This year, Inc. Magazine named him one of the “35 Under 35 Coolest Entrepreneurs.” At age 26, he runs his own $4 million dollar company that protects people’s identities online. The Syracuse New Times caught up with Patrick Ambron last week for this exclusive interview.
What is BrandYourself?
Patrick Ambron (PA): On a high level, BrandYourself helps you improve what shows up about you online when an employer, relative or date looks you up so they won’t find anything negative.
How did you guys get started?
PA: Co-founder Pete Kistler couldn’t get an internship because of a drug dealer with the same name. A big issue in reputation management is it can cost you $25 thousand to get it fixed professionally while millions who have an issue cannot afford it. Others just want to put their best foot forward. We got together and created a way to help people do just that. We basically created a “TurboTax” for people to do rep management themselves instead of, for instance, paying an accountant to do your taxes.
How has the product been received?
PA: We built the business up in Syracuse and launched what is the modern product back in March of 2012. There are both free and paid versions of the tool and we are growing pretty well. By the end of the first year of releasing the product, we attracted not only young professionals but people that typically went into the competitor space and would have to spend loads of money. We provide for these people at a lower cost.
Our technology makes the process more efficient. As a business, we cast a wide net by offering a free product, but then advise people to use our paid features and services. We are about to launch a new level for the lawyer or accountant – infostructure: state of the art websites and profiles, to further help people put their best foot forward.
I understand you are a Syracuse-based company and growing.
PA: We went from 5 or 6 people to 60 people in 5 months. We opened an office in NYC but still have one in Syracuse and 40-50% of our employees went to Syracuse University.
Tell us a little about your background.
PA: I grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY and went to Syracuse University. I was a young web designer and was doing that and SEO for local businesses. My first web design only marketing agency was called “D7 Branding,” which stood for Day 7, my freshman dorm. I met Pete Kistler through clubs in school and heard he needed help with his problem. After kicking off our company, we stayed in the Syracuse Tech Garden until 2012.
What is your vision for the business?
PA: Our goal on a high level is to help people put their best foot forward on the web. Google is hard to control, so we created tools for people who don’t have the tools. We want the information out there to help you rather than hurt you.
Any comments on the EU’s attempt to establish “the right to be forgotten”?
PA: The UK has already torn that down. It’s very hard to get things removed from search engines even with manual request. There is a line to what information should be out there. Most things fall under the category “the public has the right to know.” Most European countries will overturn this. In the United States more than anywhere, we value the right to know. I never see a time where you can remove yourself from Google.
Can you tell us some success stories (in vague terms)?
PA: We have helped a lot of people caught in revenge situations: for instance an ex they have broken up with publishes some devastating photos online. This has happened with a lot of very high profile people and can tarnish their name. We have also helped those with cases where they are targeted by a vindictive ex-employee. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people, most with no specific issue.
Tell us about Patrick Ambron: your favorite TV show, movie, what do you like doing?
PA: I like Game of Thrones, True Detective – HBO shows are usually good. I like Arrested Development. I like all movies, it’s really hard to pick a favorite. I’m an Indiana Jones guy and I like Jaws. I like Jurassic Park. I still play soccer and basketball a good amount. I like the outdoors, camping, and stand-up comedy.
What is your advice to someone who doesn’t use BrandYourself?
PA: If you don’t define yourself on the web, you will eventually be defined by something else. Be proactive! The best defense is a good offense.
To find out more about or enroll in BrandYourself for free, visit: www.BrandYourself.com.