Class Of '98

Alumnus/age: Michael Cohen, 23

Company/description: The Magma Group Inc., a national marketing firm in Boston

Education: Business bachelor's with an entrepreneurial concentration from Boston University School of Management

Background: "I have a very negative attitude toward my schooling," Michael Cohen freely admits. "I felt as though I took a lot of classes that didn't teach me much. The business world is very different than the textbook model."

Yes, we're back in Boston. And yes, it was just last month that we featured Cohen in our "2nd Annual Hot List." He's just that good. The only undergraduate of our group, he started his business early (in 1996) with '97 Boston grad Matt Britton, 25, two years before graduating from college.

But it wasn't long until "school became an appointment," says Cohen, who listened incredulously to the off-track lectures and then went out and did the real thing.

That "real thing" was a marketing firm focused on allowing Internet companies to reach American college students. Cohen and Britton now have 12 full-time staffers, 6,000 campus reps, and clients that include eBay, MyPoints.com and Websteaks.com. Sales topped $1 million in 1999 and are projected at more than $2.5 million this year.

What the entrepreneurial program was right on the money about: "I think they were totally right in concepts-they have the philosophical part down."

What it couldn't teach him: "They were wrong in the daily operations. They didn't discuss the pitfalls. Professors forget to tell you what to do when the bills come and you have to somehow find money to pay the rent."

How his peers are doing: Cohen isn't certain. "One of my negative pitfalls is that I was so focused on building this company that, during my senior year, I really didn't know anybody anymore. When that bell rang, I hopped into my car and left."

Is he glad he went? Cohen dodges the question. "The school was helpful because you get a general knowledge of the business world."

But he doesn't dodge the question of whether he's glad he's an entrepreneur. "It takes the right person to do this," says Cohen. "It's been the most rewarding experience of my life. So far. Being only 23, I probably have many more rewarding experiences ahead. But it's great to wake up in the morning and look forward to my day. This isn't a job; it's a lifestyle."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Class Of '98.

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