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This three part series tells how one entrepreneur took a chance on an emerging market opportunity, weathered an economic storm, and exited with a bright future.

 

Richard Hagerty

“Right Place at the Right Time”

It almost seems like cliché advice a commencement speaker would offer to a group of graduates.

Keep your ear to the ground, work hard and always be on the lookout for the next big thing. And when that next big thing does indeed come, don’t be afraid to take a chance on it.

Fortunately for Richard Hagerty, a Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur with over 40 years of business experience, he never stopped searching for it.

It was the late 1990’s and search engines were hot. A small company by the name of Google had just launched and the prospects of entering into that market seemed interesting.

Hagerty at the time was heading 3W Interactive, a data-driven analytical firm which he had intended initially to provide political campaign management services.  Looking back on it now he admits the company “was a little ahead of its time” given how the public’s interest in politics has grown.

“It would’ve been really good now,” he figures.

Not finding the kind of growth he was looking for with 3W Interactive, Hagerty remained on the prowl for a new venture and began hearing some rumbles about search marketing. He analyzed the market and saw an emerging opportunity to enter it.

As the number of search engines grew and more people began to use them regularly, Hagerty applied his background in data and analysis to come up with a way to measure the success of search optimization. Enter the “search position score,” a weighted value that allows companies to monitor and track their visibility and click rates across multiple platforms.

It was new. It was bold. It was 1999 and IMPAQT, the company Hagerty would go on to run for roughly next 13 years, was born.

And just as a reference point, Google wasn’t even the most prominent search engine at the time in a market that included at least a dozen viable competitors. Does anyone remember AlltheWeb?

Talk about ahead of its time.

It didn’t take long for IMPAQT to begin attracting big-name clients. Within the first few years, some of the biggest players in the insurance and pharmaceuticals fields had signed up for IMPAQT’s services.

“We and a few competitors really owned the Fortune 500 (and) Fortune 1,000,” Hagerty said. “There were a lot of people doing search, but they just weren’t able to play in that space.”

By 2003, Hagerty estimates, the winners and losers of the early Internet-era rush were beginning to show their hands. One year later, Forrester Research would go on to name  IMPAQT a leader in its field, an honor it would bestow upon the company three more times.

“It was such a shot to the business,” Hagerty recalls.

A little targeted name branding didn’t hurt either. Years before the idea of IMPAQT ever materialized, Hagerty purchased the rights to the name, honing in on the “Q” as he figured it could play off of the word ‘query’. Someday down the road, he imagined a company name like that could come in handy.

He had nailed it.

During a meeting with a PR firm shortly after the company’s launch, Hagerty said everyone kept talking about how it had a real shot to “make an impact on the industry.”

It was an instant hit, he said. From there on, the company played up the “Q” as much as it could and really let the name help drive the brand.

“It ended up to be a great name,” Hagerty said.

Things were on the upswing for the innovative organization.  IMPAQT was sporting a full house while many other competitors were having their bluffs called and eventually folded.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Hagerty said.

Part two…

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