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News & Events

“Building companies is a team activity,” says Mike Sands ’96, CEO of BrightTag. The Chicago-based venture won top honors at the first annual Moxie Awards on June 21.

Mike Sands

Upgrading the underpinnings of online marketing

Mike Sands ’96 leads BrightTag to the Moxie Awards and industry notoriety

By Daniel P. Smith

7/5/2012 - With equal parts confidence, precision and enthusiasm, BrightTag CEO Mike Sands ’96 discusses his upstart, Chicago-based venture aimed at revolutionizing the online marketing industry.

But Sands isn’t dishing out unfettered hyperbole here.

Plenty of others are taking note as well.

Bright Tag
At the first annual Moxie Awards on June 21, a night recognizing Chicago’s most innovative digital companies, BrightTag captured a pair of top honors, including Startup of the Year and Best B2B Startup. Sands’ BrightTag colleague, Eric Lunt, also received recognition as CTO of the Year.

Sands explains BrightTag’s big idea and Kellogg’s role in its swift ascent.

Q: What is BrightTag?
A:
We are a technology company removing barriers to innovation and simplifying the way websites connect to today’s data-driven marketing services. Our integration platform is faster and more efficient than traditional methods of moving online data around the web and our built-in privacy controls protect consumers as the Internet economy speeds ahead.

Q: How has your Kellogg education helped you lead BrightTag?
A:
At its core, Kellogg is about building, working with and being successful with teams. Marc Kiven first founded BrightTag with an idea and a PowerPoint slide; Eric and I quickly saw the opportunity and joined the founding team. We’ve attracted great backers and formed a strong foundation. That ability to inspire world-class people to join our cause – something I learned at Kellogg – is what makes or breaks most companies.

Q: How else have you been able to leverage the Kellogg experience to fuel BrightTag?
A:
I don’t overlook the fact that growing a company here in Chicago has been made easier by my Kellogg roots, which have allowed us to lean on people from both a funding and expertise standpoint. On the investor side, I’ve found successful entrepreneurs with whom I share Kellogg in common and we look fondly at Kellogg as a place where we got our start. We’ve also received solid advice and feedback from [Kellogg entrepreneurship and marketing professor] Carter Cast, who ran Walmart.com. These connections have proven invaluable.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A:
Building companies is a team activity. There’s nothing easy about building a company from scratch. It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, but having cofounders to lean on, trust and complement your skills is critical. Have the guts to hire greatness and build around talented people.