"It's very easy to get distracted by others' success. But the most important thing you can do in those moments is to stay true to your authentic self and keep pushing."
Mike Molinet '07 spent almost a decade pursuing and refining his ultimate vision — the freedom of driving his own destiny. What came along with that was years of garage-living, thousands of hours of thoughtful work and an ardent belief that he had more than just a good idea.
With a degree in mechanical engineering, Molinet began his career at 3M just two days after graduating from Bucknell. He did what any parent wishes for their child: he took the guarantee, the paycheck and the promise of stability. But what he also held onto was his desire to be the master of his story. Throughout the first five years of his professional life, he dabbled in various entrepreneurial endeavors while working full-time. "I realized what I really liked was having my destiny tied to the inputs that I was putting into a business," he says. "I wanted my personal outcome to be tied directly to my inputs."
In an intentional but abrupt shift, he applied and was accepted to Stanford's MBA program. He made new friends in Silicon Valley — ones with a shared mindset — and his journey truly began. Together, they began working on developing a company, yet to be defined. They knew that in order to reach true success, they had to play the long game and continue to refine, rework, research and redevelop.
Now, after 10 years of building Branch Metrics from scratch, Molinet is seeing the long-awaited payout of his work. Branch, a mobile linking platform and measurement tool, ended 2022 with a $4 billion valuation, has 11 international offices, more than 500 employees and a commitment to continued growth that is rivaled only by its commitment to its people.
Molinet returned to campus for Freeman Week 2023, serving as a BizPitch judge, sitting in on classes, and speaking to students at the Business Trends Summit. As the 2023 Walling Lecturer for the Freeman College of Management, Molinet offered advice that can be boiled down into action points that apply both in and out of the entrepreneurial sphere. He leans on a team mentality, centered in surrounding oneself with people who can be uplifting through challenges and offer differing perspectives.
He summarized his life lessons in four simple points — be kind, work hard, take risks and remember that no one has it all figured out.
The Art of the Long Game
Molinet credits his success to playing the long game. When he was faced with watching his fellow Bucknellian classmates find well-deserved, early success, he had to fight a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). "It's very easy to get distracted by others' success," says Molinet. "Like when others were securing great jobs at consulting firms or big tech companies, and I was sleeping on couches. Or when our first startup wasn't working, and we couldn't figure out why. You start to doubt yourself. But the most important thing you can do in those moments is to stay true to your authentic self and keep pushing."
Successful entrepreneurship, Molinet says, is a combination of patience and grit. Instead of waiting for the right opportunity, he encourages hopeful founders to jump in headfirst with a focus on learning and iterating quickly. "Branch wasn't our first company," he says. "It was our third attempt. But we never would have come up with Branch in a vacuum or by sitting in a room all day imagining theoretical ideas." Instead, he and his colleagues focused on solving a problem, and their success evolved — from a hardware device to an app and, finally, to what would become Branch Metrics.
"You can't leapfrog to that innovation or concept — just go start doing something that you care about," Molinet says. "You probably won't get it right or do it well from the beginning. Your first attempt, your first business, your first job in an exciting industry — those are just the starting points. You might be on your seventh idea by the time you find something that works, but you won't get to that seventh idea without going through one through six." He knows that failure — in some form — is a near guarantee when pursuing new ideas.
In the years it took him and his team to develop a successful business, Molinet learned that his worst-case scenarios weren't as bad as he imagined them to be. "Tens of thousands of dollars of debt? Couch surfing for months? Living in a garage for years? I've done it, and I survived," he says. "Was it ideal? No. But I knew that committing to the work to grow what I believed in would more than make up for those less-than-ideal situations. And in today's world, with a great education and easy access to unlimited information, the downside of taking big bets is very small and upside is enormous."
Optimize the upside, and don't let the fear of failure prevent action.
As he moves forward in new ventures, Molinet shares the single most important common thread he has been able to identify in his success: The people he has surrounded himself with. "If you find a good group of people with a growth mindset, similar values and a strong work ethic, you'll continue growing in unbounded ways," he says. "Over time as you build a team, you have to invest back into the people who have followed you. I've found the most success comes from making other people successful — because their wins elevate you with them."