Rutgers alumni Brian Selander gives presentation on entrepreneurial success
Rutgers alumni and SeventySix Capital Entrepreneur in Residence Brian Selander spoke to Rutgers students this past Wednesday about entrepreneurship among younger generations with unique ideas.
Selander graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers before earning his master’s in applied psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and then completing the Senior Executive Fellows Program at Harvard University, according to his LinkedIn.
In response to an article published in Forbes written by a sports marketing executive and part-time lecturer at Rutgers, Selander discussed his experience in entrepreneurship and the importance of fresh ideas coming from young motivated individuals.
Channeling his math skills early on, he would purchase and redistribute large quantities of candy to his classmates for profit, Selander said. This inclination for business led him to a career working in politics as one of the first employees running a presidential campaign along with helping his best friend become an elected governor.
Having Rutgers' support to work while being a full-time student granted him the opportunity to serve as press secretary to Sen. Bob Smith (D-N.J.) and allowed him to accumulate four years of experience before even having graduated, he said.
He was recruited by Smith to assist in political work because of his accomplishments as a reporter for Courier News, a local Central Jersey publication, Selander said. After his work with the congressman, he was persuaded to venture into business by one of the founders of Nexel.
The result was four years of development leading to the first professional sports network launched to serve new generations of fans. Whistle Sports Networks pooled over 270 million fans and followers across multiple digital platforms and was one of five sports business journal nominees for "Best in Digital Sports Media," alongside ESPN, NBC Sports, Turner Sports and the NFL, according to his site.
Four years into the process he decided to try something new in order to be closer to family and began working with SeventySix Capital, a venture firm investor in Whistle Sports Network. Their open-minded approach to young ideas paired with the experience of older counterparts fit the mold for what Selander looked to accomplish, he said.
“The secrets thus far have been to be around good people. At SeventySix Capital we only invest in nice and smart people which is actually kind of strange in the venture world, that we put as much focus into who we’re investing in as opposed to what,” Selander said.
Looking to only work with others that exemplified this positive attitude led him to a partnership with a former student at the University of Pennsylvania who was a founding member of YouTube Sports, he said.
By nature of being a helpful person, he was able to recruit Julie Kikla along with all her YouTube personalities such as Dude Perfect and Brodie Smith to help launch the company, Selander said. In way of a trickle-down effect, each member trusted the next ultimately putting the company in a position to be successful.
“Enemies last forever, people who go out of their way to make them wind up with a lot of baggage long term. It usually doesn’t cost you a lot to be nice or helpful long term and I think that mindset helps,” he said.
For students looking to pursue their interests in entrepreneurship, it is almost always better to choose the challenger brand over the dominant brand, Selander said. Challenger brands offer the most opportunity to get the best titles and experience faster while lacking the pressure of competing in a dominant brand.
"In sports you find masses of people waiting to fill a position that is already taken and will not expire for years. Life expectancy is far greater than what it used to (be), but it is also easier now than ever to start your own company," he said.
It is an easier approach to find something as it is and make it a little bit better than to try and build something to meet an unmet need, Selander said.
“Change has accelerated, walls have fallen, the barrier of entry now to build something is close to nothing, and your capacity to be a thought(ful) leader as a teenager is incredible,” he said.
At the end of the day companies pivot, but founders remain, Selander said. The person building the company and the team around them are fundamental as the idea might change but the goal should persist all throughout.
Jason Belzer, a global sports business leader currently working at GAME, Inc., said the high energy approach presented by Selander is vital, and that it is important to understand that 95 percent of building relationships is that first impression that makes all the difference.
The enthusiasm and energy brought by individuals like Selander are most important when working in environments where the risk of failure is so high, Belzer said. Unless you are enthusiastic about the work you produce you will have difficulty finding success.
“A lot of being an entrepreneur is about having perseverance. The reality is if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur you have to fail as much as possible," he said. "The more you fail the more you’re learning and the closer you are to getting to success."
Christian Zapata is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.