Hinman Alumnus Named One of BusinessWeek.com's Best U.S. Entrepreneurs
Anik Singal, CEO of Affiliate Classroom Inc., a privately held company in the University of Maryland's Technology Advancement Program (TAP) incubator and a leading publisher of educational tools for interactive marketers, is named as one of BusinessWeek.com's Best U.S. Entrepreneurs 25 and Under on its Web site.
Singal, a University of Maryland Hinman CEOs alumnus, along with the other 24 entrepreneurs, were selected from among hundreds of nominees interviewed by BusinessWeek.com's staff. These 25 entrepreneurs lead companies demonstrating a high potential for growth. Each now is entered into a contest to determine the top five entrepreneurs, who will be selected by readers voting for their favorite entrepreneur on the BusinessWeek.comWeb site.
"When I first started this company with $100 just four years ago, I never dreamed something like this would happen," says Singal. "I am indebted to the coaching and guidance I received from my team, from Mtech [the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute] and the university, all of which helped me turn $100 into a multi-million dollar company. Every day I wake up in the morning and pinch myself to see if it is real."
Affiliate Classroom teaches people how to make money marketing on the Internet--through affiliate marketing, pay-per-click advertising, article syndication, and blogging. With four major self-training product lines, an affiliate manager certification program and 70,000 subscribers to its monthly e-newsletter, Affiliate Classroom is slated to generate $2.5 million in revenue this year.
The company, located in the university's TAP incubator, employs 10 persons full-time and contracts with another 15 full-time.
Singal, a 2005 graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, started the company in 2004 after joining Mtech's Hinman CEOs program, the nation's first living-learning entrepreneurship initiative. While regularly combing Internet forums about online advertising, Singal found people offering him money to consult for them. As this practice grew, his thinking evolved.
"Someone gave me the idea to put together all of my coaching and teaching, make it available online and make people pay for it," says Singal. Within a year, 1,500 customers had completed Affiliate Classroom's training. Singal was then a senior. More than 20,000 customers have gone through the training to date.
Not long after graduating in May 2005, Singal realized the company was growing faster than he anticipated. He then joined Mtech's VentureAccelerator Program, which provides intense mentoring for faculty and students creating companies around university-originating technologies.
"VentureAccelerator vastly increased my vision for both the business and the market opportunity," says Singal. "Scott Laughlin [the program's former director] was an immense help in establishing the corporate structure of the company, connecting me with the right resources, and putting me in front of the people I needed to speak with." Those introductions included West Coast tours and meetings with large online retailers.
In May, 2006, Singal took first place in the University of Maryland Business Plan Competition in the Young Alumni Category, winning $15,000. In March, 2007, he joined the TAP incubator. In May, 2008, realizing that one of the greatest hurdles to success for young entrepreneurs is funding, Singal pledged $50,000 to the university to launch the Hinman CEOs Alumni Fund, which offers money to support current students in the program starting companies.
"We are delighted to see Anik's hard work at building an industry-leading company recognized," says Dr. David Barbe, executive director of Mtech. "We're also pleased that he's gone through the ecosystem of entrepreneurship programs we've established precisely as we intended, from an undergraduate student program to a venture mentoring program to the business plan competition to our incubator. It shows the system works."
This fall, AffiliateClassroom is launching several new technologies and new versions of some of its products. "Our plan is to continue building ourselves into the training authority for affiliate marketing and online marketing," says Singal. "We are doing that by streamlining our business, simplifying our processes and combining coursework to make it easier on students."
September 10, 2008