Zach Suchin – Co-Founder of Brand Knew

[quote style=”boxed”]There is nothing more important to a concept’s success than the determination of the team working on it.[/quote]

Raised in Los Angeles, California, Zach Suchin worked directly with executive management at Sony, Fox, ICM and The Firm throughout his high school years. During college, Suchin promoted high-profile events for college students, featuring platinum-selling recording artists such as Akon, Ludacris, Outkast and Jeezy.

Suchin was recruited by a Los Angeles startup to run business development. The project hit slow funding. Zach took his increased knowledge and developed College Tonight, which, in its first 12 months, won the Mashable award for Best Event Social Network and was published in Generation MySpace as one of the top 20 social networking sites. College Tonight evolved into, which consisted of a retail outfit, collaborative tools and Greek community features. Suchin raised more than $2 million in capital, taking the company public in late 2007.

This made Suchin the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company in the U.S. The company peaked at a market cap of more than $100 million. Having negotiated an endorsement deal with MTV’s Lauren Conrad, produced a national fashion tour, and generated hundreds of thousands of active users, he sold his share of the company in early 2009.

Suchin then co-founded Brand Knew to help startups and veteran brands navigate the new media realm. He is credited with having invented the developmental venture equity model now popularized by digital agencies. Zach sits on the boards of several portfolio companies and steering committees for various non-profits. He remains intimately involved in the creative direction of Brand Knew’s dozens of service clients, and he chairs the Brand Knew Opportunities demo and networking conferences.

What are you working on right now?

We are consistently working with an incredible array of interesting brands on the agency side of our business, and we are incubating a diverse group of innovative companies in the developmental venture equity program.

Where did the idea for Brand Knew come from?

We wanted to help brands navigate the social sphere and new media realm, but still had an insatiable entrepreneurial bug, so we developed the agency/incubator hybrid model to sufficiently satisfy both ends of our interest spectrum.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up at 6:00 a.m. I hit the snooze button somewhere between 15-30 times over the next hour, depending on how awake my fingers are. I’m against breakfast during the week, so I don’t acknowledge food until around noon. I’m in the office between 8:00 and 9:00 so that I can play catch-up with the New York office, which ruthlessly adheres to EDT. The typical work day is filled with client meetings, both on and offsite, business development meetings for both clients and portfolio companies, and DVE pitches. No day is the same, and every day is exciting for different reasons. I sacrifice an intern to the venture capital gods at around 4:00 p.m. PDT each day. The other interns then clean the office. Dinner is usually with a friend or business associate. I’m in bed reading or watching TV by 11:00 and am asleep by 2:00 a.m.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our initial approach was clicking our heels. We’ve since refined the process to include several detailed stages of diligence. We’re very formulaic in our approach to bringing ideas to life, but no two concepts are the same, so the variables inserted into the formula have to cater to the intricacies of the founders and concepts. There is nothing more important to a concept’s success than the determination of the team working on it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The most exciting trend is the increasing amount of college students embracing the entrepreneurial path. While students once poured into desks at financial institutions and law firms, the American spirit is vibrantly echoing across college campuses, as the barriers to entry have never been lower for launching web businesses. The number of DVE pitches we receive has nearly tripled this year.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

One summer, I worked at Sony Imageworks on the special effects for the original Spiderman film. They didn’t give me much to do, so I sat around all day on sophisticated design software, drawing airborne dolphins and painting kaleidoscope-type images. It was the worst job I’ve had because I learned the least from it. I thrive in a challenging environment, and there was nothing for me to do. I did become friendly with the deputy janitor in the commissary.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Retrospection offers 20/20 hindsight, so there’s not much I would have changed. The lessons you learn through the steepest dilemmas and ugliest days are the tools that enable your greatest achievements.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Make lists. I make a list for everything–clients I want, deals I want to source, people I want to meet, movies I want to see, restaurants I want to try, etc. Organization is key to organic success. Luck throws organization out of the window, but I don’t care much for standing on ceremony for luck.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge for an entrepreneur is gaining the ability to focus. There is so much clutter in the world and so many distracting opportunities that are fruitless. Having the intuition to differentiate worthwhile opportunities from temporarily shiny objects is essential. Also, maximizing your concentrated work efficiency during normal hours can leave plenty of time to relax and socialize on weekends. It’s all about balance.

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

Here’s a great idea I don’t have time to pursue: a mobile app that allows you to refill your parking meter. I understand that there are technological implementation hurdles, and that cities could be averse to this since they depend on expired meters for revenue, but you can charge citizens for the app, and place advertisements within the app’s UI to offset the opportunity loss of expired meter profits.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Every human being has the right to freedom, clean water and food. These things need to be our priorities as a society, to ensure that citizens of every country have equal access to them.

Tell us a secret.

If I told you a secret, it would no longer be a secret.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Facebook for networking and socializing.
  2. Basecamp for work organization purposes.
  3. Mint for financial organization.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Read books if you like fiction. Read blogs if you want to be informed. My go-to resources are PandoDaily, TechCrunch, EaterLA, ArchDaily, SneakerNews and DesignYouTrust.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I don’t follow anyone on Twitter. I use Twitter to broadcast random thoughts and quips, but get most of my information via telephone or carrier pigeon.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

The last thing that made me laugh out loud is not appropriate for this interview, but I laugh often and hard.

Who is your hero?

My parents. They taught me mostly everything I know, and for that, I owe them mostly everything I’ve got.

How many times have you fallen asleep at the office?

Three–including once in a pitch meeting (I didn’t like the pitch).

What is your favorite sneaker of all time?

The patent leather blue avenger Nike SB.


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