John Lemp, the unconventional 30-year-old CEO of Sarasota’s online marketing miracle IntegraClick, grew up in a Long Island blue-collar family of six children. As a sixth grader, he sold newspaper subscriptions door to door—until he was bitten on the leg by a Rottweiler. Lemp, only 11, called a lawyer he had seen in a TV ad and won a $20,000 settlement, which—along with working at McDonalds and building websites—paid for his college bills at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2002, a year before graduating from RIT, he and another college friend, Amanda Huntington, founded IntegraClick in a one-bedroom apartment. A year later they moved to Sarasota and created an IntegraClick subsidiary called Clickbooth to match advertisers with online publishers. IntegraClick’s revenues hit $120 million in 2009, and this year the company moved to its own 12-acre business park near I-75 and University Parkway.
Describe your company. The best way to look at it is that we bring people together and enable them to buy goods and services online. We match advertisers with online publishers. We work with more than 3,000 advertisers like Direct TV and Dish Network, and about 27,000 publishers. Some of the publishers are large companies, but many are small bloggers and websites with niche markets.
How do you make money? We started a cost-per-action (CPA) payment system in 2004. With CPA, the advertiser only pays when he gets a sale (or action) from his ad. Clickbooth keeps a portion of the advertiser’s payment and pays the rest to the publisher. Some ads bring in only about $1 per action, while others can run up to about $300 per action.
Why move to Sarasota? I came down in the year 2000 on a church trip and went to Siesta Key. I saw the beach and fell in love with the town.
Do you have trouble finding employees? We have about 100 now, and we’re looking for about 47 more. We need people who can do marketing, sales, design. But we are very selective. I look for the most motivated person. I would rather have the most motivated than the smartest.
Benefits of working for IntegraClick? Food, exercise equipment, tanning booth, massage chair, game room with ping pong table, outdoor basketball court and an orange slide that you can use to get from the second floor down to the first if the elevator is too slow for you. We also have a gong you can bang when you make a big deal.
Your typical day: I generally come in around 1:30 p.m. and work until 4 or 5 the next morning. I meet with people on our various teams and people coming in the door. I check on things that are going on, try to keep things moving. I have a great executive team of 12 people and I keep in touch with them. I like to feel the pulse of everything going on in the company.
Mistakes: I make them every day. What I have learned is to think about what I could have done better.
Where you want to be in five years: I want us to be considered competitive to Google, Microsoft and Facebook.