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UW-Madison alumni sell ecommerce analytics company

July 6, 2011 By Melissa Anderson

A trio of recent University of Wisconsin–Madison graduates have sold their e-commerce analytics company to a major player in the social media field less than one year after its launch.

In May, Corey Capasso and Andrew Ferenci, who graduated from the Wisconsin School of Business with bachelor’s degrees in business administration in 2009, and Dan Reich, a 2008 graduate from the College of Engineering, sold their startup company Spinback to Buddy Media for an undisclosed sum.

Spinback technology includes EasyShare, a social plug-in that allows consumers to easily share products and purchases through Facebook, Twitter and email; and EasyTrack, an analytics dashboard that helps companies measure the return on their social media investment.

Buddy Media is the leading Facebook management system for global advertisers.

Before Spinback, ecommerce retailers had no easy way to track the effectiveness of social media beyond just “click-throughs,” “follows,” and “tweets.” They can now accurately measure social sharing and the traffic, conversions and sales that result.

“Tens of millions of websites have added sharing buttons,” says Michael Lazerow, founder and chief executive officer of Buddy Media. “Very few of them, however, can actually tell you how many sales were driven by these buttons. With this acquisition, Buddy Media can now answer the question ‘What is the return on investment of social media?’ better than anyone else in the market in a holistic way, both on Facebook and off, and on Twitter and email.”

Since its debut in October 2010, Spinback has built a client base of more than 20 leading retailers. They report $2.10 in incremental revenue from each Facebook wall post and a 10.9% conversion rate for Facebook “shares” that lead to purchases.

“The reason we were successful so quickly with Spinback is that it solved a very big problem, and it fit the needs of its clients our clients with respect to the current market conditions in social media,” Capasso says.

Capasso, Ferenci and Reich consider themselves “career entrepreneurs.”

“The goal of any entrepreneur is to build a business that’s successful and scalable enough that you don’t ever need to start another business,” says Reich, adding, “I’ll probably continue to be a serial entrepreneur and make decisions about what to do with the businesses as they come.”

Capasso and Ferenci started their first companies while in high school, then honed their skills as entrepreneurship majors at the Wisconsin School of Business.

“Andrew and Corey were among the second and third classes from our new entrepreneurship major, which launched in 2007,” says Jon Eckhardt, associate professor of management. “The program provides an academic home to students who aspire to become career entrepreneurs.”

Both Capasso and Ferenci praised the personal attention they received from Wisconsin School of Business faculty, especially Eckhardt and Phil Kim, assistant professor of management and human resources, during their time in the program.

“One of the things I found most helpful was the case studies,” Capasso says. Instead of just studying general business development, “we focused on specific aspects of starting a business such as the launch, and the impact of poor decisions.”

“We dove deep into the case studies,” Ferenci agreed. “We learned a lot from others’ past ventures and their success and failure.”

Capasso, who was named one of BusinessWeek’s Best Young Entrepreneurs in 2008, was advised by board member Joe Boucher while he was in the program. Ferenci was a recipient of the Pricer fellowship, which is funded by alum Jim Weinert to honor Professor Bob Pricer. The fellowship provides $2,500 in funding to one undergraduate student a year who is studying and actively pursuing entrepreneurship.

“Corey and Andrew represent exactly the kind of students we want in the program,” Eckhardt said. “They don’t just have great ideas — they make them happen.”

While studying engineering at UW–Madison, Reich worked on a number of start up companies, including a college marketing firm and a website called The CampusAtlas, a portal for aggregated school and social content on university life.

He opted to enroll in the engineering school rather than the business school, but was a recipient of the business school’s inaugural Accenture Leadership Center award in 2007, which promotes business leadership development among undergraduates.

Reich says he believes the technical background he received in the College of Engineering gives him a unique ability to sell or speak to clients about complex technology.

“The engineering school required very rigorous mental gymnastics and organizational thinking, which I found to be absolutely critical in starting a business and being able to create all the different silos and departments to run and scale a business,” he says.

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