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Entrepreneur's Exit Interview

National Tech

Vocus founder Rick Rudman officially quit his job Monday, just three days after selling his marketing software firm to GTCR for nearly $450M. He’s now eyeing his next move, which could be anything from starting a new tech firm to launching an East Coast version of Y Combinator. 


Rick, a Silver Spring, Md., native and father of four, says he’s also interested in eye beacon technology, or there could be a taco shop in his future. He’s not ruling anything out, and he’s in no hurry to start anything new. (We hear the wife has a list of places to visit.) For now he’s shying away from venture capital and angel investing and he describes himself as too impatient to serve on tech boards. He did spend about an hour reflecting on launching Vocus 22 years ago at CONNECTpreneur yesterday morning in Tysons. The quarterly networking event is organized by Tech 2000 CEO Tien Wong.


He started Beltsville, Md.-based Vocus after a 4-year Air Force career and studies at the University of Maryland. His career started as an accountant but it was the mid '80s and tech lured him. He and a friend, whose father loaned them $32k, developed grassroots advocacy software. It eventually added the PR piece to automate the process by which companies monitor what’s being said about them and their competitors in the press and to connect them with reporters. Over time Vocus raised $30M in venture capital, went public in 2005, and grew to $186.9M in revenue last year and 16,000 subscribers. The company is now private and merging with Cision as part of the GTCR transaction. 


So why leave? Rick, here with Tien, says he’s more interested in growth and not focusing on a 5-year cost-cutting strategy. Plus a company can’t have two CEOs or two CFOs. He says the future of the PR and digital marketing industry is stable and the concept of interacting with the press and the public won’t go away. Rick's also not ruling out doing something philanthropic. He spent time in Malawi with Water for People, using mobile devices to map clean water sources. (If Malawi was on his wife's Places to Visit list, he could've killed two birds with one stone.) But he’s still an entrepreneur at heart, so a philanthropic journey would likely involve him launching and running that venture.