Year Founded: 2013
Technology: Internet marketing agency with plans to build proprietary technology that will help automate manual tasks
Headcount: 15 full-time employees
In 2010, Gregg and Sam Anderson met for the first time at San Diego State University, both having just transferred in. Little did they know that in three years’ time they would be running 41 Orange, a venture-backed inbound marketing agency that helps companies all across the country modernize their sales and marketing programs.
We chatted with CEO Gregg Anderson about his experience being an Aztec entrepreneur and the strong entrepreneurial foundation he was able to build for his company through leadership roles at San Diego State University and subsequently in his other businesses.
MarTech: The team at 41 Orange relies heavily on technology to accomplish both their day-to-day tasks and business objectives. 41 Orange is a Gold HubSpot Agency Partner and an Outreach.io Partner. The agency also holds certifications for both Salesforce and Pardot. Internally, the team uses tools like Asana, Harvest, and Slack to track progress and team productivity. Anderson shares exciting plans to build proprietary technology that will help 41 Orange “automate manual tasks to increase efficiency and cut down on labor costs.” He also hints that this technology “may also become a product that we sell independently of our services.”
Entry to Entrepreneurship: Anderson’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2008 when he was honorably discharged from the military and started taking college classes at College of the Canyons, a junior college in Los Angeles County. He wasted no time getting involved, joining the campus’ Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an organization that is managed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Anderson interned for the SBDC, helping them run their Youth Entrepreneur Program, which helped entrepreneurs aged 13-to-21 think and act with an entrepreneurial mindset.
It was in this role at College of the Canyons’ SBDC that Anderson was first encouraged to pursuing a venture of his own. “My supervisor was Nina Grooms-Lee, a Harvard MBA graduate, who encouraged me to think about starting my own business. With her encouragement, I started Anderson Strategic Business Consulting and volunteered for local companies to gain real-world experience. That’s where my journey as an entrepreneur began,” he said.
Entrepreneurial Aztec: As soon as Anderson transferred into SDSU in 2010, he began getting involved with the student business organizations and other campus resources. “I joined the Entrepreneur Society and took up an internship at the Entrepreneurial Management Center (now called the Lavin Entrepreneur Center) in the spring of 2011. Over that semester I had worked with their Director of Programs, Bernie Schroeder, on a program they called Web Compass,” he said.
It was through his work on Web Compass that Anderson learned to build websites for local small business and non-profit organizations, making it his first real taste of being a digital marketer. Learning how to build websites gave me a skill set that I could use in my consulting business, and I started to take on paying clients. Without my experience at Lavin, I’m not really sure where I’d be today,” he said.
With his newfound passion for website building and startups, Anderson joined forces with two other students to launch a company in the spring of 2012 that focused on helping fellow students find jobs after graduation. “We called it Jobioz.com. My founders were Rob Schmieder and Jessica Wooding and we ended up building a platform similar to LinkedIn over the next two years,” he said. The trio’s time was perfect because around the time of their launch, “SDSU had just received a sizable gift from Dr. Irwin Zahn, a wildly successful entrepreneur that had the vision of bringing an incubator to SDSU’s campus,” he said.
In the fall of 2012, Anderson and his Jobioz team were among the first student-run startups to be accepted into the Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad. “The Zahn Center had given us access to mentors, office space, and other resources we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Anderson said.
Although the team had a promising start, they ended up folding Jobioz after failing to go to market fast enough. “It was a great experience to be part of the program and I picked up key skill sets that led to a successful private equity round later for my third company, 41 Orange,” Anderson said.
When Anderson wasn’t busy running his business or doing homework, he actively participated in SDSU’s Entrepreneur Society – what is now one of the largest student organizations in the Fowler College of Business. “I had taken over as president of the organization in 2012. At that time, we had less than five members. I took it upon myself to recruit a team and to grow the organization. After a few months of class presentations and reaching out to every professor on campus, our team had grown the organization to over 150 members. I believe today the membership base is somewhere around 400 students,” he said.
Mentor Medley: Anderson values mentorship and has played both mentor and mentee. It is clear that Anderson had many people to look up to in his time at SDSU. “I had several mentors – to name a few, Bernie Schroeder (Director of Programs for the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center), Cathy Pucher (ZIP Launchpad), Peter Shaw (Executive in Residence), and Mike Lindmark (Zahn Mentor),” he said. In addition to mentorships, Anderson also attributes the successes of his journey to professors like Martina Musteen, Michael Sloan, Christopher Mizer, Steven Osinski, among others. He found mentors mostly through the entrepreneurship centers. Coming full circle, Anderson now mentors students at both the ZIP Launchpad and the Lavin Center. “It’s my way of giving back,” he said.
Fund 41: The 41 Orange team made a strategic decision to bring in funding from a private equity partner that enables them to achieve significant growth while maintaining key support levels around existing and new clients. “We were funded by ClearVision Equity Partners, a local private equity firm. ClearVision Equity Partners is the most active private equity firm in San Diego and they like to invest locally. We’ve had an amazing experience with them so far. I can’t say enough about how helpful they have been,” Anderson said.
Looking forward, the 41 Orange team is “seeking introductions to strategic investors. This may include former agency owners who have made successful exits, event production companies that can plug us into their customer base, other marketing agencies that are looking to grow by acquisition, etc.,” Anderson said.
San Diego Scene: There’s big potential for agencies like 41 Orange and Anderson is excited about what’s in store for the San Diego community. “Starting out in 2012 it was apparent the San Diego startup scene was sleepy and it was difficult to raise funding without heading up to the Bay Area. For the most part, I think that has changed. Take for example, we were able to find funding for our company in a highly competitive and saturated industry. Granted, we have our own secret sauce that makes our model unique and a triple-digit growth rate,” he said.
Looking Ahead: Anderson has big dreams for the future of 41 Orange. For starters, he plans on growing the agency’s current headcount of 15 full-time employees to 23 by the end of 2019.
In the long term, the team’s excited to continue “disrupting the traditional digital marketing agency model, bringing change to an industry that’s been operating the same way for more than fifteen years,” Anderson said.
Growth Model: Anderson points out that 41 Orange is unique in that “we’re positioned as not just a marketing partner; we’re a growth agency. A growth agency is like a marketing agency, except that we’re helping our client base figure out how to turn those leads into revenue. Most agencies hand off leads to their clients and consider their job done, but marketers are becoming responsible for more of the customer’s journey. In fact, B2B customers today progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before ever engaging a sales representative. It’s our job as marketers to generate the leads and to provide sales enablement to assist in the conversion of those leads into customers and revenue. Long gone are the days of gauging the success of a marketing program on impressions, clicks, and open rates. A growth agency bases the success on revenue and closed-won business. The growth agency model is the key to creating predictable and scalable revenue for the clients we serve. It’s an exciting time for both the agency and our team.”
Taco ‘bout a Recommendation: When it comes to tacos, Anderson doesn’t mess around. His favorite local taco joint is Taqueria Imperial on the corner of Imperial Ave. and Lisbon Street in Skyline. “They serve tacos de adobada Tijuana-style. The marinated and roasted pork is shaved from a trompo (a vertical rotisserie) and then placed on a corn tortilla, then filled with fresh guacamole, cilantro, and onions, as well as habanero salsa. The corn tortillas are quickly dipped into the deep fat fryer before they’re warmed up on a griddle. It’s the only taco shop I’ve ever been to in San Diego that makes tacos this way,” he said.
Hoppy Place: When it comes to beer, Anderson’s loyalty is with a certain part of town rather than with a single brewery. His favorite place to go for a cold beer is Ocean Beach. “There are four or five breweries that are in walking distance of each other, and that makes for a great day of brewery hopping,” he said.
Editor’s Note: AzTech is an original Fresh Brewed Tech series on San Diego State University Aztecs (current and alumni) who are blazing a trail in technology and entrepreneurship. These innovative ideas born in the halls of academia are making a great impact on our ecosystem and beyond. Don’t miss these compelling stories of passion, hard work, and problem solving by the next generation of entrepreneurs. #GoAzTechs