Former Baruch Grads share their advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Ben Guttman begins his daily routine of sending emails, writing proposals and contracts, working with developers, managing his partners and interns, and working on his own marketing materials and strategy. All of this makes up a typical day’s work for Guttman, who is the lead designer of his self- run education technology company Digital Natives Group.
Guttman, a recent graduate of Baruch College of the City University of New York, says, “I knew immediately that there was no way I was going to work for anyone but himself.” He soon put a plan in motion to begin supporting himself as an entrepreneur, a plan that is proving to be worthwhile.
Guttman’s last year at Baruch College consisted of him working at the City University of New York Graduate Center part time as an administrative assistant while also being an active member of the school community. His time spent doing this made him decide to take a different route than most of his friends and peers by forgoing the job search after college altogether.
Guttman acknowledges that the job search can be rewarding to those whose goals are to seek employment, but for him entrepreneurship is the way to go in which he shares his story and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Guttman, 23, and his partners incorporated Digital Natives Group in September 2011 and a year later they have begun to see a return on their investment. The company has created a communications platform, Ringo, designed to make it easier for students to find student life and updated school information online. Digital Natives Group has also created a mobile app geared towards this same concept called Whisper. Each of these platforms has made it easier for students to communicate about school events.
Guttman, the CEO and Chief Operating Officer Vladimir Lackovic were inspired to launch the communications platform during their days as leading members of Baruch College’s Undergraduate Student Government. Guttman, a Baruch graduate with a degree in marketing, and Lackovic, a Baruch graduate with a management and entrepreneurship degree, saw the need for easier communication channels amongst Baruch clubs. Out of this void Digital Natives Group was born. “We saw the need in the market being students and involved student,” Guttman said.
Shortly after graduating from Baruch in June 2011, Ben united with high school buddies Jonathan Jacobs and John Botte to start the company. Jacobs a marketing grad from Georgetown and Botte an Information Technology grad from Bryant University added to the completion of Guttman’s vision by taking on the roles of Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Technology Officer.
Together the group focused on education technology specifically education communication technology. The goal of the group is to conquer student and institutional contact outside of the classroom. Specifically, the group designed a social networking site exclusively for communicating school information such as school closure for a snow day or allowing student organizations to post information such as upcoming events.
Digital Natives Group has since been employed by several high schools and colleges in the New York state. Guttman’s alma maters Smithsonian High School and Baruch College have implemented his student life network.
Guttman and his team are directly responsible for Baruch’s “Baruch Connect” which currently allows all student clubs to bond on one website. This ploy works as an ode to Guttman and Lackovic’s years as student leaders helping current students network and further brand themselves.
The company’s youthfully sharp understanding of the internet and strong marketing background has also lent itself to the development of another enterprise that being branding consulting. The specific purpose of this leg of the business involves helping other businesses establish a strong web presence and brand presence in general. Guttman says, “We have a range of clients form a small business such as a bakery all the way up to a Fortune 500 company”.
Guttman and his team began Digital Natives Group with relatively small start up cost. Guttman said, “Altogether we spent around $3,000 because of the low overhead fees that being acquiring a domain name which only about $10.” He said the other expenses were small including getting businesses cards and a logo. The biggest expense overall was the acquisition of their office space which is currently located in Long Island City, New York.
The low marginal start up cost has proven itself as a major asset allowing Digital Natives Group to recoup its initial investment in a few short months. Since its opening in September of 2011, the company has grown seeing on average 10-20 clients per month. “The only real challenges we have to deal with are the challenges that come with expansion,” Guttman optimistically says.
Ben Guttman and Vladimir Lackovic both 23 years old are proof that age is nothing but a number. Guttman’s advice to aspiring entrepreneur is, “remove the aspiring from the sentence and just do it. Ideas are a dime a dozen, unless you go out and do it so what.