A Green Thumb For StartupsEdith Updike
Jared Schutz can't help himself: He starts companies. At 24, he has a BA from Princeton University, a coin collection, a few dogs--and a business track record that most 60-year-olds would envy. His first venture was trading government scrap metal, finding buyers for old shell casings and helmets. Sealed bids let the 16-year-old operate with no one the wiser. "It beat having a paper route," Schutz says. In 1994 those earnings provided his grubstake for Chicago-based American Information Systems Inc., a technical consulting firm he co-founded with two partners while still in college.
AIS's revenues are now more than $5 million per year. In 1995, Schutz started up Stardot Consulting in Washington, to help politicians build Web sites. Last year, Daniel Cunningham, 23, tapped Schutz for help founding athletic-equipment dealer Sportscape.com. The two met at Princeton, where Schutz was "always flying off to his business in Chicago," and "juggling 20 things at once," recalls Cunningham.
Although he's not involved in day-to-day operations of Sportscape or AIS, and recently sold Stardot, Schutz still travels a lot from his base in Boulder, Colo. Once a week, he buzzes out to San Diego to check on his latest venture, Proflowers.com, an Internet retailer that shipped its first bouquets on Valentine's Day.
His partners describe Schutz as a classic idea man, one with a deep understanding of the Internet and first-rate skills in marketing and strategy. Bill Strauss, 40, an operations expert from ChipSoft Inc. brought in as Proflowers' president, notes that Schutz "is very good at admitting his own weaknesses." He says Proflowers has been growing 25% a month since late July. One thing is sure: This young florist is no late bloomer.