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George Burciaga was raised by his grandparents in Chicago and found himself in a position to become innovative by necessity. He is the first college graduate in his family and started his first technology company from his two-bedroom apartment while finishing school.
Elevate Digital is an interactive digital advertising and software company. Founded in March 2011 as smartDIGITAL, Elevate Digital is the first company to truly integrate rich media, city information and advertising in a multi-sensory experience. Elevate Digital products, which include interactive, touch-screen glass displays, are deployed in high-traffic areas in Chicago and soon throughout the U.S.
MO: You started your first company, Sunrise Technology Inc., from your two-bedroom apartment in 1998, while a student at DePaul University. What were the biggest lessons that you learned during your first venture that you were able to apply to subsequent businesses?
George: I learned that anything is possible. No matter how large the obstacle seems, don’t get discouraged. You must have a can do attitude and stay persistent to achieve success.
MO: Can you talk about the process of becoming the first company to truly integrate rich media, city information and advertising in a multi-sensory experience? What challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
George: Since Elevate Digital was first to the table with our technology, adoption by advertisers has been the biggest challenge. Many advertisers are comfortable with traditional out of home advertising mediums so introducing a new option posed a challenge. Fortunately, consumer adoption of the technology was almost immediate. With over 100,000 interactions on our current network and positive results for advertisers, many are starting to take notice and are finding interactive display screens highly effective at delivering their message.
MO: What are two trends in your industry that you’re excited by?
George: First, the growing popularity of touchscreens. As consumers become more comfortable with the technology, there are many more opportunities to integrate touchscreens into our daily lives. Secondly, the development of connective advertising presents opportunities for Elevate Digital. Advertisers are looking to create meaningful connections with consumers beyond just straight impression numbers. Technology like ours, helps create this connection and is on track to become the preferred method of delivering messaging to consumers.
MO: Congratulations on securing a partnership with Groupon to deliver daily deals on your interactive Digital screens. Any tips for our readers on pitching to a well-known brand?
George: It’s essential to do your homework before approaching any potential partners. Knowing their business and how to help them achieve their goals is important in gaining respect and a forum to open dialogue with company leadership. Go in with a well devised plan and a sustainable revenue model to prove value to brands.
MO: Congratulations on securing $2.7 million in Series A financing led by Advantage Capital Partners. How will your investors help contribute to the growth and strategy of your vision?
George: Investors are essential to helping Elevate Digital develop an infrastructure footprint and develop business relationships. Our initial round of funding helped to gain interest in Elevate Digital to secure additional rounds of funding.
MO: Have you had any mentors during the course of your career? Or anyone that you’re particularly inspired by?
George: Richard Wallace, the president of a large beverage distribution company was my first mentor. I was employed by Richard as an IT intern. Richard and I had nothing in common but for some reason he believed in me. He asked what I would change about the company. I gave him a list of changes I would make and he presented it to his boss. He then suggested that I be responsible for implementing the changes. As an intern, it was inspirational to have someone of his level of influence believe in my capabilities. I learned to be creative and think outside the box and to always look at new ways of doing business.