Angelo Matera was the first person I shared a meal with in New York City. As I’ve since learned, eating and killer food is the City. Not being able to talk food is like not knowing that only real estate brokers call Lafayette Street, “Noho”. We had little in common, or so we thought. He was Brooklyn to the core; our backgrounds were completely different. His resumé included working for the Mayor Ed Koch campaign and Forbes Magazine, and he recently launched a magazine called, Brooklyn, Inc. I had just left a job as a speech pathologist and audiologist from a nowhere town in Pennsylvania and spent my days working with stroke patients and kids recovering from head trauma. To change career direction, I took a job in New York City to work for an advertising agency.
Within 10 minutes at our first breakfast, we were arguing about topics I was brought up to avoid...politics, religion, money, business. And, I loved it. It was like purging 21 years of self-dialogue. Libertarianism! At 21, that made sense to me. Over more breakfasts and drinks in dumps and dives all over the city, we exhausted every topic that interested us. I think the phrase, ‘arguing is a contact sport’ applied to our debates.
What bonded us, instantly, was our disregard for The Establishment. And, we both loved business. We talked about what companies do wrong, how management screws up good ideas and good people. We loved what Bernie Goldhirsch was doing with Inc. Magazine and that it represented the little guy, the scrappy kid from the middle-class neighborhood who built a business because living with his mother seemed fine. So what if he had to give up his walk-up studio rental in Alphabet City.
After 7 years of railing against what we would do to fix the companies we worked for, we decided to solve the problem ourselves. With a belief that a company culture that puts its people’s ambitions first is the only choice, the company was birthed. Using 2nd-mortgaged money and a single check from a few industry friends, we put our names, Paradysz and Matera, together since we knew that our ethnicity was at least memorable. We never imagined the internet, then, and that few could spell it.
Our mission was all that mattered. Our culture had to develop and nurture people, since they were the ones driving our clients’ marketing and media performance. And, we’d always bring the best technology and science - analytics, research, statistical modeling - to the custom solutions we’d create. But, ultimately, all of that effort served one purpose, to make a difference in performance, tradition and legacy be damned.
And, that’s the beginning of the story.
The company has long since recovered from Angelo’s retirement, but it still burns with passion the way it did when we started.
It has to. Irrelevance is not an option.
We hung this on the wall, back then, to not lose our focus. It’s still there.
“We don’t want to be the best doing something.
We want to be the only one doing it.”