Patrick Gavin’s first job out of college was working for his dad in a brick and stone business in Iowa City, Iowa. That’s not exactly how Bill Gates made his first million, but it turns out the bricks and stones made for a pretty good foundation upon which Gavin could build his career.
Looking for a way to advertise the company, the 1999 business major got a quick lesson in Internet marketing. He learned what was out there—or really, what wasn’t out there. Nowhere on the Web was there a place that brought together Web site publishers and advertisers in a format that pre-selected which products were best suited for each site. So Gavin called a classmate, Bill Fish, and in 2001 the two started a little venture called Text Link Ads.
Apparently they hit a nerve in the expanding online world. The company’s client base grew so fast that Fish and Gavin went full time with the venture in 2002, moved it to Cincinnati and hired a third Xavier classmate, Brock Boser, as their publisher manager. Their success generated a client base of 15,000 publishers and 3,000 advertisers, which caught the attention of an online marketing conglomerate, Media Whiz.
Last November, Media Whiz made them an offer they couldn’t refuse—one whose exact figure they’re protecting but is in the tens of millions of dollars. “It was one of those opportunities I felt we couldn’t pass up,” Gavin says. “We had a strong business, but I felt it was a fair deal for both parties, and we could take some cash off the table for all our hard work.”
Now instead of Cincinnati or Iowa City, Fish and Gavin are doing business in New York City. Wall Street and the big, shiny bull are visible from their office. And Gavin, his wife and child are living in an apartment that borders Soho, Chinatown and Little Italy.
“It’s one of those things that hasn’t really hit yet,” he says. “The nice thing about the transition is we’re still running our company, just within a larger entity.”