Tuesday Apr 9, 2013 by Ben Mirin - Contributor, VentureFizz
Back in 2011, Spencer Bramson rented an office in Boston “just to get creative people together.” At 21, he had already left his first entrepreneurial venture at Buzz University, and was working on a variety of projects as an independent marketing consultant.
His father soon called:
“He told me I needed to start another business or go back to school,” Bramson recalls.
These were familiar words of advice. When Bramson dropped out of Bentley University after his freshman year to pursue a career in marketing, most of his teachers, family, and friends told him to go earn a degree. But as the founder of influencers@ and the brain behind the promising new market research platform ChatterMob, it’s clear Bramson chose instead to learn by making things from the ground up, and aptly so.
“At school I felt I was being trained to follow rather than to lead,” Bramson explained. “It was the same in some of my early internships in finance: all the extra work I put in would get me higher on the same ladder, but I cared far more about creating something that was a full return on my time.”
Growing up in multiple locations just north of Chicago, Bramson had his eyes set on business from a young age. He attended business camps during the summer, and took nearly every business course his high school had to offer. Most importantly, it was in his blood.
“My father became a private wealth advisor, working his way up in the corporate world after starting out with $1,000 in his pocket. Ever since I was ten or eleven, our dinner table conversations revolved around business.”
Among the many entrepreneurs Bramson met in his early days of networking around Boston, it was David Yarus who noticed his energy and drive. They first crossed paths at a series of business meetups that summer, where both young men felt a bit out of place.
“This was back before networking was the cool thing to do,” Bramson explained, “and [Yaris and I] were usually the only two people under 35 in the room. After seeing each other several times eventually we had to ask each other what each of us was doing there.”
When Yaris, who graduated from Babson in 2008, asked Bramson to help him start Buzz University, it was just weeks before Bramson was due to return to Bentley for his sophomore year. He decided at first to do both, and spent the first few weeks of the term driving between Waltham and Boston four times a day. He kept it up for about five weeks before jumping into the world of tech marketing full time.
But college life has had a way of keeping up with Bramson’s breakneck race through three marketing startups since then. Bramson’s early days at Buzz University had him managing a team of over 150 college brand evangelists and orchestrating on-campus campaigns for Fortune 500 companies including Rockstar Energy Drink and Milky Way.
“Working so intensively on campuses made me recognize the power of human interaction and the importance of transparency in marketing,” Bramson says. “Not having enough of one or the other can be really damaging to any brand, big or small, and I’ve made them central tenets of my work strategy.”
Together with Yaris, Bramson achieved national sales for Buzz University in just nine months, but it wasn’t long before he needed a new challenge.
“It was the early days of social media, and particularly of Facebook Pages, when we would give out corporate memorabilia in exchange for Facebook Likes,” Bramson explained. “Around the time I launched influencers@, marketing technology had exploded, and consumers had also become much more sophisticated. It made me feel like I was back in the realm of the new.”
Since moving onto his second venture, Bramson has also noticed a substantial change in Boston’s entrepreneurial atmosphere. “As far as tech is concerned, the idea of the Angry Bostonian doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “Just the other day I set up a meeting with an investor through a couple of DM’s [direct messages] on Twitter!”
Being so closely attuned to changes in the marketing world has kept Bramson excited and at the top of his game. Maintaining his focus on the dynamics, desires, and behaviors of young consumers, he has grown influencers@ around a simple slogan:
“We are a marketing agency, and we know 18-24.”
No one doubts it: retrofitted with ball pits and with every surface turned into a dry-erase board, the young company appears light-years beyond the small office Bramson rented in early 2011. It retains the zaniness and sense of adventure that earned its founder recognition as a Future Forward Game Changer in 2011, and his selection in 2012 as one of 15 Rising Stars Under 30 by Boston Business Journal and the year’s Most Likeable Entrepreneur at the Likeable U Awards.
And the adventure isn’t over. Launched with funding from influencers@ on March 26th, ChatterMob already stands out as a fun and fast way to extract data from specific markets in real time. Users earn prizes through point auctions in exchange for providing data to Bramson’s clients through answers to simple market research questions.
“My personal favorite among the prizes is the Jawbone-Up band. I have one,” Bramson laughed. “But in our weekly raffles and bi-monthly auctions people have been picking all sorts of unexpected items, from Razor scooters to luxury pillows!”
Last Thursday Bramson took ChatterMob on tour as part of KarmaLoop’s Verge Campus Tour 2013. He will visit 24 college campuses over the next four weeks to promote ChatterMob as part of a brand village fair by day and an event sponsor by night, live-blogging and collecting data during nightly performances by the Tour’s leading acts: rapper Kendrick Lamar and producer Steve Aokie.
“These past couple years I’ve loved elevating other people’s brands. Now, with ChatterMob, I’m building my own.”
 Bramson bio, courtesy of influencers@