John T. Meyer is the co-founder and CEO of Lemon.ly, a visual marketing firm that specializes in infographics, data visualization, and UI/UX design. Always sweet, never sour, its mission is to make the world an easier place to understand.
John is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and was named to Businessweek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25 in 2010. He also “bro-founded” 9 Clouds with his brother Scott in 2009. 9 Clouds spreads digital literacy and helps businesses connect with their customers online.
MO: What lead you to start Lemon.ly?
John: We started making a few infographics over at my first company, 9 Clouds. After seeing incredible responses in terms of both web traffic through analytics and interaction and conversation online, we realized there was great power in infographics. We made a few more infographics but then decided to double down and just do that full time.
MO: Lemon.ly is such a unique and interesting name. What’s the story behind it?
John: Our mission at Lemon.ly is to make the world an easier place to understand, so we take your lemons (boring data) and turn them into lemonade. We also make sure to always be sweet, never sour.
MO: Where do you see infographics and Lemon.ly fitting into the informational marketing world?
John: We live in a world that is overrun with data; messages are flying at us all the time. I think infographics are a great way to make sense of the world around us. Particularly, I believe they are a great way to tell stories, helping us comprehend and retain information better. Lemon.ly is helping big brands, startups, and non-profits tell their story and communicate in a visual way.
MO: You’ve worked with some big name clients like PepsiCo, Marriot, and Western Union. What was it like landing that first big-name client?
John: When you see a person’s email come through the contact form with an email like @MLB.com or Marriott, it is definitely exciting, especially for a little shop based in South Dakota. We’re very confident in the work we do and the value we can provide our clients. We’re good at our specific niche, and by specializing, it has allowed us to work with many great clients.
MO: You started your company in South Dakota. What advice do you have for other Midwesterners looking to make it big?
John: The most important thing is to know AND believe you can build your company right here in the Midwest. There are so many incredibly talented people who are very hardworking. And, thanks to the Internet, your customers, clients, and maybe even colleagues are all connected around the world. Being located here allows entrepreneurs to take advantage of the things we have in the Midwest, like our work ethic, pioneering spirit, and willingness to help each other.
MO: What do you love about living in the Midwest? Why is Silicon Prairie the new Silicon Valley?
John: I was born in Minnesota, grew up in South Dakota, and went to school in Iowa, so I’ve spent my whole life in the Midwest. I can tell you the weather is not why I live here; rather, it’s the people and all the opportunity here. I hesitate to call this place “the new Silicon Valley” because I’d rather let our region create its own identity, but I can tell you some amazing things are happening here.
MO: What has been your proudest moment as the CEO of Lemon.ly?
John: Just last week we had two new members join the team, so we decided to take a new team photo. When everyone lined up to take the photo, I realized there were 10 of us. The goal is not some large number or anything like that, but realizing that we started with two and now have 10 people who come in everyday and help make this world an easier place to understand is awesome. I’m very proud.
MO: Which of the 145 infographics Lemon.ly created this year was your favorite and why?
John: Wow, great question. Like many kids, I wanted to be a professional baseball player; when I realized I wasn’t on that path, I wanted to work for a professional team. I ended up veering away from that career path as well, but when we got to make an infographic for Major League Baseball’s opening day, it was definitely a thrill. MLB had great data, and opening day is one of my favorite days of the year.
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