Scott Kitun: A Story Of Faith, Hustle & Entrepreneurship
Stories of entrepreneurship can be as gripping as superhero origin stories. The grind, the hustle and the hard-fought journey to the top inspire us to get back on the horse and try again in our own right. No one knows that fight better than Scott Kitun, CEO & Host of Technori, a media outlet for Chicago startup companies to share their stories and join an entrepreneurial community.
A friend of Scott’s gifted him a personalized song to celebrate his own special story of entrepreneurship and to recognize his well-earned success after such a long and arduous journey.
As with those origin stories, his is an inspiring tale that will motivate entrepreneurs on any stage of their journey. Whether you’re studying undergrad and wondering what to do when you graduate or you just closed another round of funding for your startup, give his song a listen and give his story a read.
We’re sure you’ll walk away ready to take on the world.
“If you were to break the story of Technori into twelve or so chapters, each one would represent a different year in my life where I developed some skill without which none of this would be possible. In the last six months, all that finally came together in the biggest “aha” moment of my professional career.”
The Hero’s Journey
“My whole life is sort of this big mash of things that don’t make sense. I started off in commercial real estate after graduating from college at Marquette and I hated it. I was good. I managed around a million square feet of property. I was really good at fixing and flipping these nuisance properties that were probably going to get foreclosed on. I had this knack for fixing up things that had potential, but just didn’t look like it. Part of that process was learning to work around leases and contracts. I hated it. I was going to go to law school, but instead ended up going to Northwestern for my Master’s Degree in innovations and communications management. I didn’t want to be in real estate anymore, but I still liked that sort of design way of strategy thinking that I used while in real estate.
Then, I got hooked on a project at Northwestern. It was a company in the media space that was bringing their YouTube channel into South America, and there were millions of millions of people who were on it. I had no idea. I did not pay attention. So I started getting into it, started taking classes and started leveraging networks Honestly, as I was working on this, I started to fall in love with how social networks work, how the media works, how people listen and engage with media, and by looking at all the current media stations and platforms out there, determining where the future is going. It was apparent this was about to blow up, but somehow I just hadn’t known until I got into it. So, at any rate, the program at Northwestern ended, and I ultimately started another program at Northwestern for another Master’s Degree so I could stay on the project. I ended up going into Media Management, because I was thinking, well between Kellogg and Medill, I’ll learn the business side of how how this media channel works. I had no idea where I was going with this, but I knew it would all work out. Anyways, as I was finishing up at Medill, I decided I wanted to start my own company. I wanted to do innovation for other companies. I want to basically keep doing projects just like this but for other companies.
So I started a consulting company with equity partners, which ultimately didn’t work how I thought it would. The business model I had was really good, but the people I had to execute it just weren’t. One of my first clients that I got was WGN. I realized through starting my own company that there was, and still is, an entrepreneurial swell going on in Chicago, so I created for them a show talking about entrepreneurs called Tomorrow’s Business Today.
I had never hosted anything before, but I told them that I knew how anyways. It was a BS game. I figured out how to apply network dynamics and what I had learned in college with what I was trying to do, and I ended up seeing like half a million plays. It worked. At the same time, I realized that I didn’t like the kind of business I was in. I loved entrepreneurship, but a consulting company is not an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is someone who builds things that can be scaled, sold and create jobs. So I ended up dissolving my consulting company, giving the rest of the shares to the guys that I had put on the team in the first place, and just headed off on this new show as a real entrepreneur.
Stories Come Full-Circle
About six months into Tomorrow’s Business Today, I was thinking, “well I need to figure out how to make money with this thing,” and I stumbled upon Seth Kravitz who had founded Technori. I had actually done some Technori events when I was in grad school at Northwestern and thought it was a cool flash form of a great brand. It said everything I was trying to say, just in a different way. I reached out to Seth to ask him how I should build this to make money. I knew how to make money, but I didn’t know how to build an audience, and I needed the audience in order to make money.
So I had a conversation with him. We ended up working out a deal where I acquired Technori from him and merged my podcast show and program into his Technori rebranding. It gave me the ability to access an audience and really have a brand that was powerful and worthwhile. From that point on, I was able to look at this as an event company that also had a strong media brand at WGN with our show. Now we’ve got multiple revenue verticals, the sponsor model, events and philanthropy.
That’s why I started this story with my time in real estate. Without learning how to run a business and really be smart about building business models, I couldn’t do this. So that time in real estate, though I hated it, paid a huge dividend because now I know what I’m doing in a space where other people don’t. The time in grad school where I didn’t know exactly what I was doing but I was studying this on this media project, it all made me a master at social networks, looking at networks differently and being able to grow audiences on a digital platform. I did Second City for fun and never thought of it professionally, but it turned out to help so much when I then began to host a show. All these things all came together in 2016. My real estate experience gave me the smarts to acquire a company, the network dynamics I learned in my first year at Northwestern taught me how to build and scale an audience, my masters degree at Northwestern in media management taught me how to build a business model around a scalable audience, my time working as a consultant introduced me to so many different forms of startups, innovation and entrepreneurship. It took until the end of 2016 for my whole professional life to finally make sense for the very first time.
I have faith, I trust in myself and I know that if I make my decisions based on what I believe to truly be facts as I know it, everything will work out. I’m not sure that’s a good way to do business, but that’s the way that I do it. And everything in these twelve or so chapters that have happened thus far have landed exactly as it all was supposed to. Every decision that I’ve ever made, I made based on my gut. This is what I think is the right thing to do. Afterward I might question it, say I didn’t like it, but it turns out it to have been the right decision, because here we are and I’m using all of those things I learned in those twelve chapters every single day in 2017.
Words Of Advice
I always thought entrepreneurs are 100% born, not made. I was wrong. It’s a bit of both. I don’t fit in a box, I could never work for somebody in a traditional cubicle sense. My personality just doesn’t allow for it. But, I was more of a traditional person with the safety net of a job for a while. An entrepreneur has to be someone who thrives under pressure, who believes in themselves to the point that they are willing to bet the farm on themselves every time, and a person who has that “it” factor that enables them to shut off all the noise around them and just crush it. And I mean girlfriends, wives, kids, everything. Turn it off and get the job done. That impacts your personal life a lot, obviously, but it’s a part of being an entrepreneur. That’s why I don’t think entrepreneurs are necessarily born or made, because they require a certain set of acquired skills as well as those inherent characteristics. You can learn those skills, but you have to be so naturally driven and have the ability to focus where everyone else can’t. Where it’s blurry for everyone else, you have to have crystal clear focus. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed about real successful entrepreneurs who can build and scale.
That’s why I said entrepreneurs build things that be scaled, sold and create jobs. If you’re just sitting around pedaling, working for yourself, technically you may be considered an entrepreneur, but I don’t think of it as such. I think a real entrepreneur is someone who says, “I build businesses that fuel an economy so that other people can rest on my ability to do this, to drive forward, to keep building.” An entrepreneur who builds something has to deal with so much pressure and stress and arbitrage and contracts and people and campaigning and raising capital and finances and just everything. So much. Those who are successful have that extra “it” factor that has made them able to do work where other people fell apart.
One, don’t ever take advice from someone who you wouldn’t want to trade places with. You’ve heard it before, “the grass is always green on the other side.” It rarely is the case, and sometimes, it’s you who’s doing better. So make sure before you take mentors and advice from people who have something that is better than what you have. If you’re running this new business, then don’t take advice from a guy who is also running a new business but is broke. Take advice from someone who has built and sold a company for millions of dollars. That’s advice worth taking. Don’t take advice from the guy who tried to build a company but couldn’t do it.
The other thing is, and this is something that I think is really hard for people. It was super hard for me honestly. It’s that people are going to steal your ideas left and right, and you weren’t the first person with the idea, too. Even if you were, you won’t be the last for sure. People are going to rip you off. They’re not going to give you credit. They’re going to try to screw you over. People are always going to steal your stuff. For the most part, the whole idea of secrecy and NDAs and trademarks and all this other shit is just a waste of time because people are going to steal your stuff. So, all I can tell you is, spend not one second worrying about that. I spent the first two years of my business trying to protect everything I had and it was worthless. Just focus on being exceptional, on being in love with what you do, and just execute, because the difference between success and failure is not somebody stealing your idea and getting to it first. It’s the execution. No one can do what you do quite like you, because they didn’t live those twelve or so chapters of your life that brought you to where you are today.”