Andy Monfried was on vacation in Israel when he had what he described as the "seminal" moment in his career.
He and his wife were in Jerusalem when the restaurant they were eating in became the target of two Hamas suicide bombers. The couple were among the few survivors of the attack, shielded from the explosion by an interior wooden column while dozens outside, children included, were killed.
Their survival was pure chance — it was the first time during their trip that they had decided to sit inside — and, for Monfried, it was the catalyst that led him to found his multi-million dollar business.
"That day changed the trajectory of my life," Monfried told CNBC Make It.
"I knew I was going to change everything from that point. The only thing I knew I was going to keep in my life was my wife. We were not letting two Hamas suicide bombers derail our lives."
Up until then, Monfried had been doing well, working as an executive at a legal photocopying business. But, returning home to the U.S., he decided to quit his job and reassess.
"Coming back and realizing that we weren't suppose to be alive got me taking more risks in business," said Monfried. "I'm not trying to be some martyr; I say that it caused me to take more risks because I feel like someone handed me a lot of chips."
Monfried spent six months "decompressing," as he put it, before embarking on a new career.
He first joined Baltimore-based online advertising company Advertising.com, where he built the New York office from scratch and generated $100 million in revenue in four years. Then, when the business was sold to AOL, he decided to use his new-found expertise to move beyond the "cutting edge" to what he called the "bleeding edge" of customer data.
In 2006, he went it alone and launched Lotame, a data management platform that helps advertisers, marketers and publishers better target their customers.
Twelve years on, Lotame (a combination of locate, target and message) is a global company valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Monfried said he expects it to reach the $1 billion mark in the next three years, as more businesses begin to see the value of customer data.
Despite the success, he says he still draws on that "seminal" moment of 20 years ago.
"There isn't a day that goes by in my life that I'm not reminded of that day," Monfried said.
"I was too focused on minutiae before. I shed those concerns and focused on the things that I knew were going to have an impact on my future," he added.
Monfried said he now takes time to meditate, which helps him gain perspective and build better bonds with customers, shareholders and employees.
"I still have good days and bad days," he noted, "but I see every day as a gift."
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