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Finding Entrepreneurial Success | Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

By Nick Price

View the original article in it’s entirety at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Blog

Newhouse students and alumni discuss life in the startup lane

When launching a startup, it’s the sweat that matters the most. “The reality of success in entrepreneurship is: it’s hard work—and knowing that your idea is only one little piece of a recipe,” says Sean Branagan, director of Newhouse’s Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship. “It’s really more about sweat than it is about your idea.”

The “a-ha” moment is more of a “slow burn”—sharing the idea with other people, building on it and putting it in the marketplace where it can be shaped further, says Branagan, who has founded lifestyle businesses, small businesses and high-tech companies. “That’s where the idea turns into something of higher value, and the execution makes it possible.”

Many Newhouse School alumni have had both the idea and the endurance to see it through. For example, Larry Kramer ’72, current publisher of USA TODAY and chair of the Newhouse Advisory Board, pioneered online and interactive information when he founded, and Dennis Crowley ’98 has drawn in millions of users through his location-based social networking site, Foursquare.

At Newhouse, Branagan and other members of the faculty—including the Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair for Journalism Innovation Dan Pacheco, a digital journalist with 18 years of experience in news and information startups—are helping student entrepreneurs build their ideas into reality. Pacheco teaches Creating the Next News Startup and operates Journovation Central, a website covering innovation in journalism.

As part of his work with the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Branagan teaches courses in New Media Entrepreneurship, which helps students launch their businesses by the end of the semester; Trend-Spotting in Digital Media; and three 1-credit introductory courses on entrepreneurial thinking, the five types of startups and Lean Digital Media Startups, focused on high-growth ventures. Branagan also coaches students in pursuing their businesses and connects them with resources on and off campus.

Here, several Newhouse entrepreneurs—both student and alumni—explain the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur and offer some seasoned advice.

Erik Matlick

In the world of Madison Logic’s founder and CEO Erik Matlick ’92, data is king. The Manhattan-based company uses sophisticated data-driven applications to understand consumers’ behavior and help generate sales leads for marketers and advertisers. Madison Logic’s clients run media campaigns—banner ads, text links or email marketing—on the company’s platform and purchase data from the company. Matlick started Madison Logic after launching two other successful startups: IndustryBrains, a site-specific, pay-per-click ad network, and MediaBrains, a buyer’s guide platform for business publishers.

Q: How did you come up with the concept for Madison Logic?
A: After selling IndustryBrains in 2005, I looked at the publishing/media industry, and I discovered that lead generation advertising was a fast-growing component of the media mix. It already made up

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10 percent of the market. However, similar to the display business in the early 90s, there were no industry standards for ad serving—the technology behind the scenes—until DoubleClick paved the way. We saw this as an opportunity to create the industry’s first “ad serving” platform for lead generation. This included serving the ads, inventory management, lead processing, lead delivery and reporting. Today we have 450-plus publishing companies licensing this platform and 600 advertisers purchasing media.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part about following your idea?
A: It’s like watching your child grow up. Every day we learn and grow. We take feedback from the market or ideas from our team and build great innovative products. Coming

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to work every day and collaborating with smart people who are passionate about innovation is a true reward for any entrepreneur. The cherry on top: turning your ideas into profit.

Q: What do you see for the future of the business
and data analysis/lead generation?

A: Data. Specifically, the usage of behavioral intent data for advertising, nurturing and analytics. As an industry, we are still just scratching the surface of our potential. One of the fastest growing segments, marketing automation, has grown from $100 million to almost a billion-dollar industry in just three years. That is proof that marketers want both data and automation to nurture potential customers.

Q: What advice would you give other people who might have an entrepreneurial idea to pursue?
A: I meet with entrepreneurs and invest in startups frequently. One of the biggest mistakes I come across is over-funding a business during the funding stage. Once you accept funding, you have set your business’ valuation. If that valuation is too high and you have raised too much money, you can never go back. This forces too many companies into an exit strategy that they will never achieve. I would always suggest starting with a smaller amount, even if the valuation is lower. This will give you more options when it’s time for a second round of funding or an exit.

Click through to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Blog to read the interview in its entirety.

Nick Price

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