Max Prio and Billy Foshay, both CSOM ’16, did something radical this week: they successfully launched a startup with no formal investors. Operating out of a closet in Prio’s Walsh suite, Exposure Media Group has taken up a formidable strategy for growth. Now leveraging the new brand heavily through social media, the five-man production house is unique in that, while certainly having costs, it takes advantage of a resource Boston College startups are quick to overlook: talent.
BC’s startup culture has mostly kept itself contained within the Carroll School. University entrepreneurs have long turned toward venture capital competitions and deep-pocked investors for the possibility to begin work on a dream. While BC has been making substantial gains in terms of startups, the Carroll School has been closing in on programs like the Wharton School at UPenn and Mendoza at Notre Dame.
The Carroll School, however, will almost surely never make it to the top of the list of undergraduate business programs. All five universities ahead of BC in the 2013 Businessweek rankings have an unspoken advantage-an engineering school. In-house talent is difficult to find at BC, particularly when it comes to technology-based startups, and the more successful entrepreneurs here are often the ones willing to look outside Chestnut Hill for talent, turning to MIT students for help on these tech projects.
But before crossing the Charles, perhaps it’s wise to look across the Quad.
Career-minded students in the College of Arts and Sciences have a tendency to speak of the Carroll School with mild disgust. The world seems handed to business students, who in many cases have significantly smaller course loads and far greater resources. The founders of Exposure Media Group had a different perspective.
Pulling together talent within the University’s smaller film studies department, Exposure bypassed all the clerical work required to start a business through the systems typically utilized by CSOM students. While BC does not have an engineering school, there’s extraordinary talent tucked away in its often-overlooked departments.
Perhaps Exposure is something of an anomaly, but in the case it’s not, the production house could well be the model for a new kind of startup culture at BC in which entrepreneurs turn to the arts.
It’s an odd partnership, business and art-the two can often appear to be completely opposing forces. Their relationship is fraught with distrust, and yet, they so often find themselves dependent on each other. While many independent artists put together incredible work, the longevity of artists is almost always dictated by business, for better or worse.
The focus on brand is enormous in both the artistic and business communities, and are, in part, what makes the two so compatible. Businesses like Exposure make it possible for artists to organize and advocate for fair pay-something which is remarkably hard for artists to do individually.
So why do artists distrust businesses, and similarly, why do business often undervalue creative work? In the case of the latter, it’s often because they can. As for the artist’s hatred of “selling out,” it’s complicated. Doing what you love and getting paid for it certainly doesn’t come off as bad in itself, but when the work gets valued unequally-when one artist gets paid and another doesn’t-the artist that’s getting paid suddenly seems less genuine.
In both cases, these attitudes are just wrong. Art needs time and resources, and time and resources come at a price. At BC in particular, where there isn’t the same potential for tech startup that there is at other schools, the creative and business communities have a lot to offer to each other. When it comes to BC startups, there’s something to be said for creating value using the skill sets of the undergraduate community. Business can be far more than just a means of making a profit-it can be a method of organizing a community of skills and advocating for the things its employees care about.
Fulton Hall is a silly building if it closes its doors to the arts and sciences, and closes its mind to the efforts of this University’s creative community.