices have been worth it, calling his position "a tremendous opportunity."
For aspiring young CEOs, Stibel recommends listening and learning as much as possible. "Soak up as much information as you can," he says. "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and be proud of your mistakes. At the end of the day learning and getting experience and getting advice from others shouldn't be seen as a weakness, it should be seen as a positive. The more that you surround yourself with great people, the better off you'll be for the long term."
Giving back is also important to the Web.com chief. Stibel serves on the board of Brown University's Entrepreneurship Program and Tufts University's Gordon Center for Leadership. He also sits on the boards of about a half-dozen small startups. "I hope to be working for them someday," he quips.
Click here to see the list of 40-and-under CEOs of publicly traded U.S. companies.