When Ben Golub joined the contact-management site Plaxo in early 2005, the company had just been through a bit of a rough patch.
Privacy advocates and some bloggers had questioned what the company planned to do with all the data it collected on its members, and other skeptics wondered how it would ever make money.
Golub, whose experience at Internet security firm and domain-name company VeriSign came in very handy at his new gig, helped steady the company and point it toward profitability.
Today, Plaxo is cash-flow positive, Golub told us in this interview. It's also looking to expand its social-networking offerings with a new product, called Pulse, and by signing up as a charter member of Google's Open Social platform.
He also shared some of the lessons he's learned in his more than two years at the helm.
"You quickly realize you can make any business plan work in Excel and any product work well in PowerPoint, but when it comes to the real world, things quickly change," Golub says.
"The question is, do you have a great group of people who work well together and can respond" to everything from changing customer needs to lawsuits.
He also advises that people considering the startup route better "really love" what they're doing, because, "as a startup executive, you're going to be working twice as many hours, with twice as many headaches, for half as much money."
Golub also gave his opinion on how much time private companies should spend focusing on how to take care of their investors, a topic that has generated a lot of discussion on Vator.tv previously.
"If you focus on the exit, you'll never get there," Golub says.