"So, I founded Eagle River," Mr. Graunke said matter-of-factly. "Then the Web took off and the rest is history."
Since Mr. Graunke started Eagle River it's exploded: In March 1996, it went public with 70 employees, and ended the year with 450 employees and $40 million in revenue. Its clients range from Disney and American Express to Intuit and U S West.
Just like some prominent new media executives who've scored million dollar profits, Mr. Graunke is a college drop-out. He dropped out in his junior year to start a direct response agency, which he later sold to Omnicom Group in 1991 for several million dollars. He then was named president of two of Omnicom's subsidiaries: Rapp Collins, Minneapolis, and Focus GTE.
However, in 1994 Mr. Graunke retired to Vail, Colo. It lasted less than a month; soon he was working remotely as a principal partner with the Hawthorne Group, a Pittsburgh venture capital firm. He started a number of companies, one of them SeaVision.
Starting Eagle River "was my 5th or 6th deal," Mr. Graunke said. Start-ups "always require more cash than you think they do, and we were lucky to be well capitalized early on."
Betcha didn't know: At age 20, Mr. Graunke was at a cocktail party when a friend of the family offered him a rush job to produce 250,000 direct mail pieces in a weekend. He produced the job so far under budget he made more than $20,000 on the deal, and decided to drop out of college to start his own business.