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  • An Underdog Builds “Underground Elephant”

    He helped grow Visium from about $500,000 in revenue per year to $30 million to $40 million.

    Jason Kulpa, 34, had a longer journey on his way to leading the hottest startup in San Diego than just the move he made from Scottsdale, Arizona, to Southern California.

    Along the way to taking online marketing firm Underground Elephant to the top of the San Diego Business Journal’s list of fastest-growing private companies, Kulpa lived in his mother’s car, then moved up to a relative’s couch, and finally onto a cot at the office where he worked.

    He helped build that business into a multimillion-dollar firm, started and sold a second company, and finally launched Underground Elephant. Through it all, he remembered: “There is no button on the computer that says I can’t. There’s just the button that says I haven’t figured it out yet.”

    In 2001, he was out of college and making a decent living selling cell phones. But the attacks of September 11 brought home to him, even though he was far from Ground Zero, “not to take for granted any time on this earth.” So he left his job and headed to California with no plans but to search for “something deeper.”

    He wound up living in the backseat of a Nissan Maxima and checking into hourly motels just to get a shower. At some points, he thought about tucking tail and running back to Scottsdale. He even scraped together a pile of quarters for a pay phone call to his father.

    His dad found him that couch, and Kulpa tracked down a job at Visium Solutions involving email marketing. Within a few months, the company shifted to using the Internet for sales-lead generation, Kulpa got an olive-drab Army cot, and he eventually was promoted to president. He helped grow Visium from about $500,000 in revenue per year to $30 million to $40 million.

    Good luck.

    Calvin Wilson
    Founder and CEO
    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Gamechangers


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