A Company Built On Lasting Friendship
Mike Potter ’07 had one main goal when he graduated from Ithaca College: start his own company by age 25. He has done that and so much more. Potter came into IC as a Park Scholar majoring in television-radio, but he graduated with majors in television-radio, computer information systems, and business administration. “I felt it was so unique—my ability to take a class in park, my next class in the computer science department, and my following class in the business school,” he says.
It wasn’t all about studying though. In 2006, when cell phone videos were becoming popular, the park school hosted a mini film festival called CellFlix. The challenge was to create a 30-second, comprehensive video. Potter, who filmed a story about his grand-parents, won the contest. In the same year, he got the chance to pitch a campaign for an internet start-up to Disney’s CEO, Ithaca alumnus Bob Iger ’73.
Potter also interned at Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco, George Lucas’s special effects powerhouse for movies including Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Harry Potter films.
Matt Quintanilla ’07 thought he wanted to be a print journalist when he first got to IC. But that all changed when he started working at the student newspaper, the Ithacan. As an assistant editor there, he developed a passion for design and telling a story through visuals rather than words. He also served as opinion editor and online editor. Senior year he helped to revamp the Ithacan website, putting more emphasis on telling stories through multimedia.
"That was the best hands-on training any journalist could ask for in understanding what a real newsroom is like," he says. "That experience was invaluable to me in finding internships while in college and landing a job once I was out."
Like Potter, Quintanilla was also a member of the Park Scholar Program, where the two formed a relationship that would extend far beyond graduation. As Park scholars, Potter and Quintanilla worked together on a project called Megaphone, a website built and run by students who offered free media services–commercials, PSAs, articles, and ads–for organizations in the area.
"It was like starting a little company," Potter says. "You had to be proactive rather than get assigned duties." Potter could have used this experience to try his hand at entrepreneurship after graduation, but he decided it was the wrong time. Instead, he took a job at Internet Broadcasting in Minneapolis with David Lewow '83, for whom he had interned at AOL. "That job got me where I am today," says Potter. "After working for him, I was ready to start my own company. He's an adviser of my company and a lifelong friend and mentor."
Mike Potter '07 and Matt Quintanilla '07. Photo by Adam Baker.
Potter and Quintanilla stayed in touch after graduation. While Potter was at Internet Broadcasting, Quintanilla was also in Minneapolis, working as a designer for the Star Tribune. Knowing how talented Quintanilla was, Potter recruited him to freelance on a project for IB. The Freelance job turned into a permanent position, and Quintanilla left the newspaper to work with Potter. Shortly thereafter, Potter started his own company, Disrupto.
Co-founded by Potter and two others in 2009, Disrupto is a digital product development company. After about two years, they built their client base from small start-ups to large companies that include Samsung, Madison Square Garden, and the cable channel BET, creating mobile and Web products for them. They also advise start-ups on product strategy, design, and use experience. Potter knew this type of work was right up Quintanilla's alley and asked him to join the company.
"I kept hunting him down to work with him because he's incredibly smart and one of the most talented designers I know," Potter says.
Quintanilla attributes his success to the combination of his education at IC, his internships, and his life experiences after graduation.
"All of those things together have made it a lot easier to adapt to new opportunities that show up," he says. "I don't have to take a step and say, maybe I'm not ready for this."
Potter and Quintanilla agree that they have achieved exactly what they had hoped for. Their goals converged somewhere along the way, and they plan to continue their work with Disrupto.
"I come to work every day excited about what we're building and leave excited about what we're building next," Quintanilla says. "At this very moment, I don't want to plan beyond that."
Potter fulfilled his goal of having his own company by age 25 and says he's tremendously happy.
"I have to be honest; I'm totally living my dream."
Originally published in Fuse: A Company Built On Lasting Friendship.