This interactive promtions entrepreneur was smart enough to see the dotcom crash coming, and by ditching some soon-to-be-gone customers, he stuck around for the long term.
Description: Interactive promotion agency
Founder: Josh Linkner, 34
Location: Farmington Hills, Michigan
2004 projected sales: More than $15.5 million
Get Up and Go: From an initially self-funded startup in 1999, ePrize has blossomed into the world's top interactive promotion agency. The company helps bridge the gap between the offline and online worlds by turning anonymous consumers into permission-based customers, with the lure of fun, interactive web promotions.
Dotcom Crash Course: Whenever you come across a company so strongly connected to the internet, you have to ask how they survived the dark days of the dotcom crash. Josh Linkner saw it coming in mid-2000 and began to shift away from serving the venture-backed (and soon to be extinct) dotcoms that made up most of ePrize's client list. "We had to adapt our complete strategy and company to service the large brands that would be around to pay the bills," explains Linkner.
The Campaign Trail: With more than 900 completed advertising campaigns and a client list that reads like a who's who of large U.S. corporations, ePrize is miles beyond its nearest competitor. The company signed on 17 new major brand accounts, including Circuit City and FedEx, in the first quarter of 2004 alone.
All That Jazz: One word you'll hear a lot from Linkner is creativity. His background as a jazz guitarist, pianist and singer has helped him bring an artistic attitude to his business. "Jazz is [about] a very improvisational, creative-type of environment," he says. "I look at what we're doing as a company much the same way. Instead of notes, you're working with people and technology."
The Future's So Bright: A spirit of innovation and evolution is driving ePrize toward its next goal: $30 million in sales by 2007. But it's not all about the bottom line at this company. Top-notch customer service and quality employees are two principal areas that spark ePrize's engine. Says Linkner, "Some day, a company will come along and put us out of business, so it might as well be us."
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