SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Jesse Itzler, entrepreneur

While he made his mark in music and then in private aviation, Jesse Itzler is as well connected across sports as anyone. His “Go New York Go” tune is the Knicks’ theme song, an endeavor that led to the establishment of Alphabet City Records, later sold to SFX during its sports rollup. Itzler became a serial entrepreneur of sorts, co-founding fractional jet pioneer Marquis Jet and, more recently, 100 Mile Group, a brand incubator and marketing agency that fosters about 10 startup brands, including Zico coconut water (Coke later purchased a 50 percent interest); Sheets energy strips; and Voli, uniquely positioned as a low-cal vodka.
— Compiled by Terry Lefton

Photo by: CHRIS HAMILTON PHOTOGRAPHY

After innovation, it’s just about effort and execution, and the old saying there is, ‘Bet on the jockey, not the horse.’



Launching consumer brands
: Unless you start with a $100 million marketing budget, any brand you start from a PowerPoint is just about inducing trial, changing consumer habits and getting repeat business. A new brand needs to tell consumers why they want it in five seconds or less, so messaging and packaging are critical. If it fits into a larger consumer trend, like health and wellness, even better.
 
Identifying a winner: To spot an incubation brand that will grow, you look for things that are simple and behavior-changing. You don’t have to belong to a gym any more; apps or online links can give you the best workouts in the world, from the best instructors. We are working with an app called ShadowMe that demystifies Twitter. You can get anyone’s entire Twitter feed.

Defining innovation: We see a million good ideas, so before investing or asking people to, we ask if it solves a problem no one has solved yet, or if it does that in a unique way. Innovation is all about looking for what’s missing — even for simple things. Athletes have been icing their shoulders or knees the same way for 100 years, and they end up with water all over their shirts or shorts. Anyone that solves that has a killer product that every athlete and everyone who wants to be an athlete will use.

The next trend?
: Because of all of our health consciousness now, I believe we’re at the beginning of a trend that will see some food companies take the additives out of almost everything. We’ll have gluten-free, allergen-free, everything-free foods, and consumers will be willing to pay for that.

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