Liberal arts entrepreneur goes dot-com crazy


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Photo by Daniel R. Burke

Hes not an MBA student. Hes not even an undergraduate Whartonite. In fact, he describes himself as a non-Whartonite a staunch supporter of the liberal arts.

Yet he founded an Internet marketing strategy company anyway.

Rahul Prakash (C01) is a psychology major by day and an entrepreneur by night. Since January, he has been working on his latest venture, Advantix Group. Advantix Group is a team of about 15 consultants, professors and marketing professionals who work with both start-ups and big dot-coms to increase their presence in certain markets. The team members are currently based in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Omaha (yes, Omaha!); plans for expansion to London and India in the next several months are on track.

For someone whose interests range from politics to the Internet to music to venture capital, zeroing in on Internet marketing took some time. During his first two years at Penn, Prakash focused on his interest in the music industry, working for Conshohocken-based RuffHouse Records (a division of Sony Corporations Columbia Records).

I started out taking out the trash for them, Prakash reminisced. It just so happened that the guy I was working for was the director of national promotions, so I wrote a marketing plan to create a college representative position. Prakash talked to career services departments at various universities, signing up 50 reps at 50 schools nationwide. He even wrote a handbook for them. And the rest is history.

I went from an intern to national college marketing director in a day, Prakash said. I got to meet Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, the rest of the Fugees, Busta Rhymes, and other rap artists. Even though I was never paid, this is now an official program with a $500,000 budget.

After RuffHouse, Prakash started Century Records, a record label/artist management program, with a friend. He worked with local hip-hop artists the UnOrthodox, helping them get wider local exposure and recording their first album. And though their efforts led to the groups signing with a local record label, Prakash found this to be a stressful and time-consuming job.

I needed a change from music, Prakash admitted.

So, Prakash moved into the booming world of the Internet but he found he still couldnt sever his ties to music. He wrote a business plan for Dshoom.com, which he called a CDnow/mp3.com for Indian music, and brought four investment bankers on board. But after six months of work, Prakash found it too difficult to coordinate everyone spread out across the United States, so the idea died.

Unfazed, Prakash kept his sights on doing something huge on the net. Recognizing that companies sometimes dont realize how important it is to generate hype and market their products, Prakash founded the Advantix Group, his new obsession.

Doing this and school is really hard, he admitted. I work 100-hour weeks. At least I am graduating in December.

All this work leaves the Laguna Beach, Calif., native little time for his passions, namely reading outside of class, politics, music, and following his beloved Lakers. When work gets to be too much, Prakash breaks out of the rut and does something spontaneous. Sometimes Ill just take the train to D.C. and come back the next day.

This summer, Prakash is off to New York to work at an Internet strategy consulting group so he can learn more to aid his own business. With Prakashs hopes to be in control of his life and to not have to report to anyone (and to establish a charitable foundation), he eventually hopes to run his own businesses (yup, thats businesses), but not stuffy Fortune 500 ones.

In my companies, people will be wearing flip-flops and jeans to work, he proclaimed.

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Originally published on May 4, 2000