Matt Dusig, a serial entrepreneur, is the co-founder and CEO of uSamp™. Before jump-starting uSamp, Dusig logged into the [survey] industry with goZing, a pioneer in online sampling acquired by Greenfield Online in 2005. He was a finalist for the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and attended Cal State Northridge.
Sramana: Matt, let’s start with the beginning of your story. Where did you grow up?
Matt Dusig: I grew up in Los Angeles. I went to Cal State Northridge. Everything I have done in terms of being an entrepreneur has tied in with my business partner, Greg Lavin.
My background and my business partner’s background are entrepreneurial. We have entrepreneurial fathers and father-in-law. We saw people willing to start businesses from scratch and build them.
There is always a debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. I think it is a little bit of both. If you were to ask me in my early 20s if I was an entrepreneur, I would have said no. Today, looking back, I think I was. I did start doing freelance businesses in college. I started a printing business with my father when I was 23. I never thought of that as entrepreneurship. I just thought of it as something I was doing to make money.
Sramana: What did you study in college?
Matt Dusig: I studied computer animation and interactive design. I had been reading and saw that this field was coming. The only way to use the computers was to go into the art department, so I found myself doing painting and sculpting as well. I jumped into Macromedia Director and as many things as I could to take advantage of multimedia.
I have been friends with Greg for a very long time, since we were both very young. We were college roommates and fraternity brothers. We started our first business in 1999. We did couponing and polling all over the cell phone. We were 10 years early. Even though we did not make a lot of money doing that, it eventually led us to online surveys and polling. We ran a job for an online market research program in 2000 and got paid $30,000 for a weekend of work. That is when we found our new business model.
Sramana: Was your 1999 startup a location-based company?
Matt Dusig: It was. We raised $1.6 million from friends and family. We did not know anything about raising angel money or venture capital. We knew we had an interesting idea and it was easy to get money on the Internet bandwagon. Unfortunately, we went through that money. We set off to do location-based marketing. I still have a cardboard cutout in my office that we had put in 500 Subway stores showing an old Nokia phone showing a text message on the screen saying “Buy One, Get One Free. Get Subway text messages on your phone.”
By the time we stumbled into our new business model, we had $20,000 left in the bank. We were using our credit cards to keep the final group of employees paid. I was starting to think about what kind of job I was going to have to do take.