Sunday, July 1, 2007

David Koretz, CEO of BlueTie

David Koretz:
One Love

By: Joseph W. Norman

For more from Bigger Impact co-founder, Joseph Norman, visit
Enjoy the read about...David Koretz...below! Thanks for your readership!

One of the first things one notices about David Koretz is his incredible presence. Not only does he stand over six feet tall, but he carries himself with an undeniable sense of purpose, high energy level, and passion for life. An experienced traveler, David has grown into a person, 27 years of age, who appreciates world cultures and seeks to dig deeper into all of them. Now, as CEO of his fourth business, BlueTie, Inc. David is on a trek to make a global impact – something he takes very seriously. His entrepreneurial spirit and motivated quest for knowledge (on all levels) makes him a pleasure to talk to and a joy to be around.

David is a “geek at heart,” and takes probably the most pride in his twelve United States technology patents. This makes him considered a “fellow” amongst engineers, a feat rarely, if ever, accomplished by a CEO. His first business focused on home automation, and fittingly so, his loft near the art gallery in downtown Rochester, New York, is equipped with the fanciest technologies.

He confesses, “My house has wireless security cameras which email me when they detect movement.” Also, he has multiple robots which vacuum his floors, lights that dim when he calls home and says he has a date, and a 200 inch high definition screen that descends from the ceiling - all of which he installed himself. To add to probably one of the swankiest of pads, he built a three terabyte audio/video server which broadcasts digitized versions of 7,000 music videos, 550 movies, and 62,000 songs throughout multiple rooms, including the bathroom so he can watch music videos when he showers. Ladies look out!

Business has always been a quintessential part of his life – starting as early as the age of seven when he went into business selling sea shells from his grandfather. A well known quip of David’s is when he told his grandfather to stop sending shells from Florida, David would just pick some up when he went down to visit. This meant David did not have to split the profits anymore.

To understand David’s thoughts on business it is best to dig into a personal statement of his on the subject, but first some background…

He has created four businesses, starting his first at age 14 and built it up to about a $100 million in sales by age 17. He went to Brighton High School during the day and attended college, at RIT, at night. Thus, he graduated from both high school and college at the age of 16. One year after graduation he sold the company and went to Babson College for Business. He left after just one semester because he started a second company and sold it, and started a third company and got venture capital before he began a “formal business education.”

Now, David is on his fourth company, BlueTie, Inc. which is valued well into the nine figures and is becoming a smashing success on the Software as a Service front. “It’s been a good run,” David reflects. The point of the background is, he is 27 years old and he started when he was 14. He has much to offer in respect to his motivations and here it is…

“What got me into this business is not what keeps me in business. When I was young I made a lot of money and I made arrogant statements like ‘I want to be a billionaire.’ I was hyper competitive and being able to quantify the yard stick was very important to me.”

“As I’ve grown up and had a chance to experience and travel the world – I’ve been traveling since 14 and on my own since 17 - I’ve had the fortune of meeting about 15 of the Forbes 400. Most of the people I have met in that world are extremely unhappy. One of the things that scared me was seeing a dozen unhappy billionaires because it made me think about my goal of running down that path to get to the same place they are. This created pause. I said, you’re chasing after somebody that is miserable – then I refined my goals and came up with the idea of the ‘One Love Tour,’ to which you cannot apply, you can only be accepted.”

The ‘One Love Tour’ is an incredible cultural experience which focuses on David’s desire to make “a ding in the universe,” – a quote from Steve Jobs, a person who David admires. This tour covers 72 countries in twelve months and includes four key stages: Relaxation of Mind and Body, the Adventure Tour, the Intellectual Tour, and the Eastern Religion Tour. But first, the rules must be set out. You cannot have any responsibilities at home. This means someone has to be paying your bills and taking care of your realities. You cannot have a job or any board memberships. “Nothing at the moment,” David says. “You’re only in it for being in it.”

The first three months is the relaxation tour which features trips to places such as Argentina, Venezuela, Tanzania, Mozambique, and many more. During the second phase, the Adventure Tour, trips into the jungles of Madagascar, Djibouti, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, and some parts of Antarctica are all par for the course. Phase three is the Intellectual Tour, featuring tours of Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, and more, while the final stage is the Eastern Religion Tour. This takes place in India, Tibet, China, and various other Asian countries. The next twelve months is spent on the islands in St. Johns to figure out “whether we rinse and repeat,” says David.

David in Nicaragua

This tour will most likely take place for David within the next five years or so, he states. “If I was intimately well versed in cultures, then I can add considerable value relative to my business capability.” At the age of 27, and with his latest business producing nine figure revenue streams, he seems to be well on his way to making that “ding in the universe.” The cultural experience no doubt remains a key part of David’s life, despite his intense focus on business.

To mix two philosophies together, David reflects on the culture of business. He states, “A lot of people, when they go into the world of business, look at what career they want, not what culture they want.” Next, he describes the three types of businesses in his eyes, “Zero to aha, aha to interesting, and interesting to major companies.”

“Zero to aha,” is a distinction David gives to the strategic phase of business building. This features questions such as; “How do you build a compelling business model and a compelling product?” And, “how do you get past the strategic questions to make it an execution question?” David admits, “I’m really good at that first stage. Therefore, for him, he enjoys creating the company and making it work. The benefits, David states, “You can make a lot of money quickly in the ‘zero to aha’ stage, if you like to run really hard, take big risks, and make big bets - that is my world and that is what I enjoy.” There is one key assumption though, that it is a business with $100 million plus in revenue potential.

“Aha to interesting” is now not a question of strategy, because that has just been solved, but rather a step into execution risk. For David, “That is not really fun.” It is refining processes, building out infrastructure, and scaling the business. “I don’t really enjoy that,” David confesses. “I’m not the best CEO to run this company five years from now.” Most CEOs won’t tell you that, David says.

Describing the Rochester area, he said, “You’re not talking about really scalable businesses - maybe ten or twenty – most of them are lifestyle businesses, not billion dollar businesses.” He reflects on the importance of these types of business but states, “When venture capital is involved, you don’t have a choice – you are intended to build a scalable business.”

“Interesting to major companies” feature nine figure revenue streams, proven out execution risk, and now is scaling risk – the third type of risk. This stage is also something David does not particularly care about. He reflects on the abilities of his friend Jonathan Judge, CEO of PayChex, Inc. “If you look at PayChex, you get a guy like Jon Judge. He’ll make a few million a year to figure out how to take the business from two billion a year to four or five billion a year. It is a very rare skill, and Jon is a very bright guy.” David also describes Danny and Colleen Wegman as business people at this level.

David in Austrailia

In conclusion on this topic, David states, “The question functionally is what part do you enjoy?” There are few people like Tom Golisano, his partner and founder of PayChex, Inc. who can go from “Zero to scaling a business and stay the whole way,” David reflects. “I’ve chosen that I’ll probably spend the next thirty years of my career finding interesting companies in billion dollar holes and filling that hole as fast as possible. That is the way I look at my world.”

A big part of David’s life involves interacting with people he admires. Recently, he had dinner with former President, Bill Clinton. “He is a really interesting guy,” David says. “He has an unbelievably charismatic way to capture the attention of whoever he is talking to.”

Tom Golisano, is a friend and mentor to David and Chairman of BlueTie, Inc. “If there are four options to do something, Tom will find the fifth,” David admits. “His ability to not necessarily analyze the question you asked him, but step back and analyze the question he thinks you should be asking forces you to re-ask the question and rethink your approach - I really appreciate that about him.”

David had the opportunity to spend a few days with Buzz Aldrin, one of the first American’s to land on the moon and a Doctorate from MIT. “I spent two days with him and he is a super smart guy,” David says. “He got so far over my head so fast – I couldn’t help but be interested.”

David at his desk at BlueTie World Headquarters in Pittsford, NY

Another really good friend of David’s and somebody he admires is Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight. “I have been friends with him since I was a kid,” David says. In fact, he brought Keith to Nazareth College in Rochester to speak at an event. David remarks, “He is interesting in terms of his scientific approach to networking, something a lot of people really suck at.”

David climbing Mount Marcy, highest peak in New York State

In general, David admits to be interested in people that are interested in stuff he knows nothing about and are really passionate about what they do.

Although David is consumed by a variety of interests, there are a few which take precedence, chocolate and racing BMWs, Porsches, and Ferraris. His favorite chocolate is Amedei Chocolate from the hills of Tuscany.

A self proclaimed connoisseur of the delicious dessert, David throws a chocolate tasting charity in which the participants have a stunning 42 course tasting. They each consume over a pound and a half of chocolate! Unfortunately, the Amedei, Porcelana and Chuao chocolate bars, David’s favorites, are in short supply. “It has been an interesting process,” David reflects. “I have had six people turn me down when I try to buy them - they refuse to sell it because they don’t have enough of a chocolate relationship with me.”

The hobby of racing cars stems from David’s need to get away from the throes of the business world. He cannot golf because it is too slow. David admits, “You can’t focus on anything else when you are driving a 130 miles per hour.” After competing in such races as Cannonball Run: the Race across America, he now instructs at Watkins Glen. If you meet David, ask him about the blonde woman he met at the track on the rainy day - it’s a good story.

David boasts an incredible work ethic, sleeping only 3 or 4 hours a night during busy times at his company, i.e. a new product roll out or a big deal being made. He often stays up for days at a time while on a roll with his work. Then, he’ll catch up on sleep for a few hours. He is not a man void of philosophies about his pursuits though, as reflected here in a personal statement about success:

David and Joseph in the office

“It is a whole theory for, ‘How do you really push yourself? And, ‘What is meaningful about life?’ The simplest way to describe it is that only two things matter; relationships and accomplishment. They are the only two things that drive sustainable happiness - so creating [BlueTie, Inc.] achieves both for me. If you create the right environment, you get to be surrounded by a lot of really smart people. I like to be around really smart people. At BlueTie I am fortunate to be surrounded by great people. Relative to accomplishment, I go on a week vacation and I get bored out of my mind. So, a lot of it is going out and having a canvas, so to speak, to create interesting things. I think I will always being doing this – I think I have to.”

David is motivated by a quote of Henry David Thoreau, “Only those that go too far will know how far one can possibly go.” David feels that most people don’t push the limits because they are uncomfortable with failure. “People combine failure as a person, with failure in business - failure is a track record where you understood the process of being great,” David admits. “I’ve been lucky because I’m four for four.”

To sum up David simply is impossible. His diverse interests make him a scholar all over the board. One thing does ground this man though, his insatiable desire to make an impact on a global level. His determination and work ethic will no doubt make that happen. More importantly, he will do it with the utmost respect for the cultures of the world - as long as he has the 'One Love Tour' under his belt.

Ben, David and Joe in the BlueTie, Inc. Lobby

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David Koretz
BlueTie, Inc.
Founder & CEO
BlueTie, Inc.
1050 Pittsford-Victor Road
Pittsford, NY 14534