While most of his MBA classmates at Stanford Graduate School of Business rushed off to lucrative internships with some of the world’s most prestigious firms this past summer, Matt Ivester holed up in the school’s library. He had no interest in McKinsey or Goldman, Amazon or Apple.
Instead, Ivester used the summer to write a 136-page self-published book called lol…OMG! – What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying. The book, published Oct. 10, is a pragmatic guide to the potential dangers of social networks and how to manage one’s online reputation.
While many would consider Ivester’s decision to skip a summer internship somewhat frivolous, especially during a troubled economy and a tight job market, the Stanford MBA has no regrets. For him, it was an easy decision to reflect on what he had learned as a website entrepreneur and to share it with others in book form.
Ivester, 27, knows this territory well. Four years ago, he created JuicyCampus.com, which quickly became the biggest college gossip website in the country with one million unique visitors per month. And then he watched in awe and horror as students began posting intimate and often offensive remarks about their peers—including sexual histories, accusations of drug use, and threats of violence.
The site—with the slogan “Always Anonymous, Always Juicy”–veered so out of control that some student governments asked administrators to block access to JuicyCampus so students could no longer use it. Hundreds of emails poured in from upset students, parents, and administrators. JuicyCampus even became the subject of two investigations by attorneys general.
“The site was out of control, and at 24, I simply didn’t have the wherewithal or the experience to rein it in,” says Ivester. “I felt trapped, unable to simply shut the site down—I had employees counting on me for their livelihoods, and I had spent a lot of venture capital money with the expectation of a return on investment.”
After burning through $1 million in investors’ money, Ivester shut the site down in February of 2009 after he was unable to get anyone else to ante up more cash. But the lessons from the debacle still linger along with the real-world impact of social media. So Ivester badly wanted to write a guide to help students think about the way they portray themselves and the way that they treat others online.
As Ivester sees it, he was part of the first class of graduating seniors from Duke University that had access to Facebook while still in school. YouTube had launched only three months before his graduation and Twitter wouldn’t arrive until nearly a year later.
The site’s failure ultimately had a big impact on his life: that’s when he decided to get serious about applying to business schools. He applied to three: Stanford, Harvard, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He started at Stanford last year and is now in his second year.
To Ivester, his first book became a quintessential entrepreneurial venture. His father, a graphic designer, designed the cover and the internal layouts for the book. He contracted with a printer in Michigan to churn out hardcover versions of the book and is using Amazon’s print-on-demand service for softcovers.
I have known for such a long time, since high school, that I wanted to do business and come to business school for an MBA. I don’t think I knew anyone who had an MBA but I knew I wanted to be a businessman. In fact, in junior year in high school, St. Francis College Preparatory in Mountain View, a teacher told us to pull out a piece of paper and write your dream job. There were a mix of things, doctors, lawyers, firemen, and what I wrote down was professional board member. (He laughs).