Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas

Best Book I’ve Read This Year:
This Town by Mark Leibovich

Red, White, or Beer?
Summit on tap

Favorite Vacation Destination:
Seaside, Florida

WSJ or NYT?
NYT, but I subscribe to both.

Paul Douglas worked in television for 30 years (locally at KARE and WCCO-TV), all while creating business ventures that advanced his TV career and his business life post-local TV weather.

If you weren’t entrepreneurially minded, what would you be doing now?

I’d probably still be in TV and be quite happy. My problem is I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I was frustrated by the graphics I was using, so I created a company to produce better ones. It took off from there . . .

So where do you see the roots of your entrepreneurialism?

I paid my way through Penn State by providing a network of radio stations with forecasts. I would call into TV stations and brief their non-meteorologists. That led to a fill-in gig in 1979.

You were ousted from WCCO five years ago; the reasoning was you were making too much money for the new reality of TV news. Would you have taken a pay cut?

I was never given that option. I was told we were going over a cliff and [CBS] needed to reduce overhead.

Do a lot of your peers have a similar story?

A lot of 50-somethings in TV weather are in a similar situation. Many are getting out and going into advertising or marketing. But a lot are unemployed.

Why, given your success as a serial entrepreneur, did you keep returning to TV?

It was a safety net. It was a way to guarantee security. And a lot of my TV income I put into these businesses.

Did your notoriety give you a leg up?

In a way, perhaps, but there were long stretches without a paycheck. I took out a second mortgage on my home.

How did you channel your energies after leaving TV?

I was depressed for a year or two. I decided I was done with TV weather, that it was time to figure out a different way forward.

So then how do you go about creating a business?

All my ideas come out of frustration. Digital Cyclone came from receiving hundreds of emails with very specific weather questions for a specific place at a specific time. I thought, why can’t we leverage the Internet to personalize weather?

What about investors? Did anyone get hurt?

People have never lost money investing with me. But there was dilution of ownership. At one point Digital Cyclone went from 55 employees to four.

Do you like raising capital?

It’s one of my least favorite things, but after Earthwatch I had people approaching me. I avoid anyone looking for a quick turnaround. It’s never a straight line.

What are you most excited about now?

Singular Logic. After watching my sixth Cialis commercial in an NFL game I wondered why we can’t choose our advertising like we choose content. We have patents pending. It could be very big, but it’s the biggest wild card in our portfolio.

Any baseline wisdom you’d share with budding entrepreneurs?

You need a business plan, but they are worth the paper they are printed on. Whether you’re able to get from where you thought you had to go to where you need to be is entirely dependent on whether you have great people. None of my businesses ended up where I imagined they’d go, and without great people I’d have never gotten there.

 

PAUL DOUGLAS' STARTUP VENTURES

Total Weather (1978-88)
> Provided forecasts to radio stations, construction companies.

Employees: 3
Investment: Minimal
Return: “I gave it to one of the employees.”

Earthwatch (1989-97) 
> Marketed a 3D weather graphics package for television. First use was by news networks demonstrating military attacks on Iraq. “It was not a great business model. We were selling $25K-30K software packages—but they required expensive dedicated hardware. At least one TV station in most markets wanted a unique look, but that was the limit. And it created a lot of friction for me at KARE.”

Employees: 20
Investment: $500,000
Return: Sold to Kavouras Inc. for $2 million to $3 million (“Biggest investor doubled his money.”)

Digital Cyclone (1998-2007)
> Used a proprietary computer model to generate location-specific forecasts for broad array of consumer and business uses. Licensed to TV stations as MyCast for websites. “We found we couldn’t improve on the Weather Service’s forecasts and we came to market as the tech bubble burst.” Shifted gears to wireless, created a weather app, “got to 85 percent gross margins. . . The model worked and it scaled, but I got paranoid about Apple and Google and we sold.”

Employees: 55
Investment: $10 million raised (103 investors total)
Return: Sold to Garmin Inc. for $45 million

Media Logic (2008-present) 
> Holding company for subsidiary businesses Ham Weather (subscription-based business providing graphics and tools to build websites and forecasts); Alerts Broadcaster (subscription service that briefs corporate clients about upcoming weather hazards and risk mitigation); Smart Energy (provides forecast models so businesses can better manage energy use); Singular Logic (technology that lets consumers choose ads they view over Internet and mobile). Weather Nation is a separate company with Denver-based partners providing weather content for local TV stations’ digital sub-channels (revenue model is ad-based).

Employees: 40+
Investment: $5 million