Anna Talerico, ION Interactive, Woman Entrepreneur

imgresAnna sent me an email that totally resonated with me.  The title of the email was “a rambling on women and the reality of life, part 2”.  She wrote about the stress of being an entrepreneur, having kids, being concerned that she wasn’t being a role model to the women working for her in the office, and of course wrote you know the drill.   That email made me want to hear more about Anna’s story and how she came to build IONInteractive a marketing app platform that helps companies generate better leads that turn into revenue.

Anna grew up all over the place.  California, Oregon, Virginia and DC.  As she puts it we were like a gypsy family.  Her Mom was a COO for a haircut chain and also worked for Revlon and John Barrett in the beauty industry.  Her father was a truck driver.   Her parents originally met as managers of a health food store and divorced by the time Anna was four.  Her Dad loved the hippy life and her Mom loved the business life.  Anna went to high school in DC in a school without walls.  Essentially they spent 50% in the classroom and 50% doing other things.  The beauty of this is that she could work 40 hours a week and that in many ways set her on her path.  She was in that area of the country from the time she was 12 to 20.

Anna wanted to take off a year and go to Europe in between high school and college, a gap year.  Instead she went to Franklin College in Switzerland to make her Mom happy.  She returned after a year and followed a boyfriend to Florida who had a store down there.  She worked in the store and drifted a bit.  She came to Florida just for a few weeks but ended up staying and finishing college down there at Florida Atlantic University where she majored in social psychology.    No good reason to major in social psychology except that she liked the classes.

She continued to work through college and the bulk of her experience was working for a small art publishing house.  They published art books and  gallery guides.  She did everything from marketing to sales while she was there.  After graduating from college she left the publishing house and got a job in an ad agency.  She wanted to work in an ad agency and started out as the office manager.  A few months in she was promoted to production manager and then later promoted to account manager.  She was working with clients mostly from business to business companies.  That agency was the genesis of her company today.

Anna married the CEO of the agency becoming full partners and merged that with a tech agency in 98.  They all became equal partners and created ION Interactive.  Each of them had different roles; CTO, COO and CEO. She was taking a page right out of her Mom’s handbook.  Her mother had always been the number two working directly for an entrepreneur and essentially growing their company.  The difference here is that Anna was a full partner.   As a team this group took the company into the web.  It has been one evolution after another since.  The major milestones were 98 when they merged and 2007 when the web changed and so did their business.

The original concept was to compete with large interactive agencies.  It wasn’t the right thing.  They loved building websites but did not see how that could scale.  At the beginning it was strictly a quality of life business for all three of them.  They would have 4-5 clients at a time and it worked well.  Ultra boutique business.  They realized they were building products for clients that were quasi-similar.  They really were not being challenged and so they began to take another path.  A few companies had asked them to build a marketing system or a micro-site to generate leads.  This was before cloud technology existed.  Then the cloud came along and they were ready to build out their platform.

It is interesting because they started in 98 and essentially road the wave of change with technology and their clients.  Technology allowed them to get bigger and bigger.  They now have 65 employees and grew 30% last year.  Their clients are mostly companies that generation a revenue  of 100m and up.  They are all using their software which is a turnkey solution for campaigns across any device.  You can roll something out on a phone, a tablet or a desktop.

The three partners have all been together now 16 years and they all have kids and are essentially in the same throes of life.  Balance is obviously key her but having two other partners going through the exact same thing makes it easier because all of their challenges are aligned.