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Ken Burke, founder and CEO of The EntrepreneurNOW! Network, is a speaker, serial entrepreneur, mentor, and author. Ken founded MarketLive, a market-leading, enterprise class eCommerce software platform used by major merchants generating $2b in online sales through the platform. He sold MarketLive to Vista Equity Partners in 2016. Ken authored the book, “Intelligent Selling: The Art and Science of Selling Online,” as well as hundreds of industry articles. He earned his MBA in Entrepreneurship from the USC Marshall School of Business, which later awarded him the honor of Entrepreneur of the Year.
Since the age of 10, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I remember my dad wanted to purchase a hardware store in Mill Valley California. While he never actually went through with the transaction, from that day forward I had the entrepreneurial bug. There was really nothing else I wanted to do. A “normal” job working for someone else just never made sense to me. I reflect back on it and I think it was my insane drive to grow something out of nothing. I have been obsessed with this idea of growth ever since I was a kid.
My entrepreneurial venture all started at the age of 12 where I started delivering papers (back in the day when kids actually did things like this). I started with one route and by the time I was 16 had four routes and one employee who helped me.
Getting into USC (University of Southern California) was probably one of the biggest moments of my life at the time. While I worked very hard in school, I had ADHD and dyslexia so it was not always easy for me to get through the material. To this day, I unable to actually read out loud. My brain just does not work the same way as most people. In spite of that, I was able to graduate with an understand degree in business and an MBA from USC in Entrepreneurship. And somehow, I did alright graduating Magna Cum Laude. Who would have guessed it?
When I got out of school, all I wanted to do is start a company. I knew it would be related to technology in some way because I was kind of geeky that way. Right out after graduating in 1993, I went to work for an internet company called Z-Code Software which built internet email – the killer app of the day. Now in 1993, there were not very many internet companies and the first browser called Mosaic had just came out. After I year as the marketing manager at this tech startup, I knew what I wanted to do. And from that Multimedia Live was born (the first name of my company).
Not exactly sure what to build yet, I had an idea I wanted to build websites so I went to the very first trade show for the Internet industry called Internet World in San Jose. After seeing there were a total of 4 other companies that also built websites at the show, I was horrified that my idea was too late. Well thank goodness it was not.
At the second Internet World show, while teaching attendees what the internet was, I ran into two people that changes the course of my business life forever. They wanted to build the largest e-commerce site in the world and they hired me to do it. From that I developed my own e-commerce platform and started selling it to catalogs and direct marketers as an order taking tool. No one ever conceived of the fast that you could actually sell products on the Internet (but we did). And MarketLive was born.
MarketLive grew from just a few hundred thousand dollars of transactions on a couple of servers sitting in the back room to doing over 2 billion dollars’ worth of transactions for our customers a year. Our clients grew rapidly with some of the biggest names in retail. We became one of the dominant eCommerce software platforms in the industry. I was very fortunate to ride of the growth in eCommerce sales for almost 20 years. And it never stopped growing since our first transaction.
While we had our ups and downs over the years, it was an incredible adventure and thought me so much. I was very fortunate to become a thought leader in the industry writing one of the first books on the topic (Intelligent Selling: The Art and Science of Selling Online), authors thousands of articles, and spoke at almost every industry event for many years. It was a blast.
I ended up selling the company in 2015 to Vista Equity Partners (one of the largest private equity companies in the world). While I was fortunate to exist with some money in my pocket, I was much more fortunate to exit with the knowledge I learned.
Today my passion is working with entrepreneurs to start, run and grow successful businesses. In 2019, I launched the EntreprenuerNOW Network which is an eLearning site for entrepreneurs to smartly grow their businesses. My content is distributed all over the world on sites like LinkedIn Learning, Forbes and many others.
Since my journey began, I have a student of life (sounds funny doesn’t it). I have been obsessed with figuring out how to be successful. Initially I thought it came from working hard and making lots of money. I could not have been more wrong. Through reading hundreds of books, attending many workshops and just contemplating what it means to be successful, I stumbled on my version of what it means to have a successful life. Born out of all my challenges and struggles and an entrepreneur, I wanted to write about all these incredible things I was learning and putting into practice in my business and my own life. So, I started writing and writing and writing. Fun fact is the book, Living Your Extraordinary Life, was written entirely while flying on a plane either to or from a business trip.
Now I get to share these ideas with all the entrepreneurs that I speak with or mentor. Marrying the idea of living an incredible life and what it means to be successful with business and entrepreneurship is what I was meant to do.
Fun Facts About Ken
Every once in a while, I get asked about some fun facts about me. I wanted to share a few with you in case you are interested.
- My goal is to explore the world one country at a time. I absolutely love exploring new places, learning the history and understanding the culture. So far, I am up to 48 countries (and counting).
- People often ask me to name my favorite destinations, but I have to say that I find something amazing about every place I go. But if I am forced to, here are a few highlights:
- Sydney for its natural beauty
- Rio for the crazy (and fun) Brazilian people
- Rome for the incredible history and culture
- London for the vibrancy of the city
- San Francisco because it is my home
- I was a bit of a computer geek while growing up. In addition to owning some of the first personal computer ever made, I still have a first edition (that’s right) a first edition IBM PC with two 5 ¼ floppy drives (they did not have hard drives for the PC just yet).
- I have always wanted to be a radio DJ (ask they called them in my day).
- A dream job for me would be air traffic controller on approach at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Why? Because I love having to think on my feet in real time
- One of the scariest things I have done was flying a plane solo for the first time. My legs were shaking so much was not sure I could control the peddles.
I am very passionate about educating entrepreneurs on how to be successful in business and in life. I wanted to share a few videos that give you a taste of my energized teaching style.
Some Videos of Ken
Financial Planning Clip
Thought Leadership Clip