On Wednesday, Nov. 18, AOL President Luke Beatty visited West Chester University to share his entrepreneurial journey with students.
Beatty attended Connecticut College and later pursued a graduate degree from Harvard University. He entered the workforce of a changing world; with search engines at the forefront of technology, Beatty was inspired to enter the business himself.
For Beatty, pursuing a career in search engine technology was an easy decision, as it fascinated him.
According to Beatty, he remembered thinking, “This is amazing,” and was dumbfounded at the concept of online searching. “I don’t even need to have a brain in my head.”
Beatty explained how search engines have revolutionized the way we learn and obtain information, and the societal transformation from page-flipping to keyword-searching is an interesting one. Beatty began his career with a start-up company called WAN, which supplied an infrastructure for online search.
WAN supplied a software that connected search terms in order to produce more thorough results.
According to Beatty, working at WAN gave him access to something that inspired his entrepreneurial vision: search statistics. He noticed many people searching for the same types of questions but yielding minimal results. This wasn’t a flaw in the search engine, but in the lack of material available online.
Beatty took this problem and created Associated Content, a website in which users could post what Beatty knew people were actually searching for.
Beatty explained the name of the company was inspired by its goal: to “cover the things that The Associated Press wouldn’t cover.”
In 2010, he sold his company to Yahoo. He spent little time with Yahoo, as he moved on to TechStars, a company that Beatty described as an “incubator for start-ups.”
This led him to AOL, which is now a branch of Verizon, where he currently resides.
Beatty runs the many independent brands of AOL, from The Huffington Post to Mom.me.
After sharing his own journey, Beatty shared his secrets of success with the audience.
First and foremost, he emphasized that any start up business should always seek to solve a problem.
Stressing the importance of teamwork, Beatty encouraged the audience to embrace the division of labor.
“If you try to do everything by yourself, it never, ever works,” said Beatty.
He explained that having a team of “glow in the dark people” is extremely important in having a successful start-up.
“If you have awesome people, you will always have an asset,” said Beatty.
He then explained the concept of intraprenuership, which is starting a new, unrelated project within an existing company. According to Beatty, “nothing is awesome forever.” Instead of feeding or improving old legacy businesses, he believes that solving new problems is the key to success.
Beatty is now involved with a company called Alpha, a board which essentially “tinkers with all kinds of new ideas at AOL/Verizon.”
An upcoming project of Alpha is TSTDRV, an app that allows perspective car buyers to avoid dealership formalities and skip straight to the test drive. Beatty sees this as a perfect solution to the declining popularity of car dealerships.
Throughout his presentation, Beatty encouraged students to pursue their own entrepreneurial ideas, but warned them of the trials and tribulations that come with building a start-up company.
He left the audience with one piece of advice for starting their own entrepreneurial journey: “Just get started.”
Anne Subach is a first-year student majoring in marketing. She can be reached at AS842689@wcupa.edu.