Economic analyst Janszen discusses online start-ups

By Michelle Williams

Eric Janszen, an economic analyst and CEO of iTulip, a financial advisory firm, spoke at the University of Massachusetts last Wednesday evening, delivering a presentation titled “How to Build a Company in 40 Minutes.”

The Memorial Hall auditorium was filled with students, alumni and professors as Janszen, a UMass alum, presented a proposal titled, “What do you see in a mobile phone?” for his new company, MediateImage.

MediateImage, Janszen explained, came from a combination of three words: immediate, mediate and image. The name represents his idea of a new marketplace to transmit immediate images between amateur photographers and news outlets.

The idea behind the company was initially conceived in 2005, when Janszen considered the mushrooming value of mobile communications. As Janszen pondered the skyrocketing significance of mobile communication and the near omnipresent role of the cell phone, he realized it has become more likely that an individual near the scene of unfolding news will be able to get a camera phone shot than a professional photographer in times of natural disaster or dramatic moments, such as last year’s riots and protests in Tehran, Iran.

“The probability of getting that spectacular shot is higher for 5,000 cameras than one camera,” Janszen noted.

He then considered how the quality of mobile camera phones has been enhanced of late. In a comparison of photos taken with his phone in 2005 and an updated model in 2010, he showed the audience that with time, the technology has improved and will likely continue to improve.

As photographs in breaking news are of instantaneous value as soon as they are taken, Janszen said his company would have a service, likely via an encrypted MMS text message or e-mail, which would send the photo to news outlets and allow them to sort through the photos and bid for the right to publish them.

One audience member asked how the news sources would be able to trust such amateur photographers, without suspicion that they would be using old, inauthentic photos or programs allowing them to alter images, like Photoshop.

Janszen responded that the photos, once encrypted, would be marked with a time stamp and would be unable to be resubmitted, ensuring the veracity of the images. The news sources would learn to trust photographers based on a rating system “much

like the one eBay has – users build buyers’ trust,” said Janszen.

While the presentation didn’t result in the formation of any actual company, it showed audience members the ease of doing so.

Janszen said the key to founding any company is attempting to locate where there is a problem and where a solution is opening to solve it.

Founding a company requires “trying to find an intersection of change and a problem,” he said. “Preferably one the customer didn’t even know [he or she] had.”

The most common problem entrepreneurs experience, according to Janszen, is their tendency to overthink. He used the social networking site Twitter as an example of how people typing 140 characters evolved into a $60-million company.

One student was convinced of the merits of Janszen’s logic.

Oleg Kamenetsky, a senior kinesiology major said, “As someone without a lot of experience hearing presentations, I thought it was a great idea.”

Kamenetsky said he was interested in the discussion because he might start his own company one day. When asked if he would personally invest in MediateImage, Kamenetsky said he’d like to learn more about investments in general first.

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected]