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Marchex President: Innovate and Iterate, But Don’t Hesitate

by Pete Christothoulou | January 30, 2014

By Pete Christothoulou, President  

Welcome back to our blog. We’ve been in “Beast Mode” around here lately, and that’s not just a reference to the Seahawks. (But while we’re at it – Go Hawks!!)

What I love about this company is the entrepreneurial spirit we share. We work together to innovate and solve major business problems for our clients.  Our clients trust us, deeply, to drive value and new business to them. They look to us to help them leverage mobile as a transformative customer acquisition medium. And most important, they look to us to bridge online marketing and offline transactions.

This is because the mobile advertising landscape is changing right now, right in front of us, at a faster pace than ever before.  Businesses are scrambling to re-imagine how to connect with their mobile customers in meaningful ways that generate positive outcomes. Today, technology not only facilitates closer connections between advertisers and consumers, but it also measures these interactions and provides insights advertisers have never had access to in the past.

Since 2009, as mobile adoption jumped off, we’ve believed that phone calls were – and will continue to be – the ultimate human connector for businesses. This becomes clearer to us every year.

Others might doubt the medium of phone calls as a conversion clincher. They might choose to wait and see how the industry unfolds.  That’s OK. New technologies often prompt reflexive – and dismissive – reactions.


I saw a great post earlier this month from Ben Horowitz, co-founder and partner of the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.  It reminded me of our journey here.  He highlighted how it feels like there’s “a movement to replace today’s startup culture of hope and curiosity with one of smug superiority.”

The point of his post is really about how people typically dismiss new, innovative ideas because they can’t look past how the world operates in its current state.  He brings up an epically bad business decision we can all smile about now. In the 1870s, Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell his invention and patents to Western Union, the leading telegraph provider, for $100,000. Western Union declined, based on a report from its internal committee.  These are excerpts of that report:

“The Telephone purports to transmit the speaking voice over telegraph wires. We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles. “Messer Hubbard and Bell want to install one of their “telephone devices” in every city. The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?“The electricians of our company have developed all the significant improvements in the telegraph art to date, and we see no reason why a group of outsiders, with extravagant and impractical ideas, should be entertained, when they have not the slightest idea of the true problems involved. Mr. G.G. Hubbard’s fanciful predictions, while they sound rosy, are based on wild-eyed imagination and lack of understanding of the technical and economic facts of the situation, and a posture of ignoring the obvious limitations of his device, which is hardly more than a toy…“In view of these facts, we feel that Mr. G.G. Hubbard’s request for $100,000 of the sale of this patent is utterly unreasonable, since this device is inherently of no use to us. We do not recommend its purchase.”


In 2009, I remember the first week we did $5,000 in Call-Driven revenue with one client and drove a good amount of new business their way.

During our last publicly announced quarter (Q3 2013), we generated client conversion rates of more than 25% for certain national Pay-For-Call clients. That same quarter, we also generated more than $35 million in Call-Driven revenue.

We’re busy imagining what we can do five years from now.

One response to “Marchex President: Innovate and Iterate, But Don’t Hesitate”

  1. Betting on ads in mobile devices will be a great battle.

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