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“The day Google hired us to do a job for them, I literally ran around my apartment screaming in joy.”

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Justin Beegel is the founder and President of Infographic World, a data visualization/infographic company based out of New York. He started the company at the age of 23 with no funding and before infographics became mainstream.

Infographic World works with companies to help them tell their message in a more effective manner, as well as utilize the power of infographics to drive more traffic and exposure to their website and brand.

Their clients utilize the infographics they make for them for everything from blog content, to annual reports, investor reports, sales & marketing collateral, brochures, and all other sorts of mediums.

Justin Beegel, Infographic World, Inc. - President

MO: What inspired you to launch Infographic World? Especially as a 23 year old with no money and before 99% of people even knew what an infographic was?

Justin: Well it was a bit of a slow and steady process that led to starting the company in the traditional sense. I was working at a magazine publishing company working as their Social Media Marketing Manager. Basically I worked with our editors to come up with new content strategies and approaches to help increase web traffic and reach new demographics. I was very closely tied into content based websites like Digg, Stumbleupon, and Reddit, so I always was on top of what the best kinds of content there were out there. So each and every day I would see content exploding on Digg, or Reddit or Stumbleupon, and get a feel for why they were becoming as viral as they were. One day I came across something called an infographic that some website had made. It got so much attention and traffic back to the original website, that it was astronomical. I then saw a few more pop up here and there, and every time, it would be a huge viral success.

I implored our editors to start utilizing them as the new content strategy. There was definitely a lot of resistance, as the brands I worked with/for were very large ones, with strong editorial control over their brand image. They didn’t love the idea, but we tried a few. They were very successful, but the idea didn’t stick internally.

I was approached by people I knew within my network on the social media sites to do freelance work to help them with content strategy and traffic driving. I pushed the idea of infographics on them, and the results were amazing. This led a good referral, which lead to another, and between that and word of mouth, I was able to get enough clients on the side that allowed me to make the incredibly tough decision of leaving my job and pursuing the business full-time.

I knew infographics were going to be big in the near future for one simple reason; people don’t want to read things the way they used to. I know myself, I have very little attention span reading long articles or documents online. Infographics utilize visual stimulation, and allow for the reader to want to read the entire piece, and deliver a message far better than articles and PDF reports. So I quit my job, and took a chance.

MO: How did your background and experience contribute to the development of the company?

Justin: My background contributed heavily to where I am now. I did a 5 year MBA program at Binghamton University, and I can safely say that if it weren’t for that program, I would not be doing what I’m doing now. It’s something I don’t think any of my friends could say; that the school they went to had that much of an impact on them. It’s not because I think Binghamton is better than any other school. It’s simply because I took a very particular course in my Masters year that changed my life. It was an e-commerce class, and the class project was to create a blog from scratch, and market it without spending a single penny. This is where I was introduced to social media. I had never heard of these sites the professor was talking about, like Digg and Stumbleupon.

I thought of what I liked the most, which was football, and created a blog about it. I would write articles, and figure out how in the world I was going to get people to my site. This is where I truly felt a calling. I’ve been obsessed with business my entire life, but I never knew what I wanted to do. Nothing specifically ever resonated with me. Learning about web marketing was the first time I ever felt anything like that. I became obsessed; I read every single book I could get my hands on. I would reach out to “power Diggers” and have them take me under their wing so that I could learn how to get content onto the front page (this was at the time when getting something on Digg’s front page meant AT LEAST 30-40k in traffic).

This project took over my life that semester, and is directly what led me to getting my first job at a major magazine publishing company, which led me to get my first freelance jobs, which led me to starting my business and being as happy as can be now still running that business several years later.

MO: How have you managed to attract such an impressive team to Infographic World?

Justin: I wish I could say that getting to where we are now from a resource standpoint was easy. It was a very painstaking process finding the talent that we have now. I would go out to various designer forums and job sites, post jobs, and go through the hundreds of people applying. The problem is that there is a big difference between graphic design, and infographic design. Infographic design requires utilizing various parts of your brain, combining layouts, design, numbers, story, flow, etc… I learned the hard way that finding the right people was not easy. We would test out every single new designer before they could work on a client project. In some cases, things would slip through the cracks, and we’d have a nightmare because a designer would disappear, or it turns out they really couldn’t handle an assignment. In the designer department, it’s been a long road, but we’re finally at a point where I’m comfortable with our in-house designers, and our exclusive freelance designers.

As far as management, the business probably would have crashed and burned if not for 2 people:

1. Mark Johnson. Mark started with me before the company was even called Infographic World. He started as a writer for me. Then he was helping to build concepts for the infographics. Then he was managing others. As the company grew, he grew with me/us. He’s now our VP of Production and a part owner in the company, and I couldn’t be any happier with the decision and having him on board.

2. My father, Robert Beegel. He’s a recent addition to the company (about a year). The timing was right based on him not being happy with what he was doing, and me needing some major help in running the company. One of the first things I learned about running a business is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and who fill in gaps that you lack personally. I am not a financial person. I have never been one, and I may never be one. My dad lives and breathes excel spreadsheets, financial models, sales forecasting, margins, profit %s. His strong financial background, coupled with his creativity made him a great fit for the business. It’s not always easy working with family, but to have someone involved in your business who you know you can trust 100% and you know has your best interests in mind at all times is incredibly valuable.

As a whole, I do everything I can to make those who work for me happy. I understand that those who are creating our work, or managing others, are a huge reason as to why our clients refer us to others, and why we’ve developed a great reputation in the infographic industry. That being the case, I make sure the people who work for me know how much I appreciate their work and their contribution. Just this past New Year, I sent out bonus checks to every single freelancer working with us. Half of them called me up shocked, saying no one had ever done that before because they are not employees. It was important for me to let them know how much I value their work. New people working for the company have often told me they heard great things about working with us, so I think this has helped us add great people.

MO: Can you tell us about any exciting infographic trends that we should be paying attention to?

Justin: There is definitely a shift recently focusing more heavily on animation and interactivity. Interactive infographics are something I personally love, as they allow for the user to engage with the graphic itself. This creates a connection between the reader and the content, and thus the brand who created it.

I’m very intrigued about how the explosion of tablets is going to play out with regards to infographics, both static and interactive.

MO: I know that you’re a big fan of Phish. How many shows have you seen and what one was your favorite out of them all?

Justin: It’s safe to say that Phish is my favorite band of all time. It’s as cliché as it gets, but growing up going to a sleep away camp every summer, all my counselors would ever listen to was Dave Matthews Band and Phish. At the age of 9, Dave Matthews connected with me right away, whereas Phish didn’t. It wasn’t until I was around 15 or 16 that one day, Phish just clicked with me. At the same time, I realized that every single Dave Matthews Concert felt like the one before it. I had been to about 16 Dave concerts at that point, and decided I was done with them. Phish, on the other hand, is able to create such a unique experience at their shows. It’s just incredible.

I’ve been to around 25 shows at this point. That number is miniscule compared to friends I have that have been going for years before me. I know a lot of people that have been to more than 100.

My favorite show was definitely the New Year’s run in Miami 2 years ago. My friend Josh and I decided that we needed to do something different for New Years, because honestly, New Years typically sucks. The idea of going down to Miami for the 4 shows came up, and we decided to go. It was an incredible experience. The New Year’s Eve show in particular was my favorite. The music was amazing, but as always, Phish just knows how to put on a show. They have a routine of pulling pranks on New Year’s during their show. That year, they pretended to shoot the drummer out of a cannon into a net suspended above the crowd. With the band now missing a drummer, they asked the crowd if anyone knew how to play the drums, and the spotlight went on this girl Sarah who raised her hand. She then proceeded to the stage, and they basically had it seem like she went to the drums and was playing with the band, when it was in fact the drummer dressed as a woman. When asked what song she wanted them to all play (she was behind the stage speaking so it seemed authentic), she of course picks this song called Fluffhead, which is known as their most difficult song that they play. As part of the prank, the person at the drum set stumbles a lot in the beginning, only to recover and break out into an amazing rendition of the song. Among tons of other reasons, this is why I love Phish as much as I do. Their talent aside, they are great performers and entertainers.

MO: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of so far?

Justin: Running a small business, especially at such a young age, I rarely, if ever, step back and look at what’s been accomplished. It could be because I’m often too busy to stop and think about where things are, or one of a hundred other reasons. Only recently, literally within the last few weeks, I‘ve had discussions with my father about the business and looking back on 2011. He has kind of forced me to stop a second, and be proud of what we’ve been able to do.

One thing that jumps out to me is the client list we’ve been able to attain. The day Google hired us to do a job for them, I literally ran around my apartment screaming in joy. I had idolized Google as a company. Since then, we’ve done projects for AT&T, various departments of Intuit, BlackRock, and worked on projects for other companies I could only dream about being hired by. Actually taking a step back, and realizing that these companies, many of which are the leaders in their respective industries, have hired MY company to do work for THEM, blows my mind. It makes me realize and truly appreciate the fact that I’ve started a viable business and one that hopefully has a chance to grow into something great.

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