Before Brian Lenihan even graduated from Full Sail, he had already started his own business: an app he developed with classmates called NearBeer, which tells users where the closest and cheapest places to buy beer are. Now the 2011 online Entertainment Business master’s grad is the Director of Digital Media Strategy at Pinnacle Advertising in Boca Raton, Florida, and he credits his entrepreneurially focused graduate education with helping him find his niche.
“My classes were geared toward building a business from the ground up,” says Brian. “They were laser focused on that single goal. This appealed to me more than just getting an MBA and potentially a midlevel management job. I was essentially given the tools to succeed in a startup environment.”
Brian, who also has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, recognized his proficiency for digital applications and set out to apply that knowledge in a business setting. While a lot of his classmates at Full Sail wanted to become agents and managers, Brian decided to build a digital application company around the simple idea that beer was too expensive. Aboveground Applications and NearBeer were born.
“It was an out-there idea,” he says about the app that crowdsources the closest bars, restaurants, and other points of interest offering frosty brew. “No one else was in that market. The tough part was getting investors to buy into the concept. It was hard for even my classmates to buy in.”
Nevertheless, with a seed round of funding, Brian developed an iOS version of the app while in school and released version 2.0 for Android a year later. “We had a decent amount of downloads and users, and now we’re in talks to sell the intellectual property.”
After that he started a creative consulting business and began providing freelance marketing services to clients big and small. But he says the difficulty of not having a consistent paycheck kept his personal life on hold. So after a short tenure with an international brokerage firm, a colleague from a former employer who had become Managing Partner at Pinnacle Advertising‘s parent company approached him.
“He knew my education background and knew I had the entrepreneurial spirit, so he offered me a job,” Brian says. “It was a very young company—I was only employee number 15. This was perfect for me because it was a startup type setting. I wasn’t just a cog in the machine. It’s important to me to actually have a say in the process and be able to create instead of shuffle paperwork.”
At Pinnacle, Brian is responsible for overseeing web development, digital advertising, reporting on analytics and digital strategy. Though his position requires a tremendous amount of his time and energy, he’s says it doesn’t feel like work because he believes that what he’s doing for his clients makes a difference. And he is. Pinnacle Advertising was recently named the number seven marketing agency in the South Florida Business Journal after only eight months of operation.