John Koenig – Gen Y Business & Social Entrepreneur

John Koenig is an experienced digital marketing consultant, specializing in search engine marketing, social media, web analytics and usability. He has worked in-house at both search marketing and interactive agencies, on the client side, and as a freelance consultant for a number of clients including multiple Fortune 1000 clients.

John is a graduate of the Lundquist School of Business at the University of Oregon.

He is heavily involved with multiple ocean advocacy non-profits; currently holding the Vice Chair position for the Portland Chapter of Surfrider Foundation. Among many of their initiatives, John Koenig is active in Portland Surfrider’s campaign to ban single-use plastics in Portland, OR.

John also helped co-found and launch the non-profit, Warm Current. Founded in 2008, Warm Current supplies impoverished locations and communities around the world with ocean sports gear. They work to promote ocean environmental awareness and economic development through the gift of surfing. Warm Current currently operates out of Portland, OR with partnerships and reach in Mexico, Chile, Peru and Morocco.

John’s an avid surfer and spends much of his time on the north Oregon Coast. When there’s no surf, John can be found in his Portland surf shop shaping surfboards for friends, family and the occasional client.

What are you working on right now?

Among the many irons I have in the fire right now, I’m working to build and manage the growing SwellPath team. Our team here is everything and it’s an ongoing job to be recruiting the right people professionally and culturally as we continue to grow.

Warm Current is also gaining a lot of momentum and we’re continually looking to add new partners locally and abroad.

3 Trends that excite you?

1. A Gen Y-driven workplace

Business is changing more drastically than ever before. Our generation (Gen Y) is just getting started. We’re about 5 or so years into the workforce and making a big stir. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2009 has seen the greatest increase in startups. We’re ambitions, social and itching to make an impact. This is less a trend and more a fundamental change.

2. Authenticity in marketing

Authenticity is being forced. Marketing used to be about one-way talking; of course now people can’t be forced to listen. Social mediums and apps are forcing brands to give up power and actually engage with their audience. It’s just the start and I see it infiltrating all areas of an organization and challenging antiquated approaches to marketing and advertising.

3. Cloud computing

Cloud computing has been a key trend over the last couple of years. From an end user perspective, on-demand access is key. I can get access to my data/profile from anywhere at anytime on any device. My browser is my desktop. For IT, there are other benefits of the cloud such as significantly reduced IT and energy costs through usage metering and scalability.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It’s all about execution with a little bit of planning. Sounds cliché but it’s true. Most ideas/organizations/businesses fail because of a lack of a clear plan, which leads to lack of execution.

Ideas are a dime a dozen; execution is everything. A lot of people would argue that not everyone has brilliant ideas, which is absolutely true. However, I come from the mindset that anything is possible; the only variance to success is the ability to recognize the amount of effort and reward of pursuing one idea over another.

What is one mistake that you made, and what did you learn from it?

I’ve made the mistake of continuing on projects regardless. There’s a lot of value in knowing when something isn’t going to succeed and walking away from it at that point. You have to fail to succeed and it only makes you wiser. I’m constantly working on different ideas and projects, not all of them get past a certain point though and I’ve learned when to walk away.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

In a more general sense, I’ll give some advice that I always practice – treat everyone with respect. It seems simple but when you start to grow and time is no longer a commodity, you’ll have to prioritize. Give the Fortune 500 CEO the same amount of time and energy as the bootstrapped startup entrepreneur. That’s a very difficult thing to do but everyone starts somewhere.

That’s obviously not the only reason to treat people with respect, but from a business standpoint the world is small and connected so the person you blew off yesterday could be that CEO tomorrow.

How do you balance your social and business projects?

I don’t necessarily see the two conflicting with each other but rather bleeding together. Of course it’s all about prioritizing my time between SwellPath, Surfrider and Warm Current.

Non-profit work is reflected in our approach at SwellPath, we have programs in place to give back to the community through monetary donations and services. We provide pro-bono work and support to organizations such as the United Way and Schoolhouse Supplies.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the work and the ability to have a voice and impact on other’s ideas. We have great clients and an amazing team at SwellPath. I love coming to work everyday, collaborating with the team and challenging the old approach.


SwellPath Interactive: – @swellpath

Warm Current – – @awarmcurrent

John Koenig Personal – – @johnpkoenig