By Jordan Shipley
Walt Disney, the celebrated genius behind some of childhood’s most beloved characters, believed tremendously in the power of dreams. “All our dreams can come true,” he said, “if we have the courage to pursue them.” Pursuing dreams in the manner of Walt Disney is something 22-year-old Jake Klinvex knows well. The Senior Management and Entrepreneurship Major at Villanova University co-founded Persontation in April of 2008, a company which takes online video presentations and directs them towards people within financial services. The idea, which was birthed in the summer of 2006, has undergone a number of difficult steps on its journey to fulfillment. Klinvex, along with his partners Dan Kervick and Chris Foley, formed their team in the spring of 2007; that same summer, the group started investing money into the project. The long-awaited dream finally became a reality last April, when Klinvex and his team took the leap and officially launched Persontation. Success has not been fleeting; after being in business for a mere 11 months, the company’s projected revenue for the upcoming year hovers between $400 – $600K, a small fortune during America’s economic crisis. Klinvex and his partners, in an attempt to avoid potentially losing money or having the business spiral out of their control, recently sold the company to a bigger, Fortune 300 partner. Although they still have a hand in running Persontation, the once-small business now has over 100 extra employees at its disposal. At one point only a dream, the company has taken off and finally become a reality.
The road to success, as is often the case, was not paved with uncontested victories. Klinvex acknowledged numerous difficulties along the way, citing problems such as youth, inexperience, and sometimes even the inability to comprehend work-related programs or materials. In an industry dominated by primarily older men, young college students stand little chance of receiving warranted recognition for their ideas. “In this area of the business world, the CEOs and heads of companies are not always familiar with the technological stuff” says Klinvex. “That, along with our youth and inexperience, sometimes proved a difficult obstacle to overcome.” Finding developers for their programs, in much the same manner as finding clients, often proved tricky; once again, youth and inexperience often worked as a major turnoff to the older gurus in the business. The subject of acquiring investors demonstrated yet another hurdle to Klinvex and his partners; some potential investors turned out to be flukes, challenging the team to weed out the less-than-perfect candidates.
“My professors proved to be a huge help to our success. Although you don’t necessarily think of them as people outside of the classroom, they have experience and can offer you great insights.”
Although the journey was long, Klinvex learned that the true value of life lies not in the destination, but in the experiences encountered along the way. “Business,” the young man says seriously, “is about connections. One phone call between two huge companies can do you ten times better than months and months of marketing strategies.” Which, he hurriedly clarifies, does not mean that selling one’s self is unimportant; rather, the focus should lie in strengthening connections rather than always attempting to increase their number. According to Klinvex, business requires a lot of trust; trust between partners, trust in the system, trust in yourself. Without trust between himself, Kervick, and the rest of their team, he claims, Persontation would have gotten nowhere. Personal skills, the ability to present yourself and your product, and the ability to handle incalculable stress also plays a huge role. A businessman’s private life continually takes a hit; long hours and crazy schedules provide little time for relaxation or family. “My prayer life has gone through some rough patches,” Klinvex confides, “because my life’s not as structured as it used to be. It takes a concerted effort to maintain a healthy and wholesome lifestyle.”
Although the new big-man on campus, Klinvex remains humble and quietly confident. He offers advice to kids still in school, encouraging them to try to start their own business. “Why not?” he challenges. “The worst thing that could possibly happen is that you fail.” Failure, he proceeds to explain, teaches a person so much more than success; it teaches him to persevere, even during the difficult times. Starting a business teaches responsibility and self-confidence, and, Klinvex chuckles, “definitely boosts your resume.” Often, however, starting a business requires outside help. Klinvex found that help from an unlikely, though not shocking, source. “My professors proved to be a huge help to our success,” he says. “Although you don’t necessarily think of them as people outside of the classroom, they have experience and can offer you great insights.” For those entering the business world, Klinvex encourages them to look for things that “pain you in the workplace. Then, try to solve them or make them less painful.” Intelligent advice, coming from someone still considered a newcomer to the business scene.
Overall, Klinvex remains satisfied with his decision. “It’s been completely worth it,” he says happily, a huge smile illuminating his face. And he’s far from finished; new ideas invigorate and inspire him everyday. “If all goes well,” a confident Klinvex proclaims, “we’ll expand sometime soon to include lawyers and real estate.” After progressing so far, his dreams are still coming true. Walt Disney would be proud.