[quote style=”boxed”]Inundate your mind with information. Read everything.[/quote]
In an article for TexasEnterprise.org, Brandon Chicotsky wrote about his American generation raised with the Internet as “digital natives.” At age 27, Chicotsky has immersed himself in the online space and managed cash-positive startups. One such startup included a training center that contracted gaming professionals and statisticians to teach their winning methodology at an interactive facility. Clientele included Major League Baseball Cy Young winner and ESPN commentator Orel Hershiser. Chicotsky also specializes in innovative, animate social marketing as seen with BaldLogo.com.
As a digital strategist, Chicotsky offers HTML5 Web design services, company animation video pitches and content writing. Other projects about which he’s passionate are ReaderGhost.com and WriterGhost.com, which offer professional reading summary and writing services.
His professional service offerings also include social media management and digital strategy consulting via OnCallSocialMedia.com an enterprise spawned from graduate school. In May 2012, Chicotsky completed a Masters of Science in Management from New York University, finished #1 in his graduate class and received the Academic Excellency Award from NYU’s Department of Technology Management. He pursued concentrations in entrepreneurial business and technology management. He also earned a Bachelors of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and Government from The University of Texas at Austin and participated in three study abroad programs (Guanajuato, Mexico; Jersualem, Israel and La Milpa, Belize).
In 2007, Chicotsky assembled a portfolio of startups at his alma mater which raised series-A funds. Portfolio members included Ron-Conway-backed Rally.org. While attending NYU, Chicotsky worked with a motivated team to raise series-A funds for a breakthrough iPhone keyboard, “Spike,” by SoloMatrix Inc. Before building entrepreneurial communities and facilitating investment deal flow, Chicotsky served as President of Austin’s largest political party charter organization and worked for two years in policy advocacy and fundraising with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
In earlier years, Chicotsky co-founded and drummed for four years in acclaimed pop/rock band Green River Ordinance, which toured with Bon Jovi and the Goo Goo Dolls, placed three top 40 hits on the Adult Contemporary Charts, a top 10 hit on the Texas Country Charts and had a video on V1. Chicotsky continues to enjoy the arts and offers an avenue for drummers to teach at DrumsTraining.com.
Equipped with a love for people and trained in public speaking and writing, Chicotsky offers skill sets that span market analysis to digital strategy and marketing. He currently lives in Austin, Texas and is an active member of the sustainable cooperative living community.
What are you working on right now?
Bald Logo. Purchase ad space on a bald head!
Nearly all waking hours outside of exercise, networking and occasional music are spent building new enterprises. One such enterprise includes Bald Logo. Hire a bald promoter to pound the pavement and promote your brand!
Bald Logo is an endeavor that engages in what I’ve termed “animate social marketing.” This is when a social behavior or advertising antic is out of context to the point where it demands attention. It’s an extremely cost-effective strategy for increasing brand exposure, demographic targeting and amplifying a message online (as many people take pictures and follow hashtags posted on bald heads).
Where did the idea for Bald Logo come from?
While a graduate student at NYU, the time came to retire my brown, wavy hair (family genes kicked in). I was a considerably young person to have a glistening bald head. Nearly everyone with whom I spoke would take a quick gander at the hairless platform above my eyes. It made me wonder, “This amount of attention constitutes a canvas or a billboard.” Thus, the idea to sell ad space on a bald head was born.
Furthermore, my course curriculum and research demanded constant data gathering. As I became more adept at statistician methods, I realized “animate social marketing” had little data around it. This meant Bald Logo could gather objective data like the number of people who tweet a hashtag on my head. Such data would offer field-tested results and prove cost effectiveness.
More subjective data, like surveying people who claim to have noticed my head, could also be gathered. This data would help companies qualify to their accounting departments why investing in “animate social marketing” is more cost-effective than above-the-line, dinosaur advertising.
It turns out 40% of men are balding after age 25, and many of them network aggressively like me. We involve ourselves in environments full of people with strong purchase power. This is an opportunity for a company to capitalize on our social behavior. Also, people like me are trained to promote and sell. We can be dispatched strategically at events and areas with high foot traffic.
As Bald Logo began collecting data from our activities in public, we also began studying open source data like consumer purchase trends and high density foot traffic zones. Naturally, we have focused many of our promotion efforts around these areas to offer strong value to our clients who purchase advertising space on bald heads.
What does your typical day look like?
I live in a dynamic cooperative in Austin, Texas that houses 100 people. We do our own cooking, cleaning and maintenance work. We also all share equity in the property, which creates a joint vested interest. Residents are typically college students or young professionals, all of whom have been voted in by their co-owners (housemates). Housemates celebrate the arts and appreciate innovation. My housemates are my bald allies.
Every day, I wake up as early as my body allows and head down to our industrial-sized kitchen. No matter the time of day, a group of our residents are cooking together and preparing a meal. We greet each other, share updates on the news and the latest community happenings. Then, we indulge in local produce and get fired up for the day.
My next move is to barrel into emails, set my schedule (an ongoing process) and then execute with gusto. Lunch hours are filled with networking sessions defined by business development, sales or entrepreneurial powwows. This is also my favorite time to engage mentors.
The afternoons are chalk full of amplifying my company brands online, servicing clients or managing company logistics (contracts, accounting or other important tasks).
Dinners are my favorite part of the day. My cooperative spends four hours (two shifts involving eight people) to cook wonderfully rich meals served at 6:00 p.m. Nearly all of the housemates gather to enjoy the home festivities as a large, eclectic family.
Afterwards, I may choose to attend an Austin festival gathering (I love gatherings like farmer’s markets, sporting events, outdoor theater, conferences or interactive festivals). Or, I’ll retreat back to my office in the cooperative and chip away at a book draft about “animate social marketing.”
Late evenings are spent on the phone with my best friend, my brother. We’ll brainstorm ways to improve the business, refine my models and leverage technology to save costs. The final part of my day involves checking my hometown sports team highlights and reading tech blogs. These indulgences may last into the morning, admittedly.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Creative visualization + reference knowledge + cost analysis + engaged mentors + good time management + brute force = ideas coming to life.
My secret weapon: the ability to work effectively with minimal rest. I sleep less than anyone I know, and I enjoy the thrill of long hour grinds. I love working, building and inching closer to success. I’m addicted to the pursuit of happiness, and in turn, it makes me happy, if not outright jovial.
The ability to work for longer stretches than others without sleep is a “ninja skill” I refined in graduate school. I averaged five or six nights of sleep for each week while immersed in academia.
My entire family sleeps less than most, so it’s likely a hereditary and premeditated ability that I’m exercising. We’re also a family of athletes, so our energy level is sometimes obnoxiously higher than most. Combine high energy levels, the ability to stay up for long hours, thrill in working and passion for building a company, and ideas come to life.
There’s also one more important quality that enables ideas to move out of the gate for me: passion. I discuss, talk, share and express my business ideas and latest progress every day to whoever is willing to listen (as long as it doesn’t hinder growth, incriminate, implicate or infringe).
Living and working passionately has attracted a strong cadre of believers, ready supporters and enablers. As long as there are passionate early adopters and influencers, the likelihood for business growth increases.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Collaborative consumption. The market is becoming more social, engaged and interdependent, especially online. We are leveraging our collective resources to work more responsibility. We’re utilizing technology to make life more intuitive. Also, we’re still respecting the profit-driven model that has made America successful.
We continue to value time and resources, but we’re doing so with a conscience and renewed efficiency. Collaborative consumption, as Rachel Botsman has detailed in her many writings, is smart business. In 2011, Ron Conway even described the movement as a “mega trend.”
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
Selling office supplies to retail stores. I learned the meaning of growth from pure pain. I wore a suit in 100 degree weather, sold people items they barely needed and went into the trenches of quick rapport-building. I heard the word “no” every half hour and had to barrel through it with wit, energy and freshly studied sales rhetoric. This was the most difficult and intense learning exercise I’ve ever experienced.
Looking back 10 years later, I still rely on the lessons learned and trials endured from my short tenure in “hand-to-hand sales combat.” I was good at that job, too. Damn good.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’m assuming this question speaks to my entire entrepreneurial career. I would have continued my first business with my brother from age 11 (he was 16), a mowing service. My brother sold the business and partially paid for his undergraduate degree in cash, which is a testament to his hard work at a young age. Today, I’m convinced we would have controlled the majority of the market share in the southern U.S.
My brother also went on to graduate school and eventually became the #1 ranked online poker player in the world, winning Bluff Magazine’s 2008 Player of the Year, among other awards.
His success never surprises me. Our sister also shares our drive. She’s currently a Fox News legal commentator and a criminal defense lawyer in Miami. I enjoy seeing her battle Nancy Grace and other overzealous talking heads. It reminds me of arguing as kids with my brother and brings a smile of pride. The three of us have big plans for our respective careers and are tightly bound in the effort.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Inundate your mind with information. Read everything.
I used to discriminate against fiction and other seemingly non-applicable subjects to my business. Then I learned any new image, new thought or new perspective can generate ideas and spur creativity. In my cooperative, we have a library where I spend time reading through classic comedies. I stay up late reading tech news, world news and watching TED Talks. I drive with audio books and keep several books by my bed stands. I read on my iPhone, iPad and laptop. I’m an Internet enthusiast and expose myself to live and archived lectures whenever possible. I also live nearby my alma mater, The University of Texas, and audit open classes whenever possible.
I love data and encourage others to embrace it as well. Get to know how data can improve your life. Doing so is called “life hacking.” This is when you leverage technology or data to better understand the systems around you so you can save time, save money and increase productivity. “Life hacking,” can free up time to explore the arts and broaden your perspective.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I ran a training center with my brother in Vegas that taught Texas Hold ‘Em. Our clients depended on online poker sites to provide them an avenue to use their training and increase their profits. We grossed roughly $250,000 in profit our first fiscal year and were set for more growth. Then, the U.S. Department of Justice shut down the American poker sites, essentially wiping out our client base. We had to shut the business down.
My next move was to take my story to academia and make the case to further my education. Several months later, I enrolled in a Masters program at NYU that focused on technology management and project management in entrepreneurship. I finished ranked #1 in my graduate class.
I made the decision after school to go right back into entrepreneurship and move to my favorite city, Austin. To the dismay of my loving parents, I turned down lucrative offers to stay in the northeast. While startups involve early pain, the long run bodes well for success.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If you can write the software restrictions to data mine consumer public source data, aggregate this information and then enable information extraction based on menu selections, you could possibly predict market trends, consumer behavior and political sentiments.
Data on personal lives is more plentiful than ever before. I know of several companies attempting to aggregate this data for such analysis and extraction. If you can beat them to it, more power to you. Data does not lie, though there is variance, so I’m curious as to how accurate such interpretations will become.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Plug everyone into the Internet and teach them computer literacy. I would eradicate Internet blackouts due to lack of equipment and nourishment. This would involve improving their physical, nutritional and educational environment, of course.
As an Internet enthusiast, it would ultimately serve to increase the Internet ecosystem. The more people who freely search for information, share ideas and build enterprise, the more innovation will be generated. This will benefit the world drastically. Measures to protect Internet freedom and civil liberties online are important as well. Doing so makes such a fantasy a bit more realistic.
Tell us a secret.
I founded a rock band in high school that went on to tour with Bon Jovi, the Goo Goo Dolls, two American Idol Winners, placed three songs on the top 40 Adult Contemporary Pop Charts and a top 10 single on the Texas Country Charts. They’re still rockin’. Check out: GreenRiverOrdinance.com
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
1. Wix.com – I use them for nearly all of my Web design needs. This is a drag and drop system that enables quick and slick Web design. Their platform is intuitive and operates in HTML5, which is layered coding that’s compatible with nearly all systems, including mobile. They even offer social media apps and mobile landing pages. I’ve never had a server issue, loading issue or crashing issue. The support team is great, the features are outstanding and design quality is top notch. I’ve had professional coders look at my work using the Wix system and give a “thumbs up.” That should be enough to compel startup engineers like me to utilize this system. For market testing and customer validating, launching a website is often critical. Wix offers a way to do that cheaply, efficiently and effectively. They have SEO tools built in place as well, which saves tons of coding expense.
2. reddit – This is my home base for the Internet. If you enjoy StumbleUpon or other inspirational and customized Internet layered sites, Reddit is the absolute best. The self-proclaimed title, “Front page of the Internet,” has merit. Their user base of forum users (or karma seekers) is in the millions, and they are quick to post breaking news and provide extensive commentary. The information and chatter on the site is raw and totally user-driven. I’ve learned more from sub-reddits than any other news source available on the web.
3. TED – As much as I enjoy reading, especially digitally, I’m a strong auditory learner. This is one reason why I’ll never leave academia. Lectures are exciting to me, and TED offers the best ideas in an outstanding format. Every day, I’m thankful TED offers their lectures online for free, because nearly every day I listen to a lecture and have a “wow” moment.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Your family’s memoir. If you don’t have one, begin writing one, to honor your family helps one live with purpose and consequence. When I think about my family surviving systematic murder and persevering amidst a worldly storm of anti-Semitism, I’m inspired and humbled. This attitude manifests into a strong work ethic, dedication to helping others and a vision for what I’m destined to become.
There’s a reason why I spent two years working for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. I sacrificed the early part of my young professionalism to begin paying a debt of gratitude. I have much more work to do, and it’ll be accomplished through philanthropy and community involvement.
Understanding our identity with insight into traditions, heritage and ancestral narratives provides a sense of self-worth and inspiration. Those who understand their history are visionaries into the future. They know where to honor good ethics and motivate others around them.
Leaders are often born, but most are nurtured. This is why family is critical in developing our abilities. Learning from their lessons, their stories and their triumphs is an empowering process. To build future success, we must understand our roots. Memoirs are good catalysts for this. If none exist, compile as many stories from the past as possible that are relevant to your family and do the good deed to build it.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. Gary Vaynerchuk – One of the few bona fide entrepreneurs with serious cash under his belt who engages his entire reader base by responding directly.
2. Guy Kawasaki – I can’t help but get nostalgic about the first books that taught me the “Art of the Start.”
3. Mark Cuban – There are few entrepreneurs who can afford to be wrong as often as Mark. He manages to stay profitable, amplified and happy. A worthwhile study.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I belly laugh every day because I’m around so many interesting and dynamic people at my cooperative. This weekend brought a notable instance. I made a quick trip to the Wine and Music Festival in Kirville, Texas. One of the folk singers spent a few minutes quoting Texas Jewish writer and musician Kinky Friedman. Any quips written by that man usually have me belly laughing.
Who is your hero?
My great grandfather. The man was forced to fight in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905—he survived. He endured a pogrom in his hometown in Poland—again, he survived. He was forced to leave his village only to later read about Nazis killing his family—he persevered. He immigrated to the U.S. with almost no money—he aspired. He worked in the slaughter houses of “Cowtown” (Ft. Worth, Texas) best described by Upton Sinclair—again, he persevered. He later opened a grocery store specializing in fine cut meats and catered to underrepresented community members of Ft. Worth, Texas—he prospered.
Today, my family operates Chicotsky’s Shopping Center, which is a direct descendent of my great grandfather’s hard work, perseverance and brilliance. In my family, there is a hero. His name is Morris J. Chicotsky.
You mentioned that you’re working on more than one project. What are the others?
I’m currently building several endeavors, all of which are cash-positive:
ReaderGhost.com – Submit any reading material, and a reader ghost will provide you a 15-minute summary via video chat or phone.
WriterGhost.com – Providing confidential writing services ranging from books to blogs. Authorship rights become all yours!
BaldLogo.com – Purchase ad space on a bald head! Our bald promoters will pound the pavement and promote your brand.
OnCallSocialMedia.com – Offering social media management, Web design, animated video marketing, content writing and online brand management.
DrumsTraining.com – Offering drums coaching, tutorials and lessons in the Austin area.
What do wish existed today that doesn’t?
I long to see projects like UpStart.com get out of beta stage and begin nurturing an active, committed community. Life enablers like UpStart could open up hundreds of hours a month that are typically dedicated to drudging through client services and part-time consulting.
UpStart aims to raise investment capital for “life earners” rather than business earners. This means the investment goes toward the entrepreneur directly, whereby dividends are paid from personal earnings at a later date. Such an investment can enable entrepreneurs engaged in startups to invest 100% of their working hours into their endeavors.
Brandon Chicotsky on Twitter: @chicotsky
Brandon Chicotsky’s Website: Chicotsky.com (The best place to message him, ping him or connect online on any social platform.)
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.