It's not hard to believe that Sean Morgan was once a successful rock climber, starting a rock-climbing promotions company used by the Lollapalooza tour.
His adventurous spirit is still evident today as he describes his company Critical Mention (CM) and his plans to revolutionize the broadcast monitoring industry.
As a businessman, Morgan has tasted success before. He was the cofounder of Screaming Media, a real-time text aggregator that he brought public in 2000 and later sold to CBS MarketWatch.
Bringing the real-time monitoring concept to the broadcast industry seemed like a natural progression. While such companies already existed, Morgan says he wanted to improve on the business model, and he did not enter the arena without thinking it through.
"I didn't come here guessing [if] it was going to work," he says.
That confidence is what attracted Scott Kurnit, an early investor of CM, to the venture.
"Sean is a confident, can-do, sales-oriented guy," he says. "I [knew] Sean could take something from a raw idea and deliver on it."
Started in late 2002, CM now includes monitoring of more than 500 stations, including the top 150 in the US, as well as global content. Late last year, the company began monitoring Arab TV content, intended to appeal to its corporate and government clients alike.
Because the broadcast monitoring world had so long been dominated by VMS, educating current and prospective clients is vital.
"[CM] disrupts the status quo business model in the broadcast monitoring industry," Morgan says. "We transform it from an ‡ la carte scheduled mention marketplace...to a recurring line item on our clients cost structure analogous to how they allocate costs to a Lexis Nexis or Factiva."
But perhaps the biggest boost to the business has come from the realities of a 24/7 media world and how it affects the job of PR pros.
"If you're an information business that's not focused on being real-time," Morgan warns, "you risk being displaced."
While PR firms and corporations can be found among CM's nearly 250 clients, hospitals, law firms, and government intelligence agencies - all industries that Morgan says had previously not purchased traditional broadcast monitoring - are also using its services. The reason, claims Morgan, is simple.
"TV changes people's minds," he explains. "And it's not about the scheduled mentions. It's really the unscheduled [ones] which are important, the ones you don't know about which can sneak up and steal your brand away from you in front of millions of people."
Doug DeSimone, SVP of operations for CM, first worked for Morgan at Screaming Media. He says joining another Morgan start-up was a fairly easy decision.
"I'll probably work with him at the next one," he says without hesitation. "He can really seize a business opportunity and crystallize it. It's really going to be a sound value proposition to the customer."
That perhaps is the thinking behind Morgan's latest project: ClipSyndicate. Started a year ago, the company is a Web-based video syndication platform that has garnered content deals with such providers as Bloomberg TV, Sinclair Broadcasting, and Clear Channel. And in an age where video is becoming increasingly important, its potential is enormous.
As for CM, Morgan says he measures success "one client at a time," but there's still work to be done.
"I think everyone out there is pressured to do their job better and here we are," he says. "Have we changed [the industry] yet? No. Are we still scratching, kicking, and clawing our way to educate a marketplace? Definitely."
Founder/CEO, Critical Mention
Cofounder and SVP of global sales and business development, ScreamingMedia
Founder/CEO, Gravity Sports