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By Published on .

Emerging giant Eagle River Interactive is a child of necessity. In early 1994, founder Terry Graunke was running Sea-Vision, a company that created interactive TVs for cruise ships. The problem: Mr. Graunke couldn't find agencies that could make interactive creative for SeaVision's movie and shopping channels.

"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."

Patricia Riedman

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.

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