Christine Hunsicker, Woman Entrepreneur working on the next idea
Christine was introduced to me through a friend when I was looking for someone to fill a role in a company that I was invested in. We chatted at length on the phone but what I needed and where she was at that point was a complete disconnect. Fast forward, I spoke at an event and she came up and said hi. Loved putting the voice with a face. Continue on and I had an idea rumbling around my head and I knew Christine was looking for the next step and I emailed her to see if we could get together to discuss. Ends up she had been working on the same concept I wanted to talk to her about but that is for another blog post in the future.
Christine grew up in the area of Pennsylvania between Allentown and the Pochonos when there were more cows than people. Now that area is mostly sprawling suburbia. She left Pennsylvania for Princeton University. At Princeton, Christine started out as a molecular Biology major and after two years switched to be an English major with a minor in medieval studies. Part of that curriculum was learning German. The one constant through Princeton was field hockey. She played for the school which was one of the top teams while she was there and continues to play today through the North East Field Hockey Association. She continues her involvement with Princeton alumni through field hockey and the United States Field Hockey Association. Interesting enough is that overseas more men play field hockey than women and Christine is trying to bring the sport to more men here. I love that she is still involved with the sport through her personal life and her athletic life.
After graduating school she went to live in Germany year. She knew German from her studies and it was the first time she had been overseas. Spending a few months in Berlin and eventually settling down in a small town on the Swiss border where she taught Literature at a private high school. The little cash she made gave her the opportunity to travel whenever she could. That is the beauty of Europe. You can get on a train and it mght take you 14 hours but you eventually get there for not a lot of money.
One year was enough and it was time to get to work. It took her a week on the Internet to find a job in NYC where they would actually pay her plane fare back otherwise she was screwed. She took a job with Plural, a company eventually bought by Dell. She was hired as a data analyst but after two weeks thought she'd lose her mind to boredom. The company had brought in a new CFO to prepare the company for going public and Christine walked into his office, as a young 22 year old kid who didn't see why not, and asked him if they could use her to do something else. He not only said yes but gave her a job that sent her head spinning. For the next six months she did budgeting for 13 offices pushing fifty year old men to clean up their numbers. Working with corporate and bankers to go public. In the end, they did not go public and the entire company tanked. It was post 9/11 and their offices were right down at Liberty Plaza so they had to move to CT for the time being and go through six months of a series of massive layoffs. An unbelievable experience but enough already, Christine added herself to the next batch of layoffs and moved on.
She started to work at a tech company knowing nothing about tech. She taught herself how to sell tech to companies that were already using the big guys such as Oracle. Not so easy. Then she moved on to a company called Poindexter where she did some ad consulting and help them operationally. Nothing was falling into place and Christine decided to go to graduate school for industrial design to learn how to create children's toys. She wanted to build something. She zeroed in on Pratt which decided that based on her portfolio that she had pulled together from some classes at Princeton and probably her unique background, they accepted her.
It took her one semester at Pratt to realize that this wasn't for her. They were teaching her the skills that she already knew, how to work and build a business. She wanted to expand her mind and learn concept and that wasn't happening. To keep her mind moving she decided to work part-time at Right Media working as a Project manager of operations. At this point there were only ten people there. She loved the environment at Right Media and over time she was working there full time while still attending school. She made an exectutive decision to defer Pratt for the time being. She has yet to go back. At that time of her life stability was what she really needed and Christine threw herself into the business.
Over the course of the next four years she grew from project manager to President. Right Media was exploding. Originally a media buying company that then pivoted into a customer service network for other peoples businesses. They had to grow everything. At one point, in six months, the company grew ten times over. It was a roller coaster but one of the most adreneline filled experiences of her life. She and her partners were 27 years old and they had never experienced growing a company before and they were literally making it up as they went along. They were smart and driven and that was absolutely their saving grace. Right Media was acquired by Yahoo in 2007 for $850 million dollars and at that point there were 250 people working in the organization with offices around the globe. Pretty impressive.
So where do you go from here? You take a year and a half off to sit back and assess. Christine got certified as a scuba diver and traveled with no agenda in mind. She'd go away and then come back. She knew that she missed the intellectual stimulus you get in a start-up company and she really missed being part of a team. Having played in team sports all her life the unity of a team is something she realized she needed to return to because she was beginning to feel like she had lost her mojo.
Christine was offered at job at Drop.io. She wasn't ready for her own company quite yet so she took the job and five months later the company was acquired by Facebook. She left but with that experience she not only got her mojo back she learned that what made her tick was work. Working with a team to build something is what keeps her sane. So she began to think about what she wanted to build.
Christine has spent the last year doing research on a new business. Going back to what I wrote at the start of this post, Christine and I have been discussing this next idea. Our conversations take place in person and also online where we send each other information. We have not figured out exactly what my role is here because being in a start-up is not something I could do 24/7 but it is certainly exciting to be involved. Watching the foundation slowly get built as Christine pushes some ideas aside while others resonate is thrilling to watch. There is nothing quite like a start-up to get your adrenalin running.
It was great to talk to Christine about her history. Throughout her career she has thrown herself into areas that she might not have known anything about but knew she would figure it out along the way starting with preparing a company to go public to selling technology to understanding the ad world and the media business has been part of her own personal education. I am not surprised that the new venture she is undertaking is not exactly something she has ever done before but it turns her on and she fundamentally understands the business and certainly understands how to grow a business. I am looking forward to spending more time with Christine and being involved in her next endeavor. Her first step into the office of the CFO of a company that she had only been in for two weeks looking for a challenge is the underpinnings of a true entrepreneur.