Michael Lipton thought a job at Goldman Sachs (GS) would lead to a big career, but perhaps not one that included outfitting a Conan O’Brien blimp with a digital brain. Yet two years into his job as a software developer analyst, Lipton was contacted by his friend Andrew Zolty and Zolty’s colleague, Mattias Gunneras. The duo recently had an epiphany at the offices of their London digital marketing company: They worked next door to a bakery and could never time their visits to when the cookies came out of the oven. So they made a digital, wall-mounted device that allowed the baker to display when the dough went in. The device, BakerTweet, simultaneously sent out a sub-140-character message to sweet-toothed fans.
In early 2010, Zolty wanted Lipton to help turn BakerTweet into what’s now known as a physical marketing technology business. “It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made,” Lipton says, but “I couldn’t retire from Goldman knowing I missed that chance.” He left the bank that July, and the three partners put up $10,000 total to form Breakfast, named for their ambition to break ideas quickly. They launched in New York City in August 2010 and began attracting clients with unusual PR stunts—like installing a digital “brain” on a bicycle and tracking its “mood” on a cross-country ride.
With companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) paying upwards of $300,000 per job, Breakfast says it has already turned a profit. Still, each client presents challenges. When TBS called about promoting Conan, Lipton remembers they said, “We have a blimp. What can you do?” Before long the blimp was checking into the New York Public Library on Foursquare.
LIPTON’S BEST ADVICE
1. Bend and break: When we develop ideas, we go through the same cycle: think, draw, prototype, break, repeat. Business development can be the same. You want to avoid break, so bending a little will help in the long run.
2. Don’t hire the experts: Ambition is the most important trait to look for. In technology, building a team that’s constantly learning and evolving their skill sets is more powerful than one with expertise that’s afraid to leave their comfort zone.