For Jack Kramer and Nick Martell, at least two life changing experiences have come as a result of beverage consumption. First was a protein shake in college and second was post-work beers while they were both working long finance hours. When Martell, a lacross player at Middlebury College first met his roommate, Kramer, a quarterback on the football team, he noticed something.
“We had the same protein shake when we walked in and knew we would be friends,” recalls Martell, now 30. Despite transferring to Brown University, the two ended up staying close friends and lived together in New York City as their young finance careers took off. And then came the second beverage. Over beers after work, the two lamented about a major hole in finance and market-related news. Now they are both in MBA programs, Martell at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Kramer at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“When we were working in finance, we realized pretty quickly that business news was just kind of broken,” Martell says. “It wasn’t covering the stories we cared about. It was too full of jargon. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t digestible. So we said, alright, we are going to start doing a daily summary of what’s happening in business news and markets and write it specifically and strategically for our generation.”
PUTTING TOGETHER A DAILY NEWSLETTER ON FINANCE FOR SIX YEARS
That was six years ago and the two still haven’t missed a day of sending their daily newsletter, MarketSnacks.
“I would be on a flight to Brazil or maybe Jack would be working in Germany, we made sure to get our summary of the markets out every single day as MarketSnacks,” Martell says.
After a few years, the media startup was fully monetized and profitable. Now, the two — both are finishing up dual MBA and public policy degrees — have become one of the leading voices for millennial finance news, often making appearances on CBS News, MSNBC, Cheddar, and Fox Business and earning a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the media category. “We ended up becoming the millennial voice of business news in the market,” Martell boasts.
SCALING WHILE IN SEPARATE FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS
For the past couple years, the two have been using the MBA programs at The Wharton School and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business to grow the already popular MarketSnacks. While it is somewhat common for young professionals to use a full-time MBA to launch a company or find co-founders, it’s less common for co-founders and co-CEOs to enroll in separate MBA programs just to scale an already growing company. “We wanted that management expertise,” Martell says of the decision to pursue an MBA.
The duo already had their finance chops, having worked as analysts at banks in New York — Martell at UBS and Kramer at Commerzbank. But they thought general management MBA programs would round out their skill sets to turbocharge MarketSnacks, which now includes a podcast with the daily email newsletter. So far, the team says, it has been hugely helpful, but also a lesson in balancing a busy schedule. “We learn in marketing class and strategy the way companies can grow and we apply that to MarketSnacks everyday,” says Kramer, also 30. When the founders of Warby Parker showed up in Martell’s marketing class, the presentation made a big impact. “That changed how we thought about branding and the branding of MarketSnacks,” Martell says.
But it has also been a lesson in balance when it comes to actually running the company, which takes many television appearances and news interviews. At any point, Martell could have to hop a train from Philadelphia to New York City, and Kramer might have to do a live Skype interview, all while balancing class and student club schedules.
Besides the boost in behind-the-scenes changes, Kramer says, the MBA programs have also enhanced the overall product as well. They’ve been able to bounce ideas off of professors and fellow classmates. Another way that has helped is the diversity in which their fellow classmates have experience. For instance, Kramer says, anytime they are writing about a new sector, product, or industry they don’t know much about, it’s easy to find a classmate in one of the MBA programs that is an expert.
It has also helped with the launch of the podcast. “We literally created that for the MBA student,” Martell says.
B-SCHOOL IS ‘ABSOLUTELY THE PERFECT TIME TO START A COMPANY’
As for launching or scaling a company while in a full-time MBA program, Martell and Kramer are bona fide believers that the experience is a big help.
“Business school is absolutely the perfect time to start a company. You are never going to be in a better incubator program,” Martell gushes.
“These business schools want entrepreneurs at their schools to succeed,” he says, noting a grant stipend he was able to get from Michigan Ross to work full-time on MarketSnacks this summer with Martell in New York City office space. And while Wharton has been known as a finance school, Martell says times are changing. “Entrepreneurship has surged in terms of student interest,” he says, noting finance interest is at a historical low at Wharton while consulting, tech, and entrepreneurship are all on the rise. “It has also produced some great entrepreneurs in the past few years.” That would include, of course, Warby Parker and CommonBond, the student loan company.
The two plan on continuing MarketSnacks full-time after completing their dual degrees. They’ve been able to profit from sponsorship from such companies as LinkedIn and syndication deals with the likes of Fidelity Investments. They’re holding specific plans for expansion close to themselves, but plan on being the go-to media company for millennials interested in finance and market news.
“We see media as this incredible opportunity,” Martell says.