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Success Stories - Adam Slutsky
Founder of Moviefone and CEO of Mimeo
Success Magazine | Steven Strauss
Rare and fortunate is the entrepreneur who is so successful that his very first business is not only parodied on network television, but the joke goes on to become something of a national phenomenon. But that is exactly what happened to Adam Slutsky not long after he started his first business at the ripe, old age of 25.
It was back in the '90s, the seventh season of Seinfeld, and Kramer gets a new phone number. People begin dialing it by accident, thinking it is Slutsy's business, and so Kramer finally decides to go with it.
Answering his phone: Hello, and welcome to Moviefone. If you know the name of the movie you would like to see, press 1.
Indeed, Adam Slutsky's first entrepreneurial venture was a little business called Moviefone, which he eventually sold to AOL at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999. Selling price? A cool half-billion dollars. Those were the days!
That Slutsky has created not one, but two businesses that routinely gross more than $100 million a year really should be no surprise. He caught the entrepreneurial bug early and has run with it ever since.
Back in college, at Cornell, he started out selling T-shirts to make some extra money, and by the time he got to Columbia Business School, he knew that entrepreneurship was for him, even if all of his classmates were s et on conquering Wall Street.
It was not long after he graduated and started working that the chance to pitch some business ideas to a group of investors presented itself. Moviefone was but one of 10 ideas Slutsky suggested. The immediate challenge with Moviefone is one familiar to any entrepreneur: You may have a cool idea, but how in the heck are you going to make money off of it? "It's all in the execution," Slutsky says.
Eventually, he and his partners decided on a short, 15-second ad at the beginning of the phone call, hoping it would be unobtrusive enough that people would hang on to get the info they wanted about the movie they wanted to see. Good thinking, that.
It turned out the embedded ads had a direct result on how many people went to see a movie; movies that were promoted in the ads showed a consistent 20 percent increase in business.
With results like that, Moviefone was able to expand to 30 markets fairly quickly, and then make the leap to the Web in late '94. In fact, Slutsky says, "Moviefone made history in another way once we went online. We sold the first-ever online, e-commerce ticket, for a movie in Los Angeles in 1995."
Within a few years, near the height of the Internet boom, Slutsky says, "Companies began to pay extraordinary sums for dot-com businesses that didn't even have a viable revenue model." (Think Pets.com) "So what Moviefone offered was actually unique and valuable at that time: An online business that not only made sense, but made money."
Not surprisingly then, a bidding war ensued for Moviefone, with AOL winning. As part of the deal, Slutsky went to work for AOL, but not long thereafter, AOL famously and disastrously merged with Time Warner, and the entrepreneur knew it was time to move on. Corporate gigs are not his bag.
After taking some time off, Slutsky's entrepreneurial bug-bite began to itch again. Fortunately, he could afford to be picky about his next venture.
He decided there were three criteria he wanted in his next business, and notes that entrepreneurs could use these principles when analyzing their own opportunities and options:
- The business had to have a smart, viable business model that generated sufficient income. "Remember," he says, "this was a time  when lots of Internet businesses had no viable business model at all." Slutsky was looking for a fairly new business that generated at least $20 million a year. "You need enough money to make the business grow," he notes.
- The business needed to have a strong convenience value for the customer. Slutsky is a big believer that people will pay for convenience. "That's what Moviefone offered —convenience."
- The management team had to believe in marketing. "With tech companies especially," he says, "stakeholders tend to believe in the technology above all else. But I know that in order to grow, sales and marketing are vital."
All of this led Slutsky to a company called Mimeo.com. "Mimeo offered a strong convenience and value proposition: online printing and overnight delivery." In the old world, Slutsky explains, "People would go to their local copy shop, make copies and then overnight them. In this digital age, that is terribly inefficient."
Mimeo allows customers to go online, create on-demand documents, print them and then distribute them anywhere—all from the convenience of their desks.
Slutsky clearly is onto another winner, with Mimeo revenue now topping $100 million, and the number of employees totaling more than 500.
There is no telling what Act III will look like for the entrepreneur, but if past is prologue, a few things are certain: Whatever he does, Adam Slutsky will be innovating, leading and making things more convenient.
And this entrepreneur won't be copying anything.
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Media ContactAnthony Zaccone 917.289.3023