Michael Coudrey is the CEO behind Pharos Investment Group, and has gathered an impressive list of start-up experiences throughout the years. We interviewed Michael about his company, start-up culture, and more. Learn how Pharos works, how it manages to shape public opinion, and the importance of mission-driven company culture, and more.
At what age did you believe you had enough knowledge to start diving into the world of business?
Michael Coudrey: I disbelieve that knowledge is necessarily correlated with age, although I will say it is correlated with wisdom. Wisdom comes as experience, resulting in it being acquired through age. The majority of my knowledge came from extensive research when I was around 13 or 14 years old, recognizing the internet provided an ability to research and learn about a vast majority of subjects. I noticed many entrepreneurs using the internet to not only learn business, but also fully employ an e-commerce business and import high-margin goods from overseas.
At what age did your business ventures start?
Michael Coudrey: Most of my younger years consisted of various entrepreneurial endeavors. I was always looking to find the thing that could scale into a growing enterprise. I would say I started my first entrepreneurial venture at around 12 years old, selling candy, chewing gum, and soda to classmates. When I was 14, I began to learn how to sell online, and created a sunglasses e-commerce business that was later acquired by an apparel company in Miami. After that I sold personal transport machines, listing them on popular e-commerce platforms.
I actually made nearly $10,000 in the first 24 hours after its launch, partly because they were so popular in culture at the time. Then at around 16 in 10th grade, when Facebook began taking off, a group of friends and I came up with an idea to use cost-per-action advertisements on Facebook and leverage gift cards and other tangibles to encourage their participation.
We knew that market research companies were willing to pay roughly $2 at the time for a survey, so we scaled our groups on Facebook significantly. We made it a requirement to invite all their friends and fill out a survey in order to get the reward, creating an extremely viral network of consumer research participants, and it paid exceptionally well. Within 3 days, our first group had hit a million people and we only expanded from there. I would say all three of us made a total of about $120,000 in the course of two months, before Facebook shut the practice down and barred marketers from facilitating CPA ads on Facebook.
Wow, that’s incredible. So what did you do after that?
Michael Coudrey: Well, my share of the profits was roughly $40,000 and I was only in 10th grade at the time, so I just took it easy for a while and bought a lot of things I wanted. I wasn’t old enough to drive, so I didn’t buy a car, although I did consider it.
Did you go to college after you graduated high school?
Michael Coudrey: Originally I wanted to go directly into business, but my mother overruled that and made me enroll. I did roughly two years before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles in 2014, and that was only after I established reliable income and generated roughly 165,000 in e-commerce profits.
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When did you finally establish YukoSocial?
Michael Coudrey: YukoSocial’s inception was an interesting one. After moving to California, I spent a great deal of money getting established and enjoying what it had to offer. After two years or so I decided I needed to build and scale a sustainable company, rather than short-termed opportunity driven entrepreneurial endeavors. So I began looking for jobs that offered corporate experience, and landed a Director of Social Media position at a large Amazon company in Los Angeles.
The owners were four Jewish brothers from Israel, all about 26 years old at the time and their company was generating roughly 50M-100M in revenue. I had personally grown my social media at the time to well over 100,000 followers, leveraging marketing techniques I learned in business to attract a following, and they were impressed with this. After an interview, they hired me to lead their newly founded social media department.
As my original intention was to gain knowledge that could then be applied to further my own business endeavors, I only worked for them for about a year or so. I learned everything I could about the business and its organizational structure, and then went into private practice. I then launched YukoSocial following my resignation, and successfully convinced them to be my first client. I then created a company deck and solicited a few other brands as clients as well. Later on in the year, I used much of the industry knowledge to also start an Amazon business. Much later on, I incorporated an investment fund called Pharos Investment Group, and re-organized my previous business assets under that new corporate umbrella, all of them based in Delaware.
YukoSocial now only deals in the political sector, is that correct?
Michael Coudrey: Yes, about a year after working with corporate clients, I saw a growing disparity of politicians who were using social media, and politicians who were using it effectively for their campaigns. We began specializing in political clients only, ranging from political candidates, to elected officials running for re-election, as well as a few political organizations. For most of them, we rapidly grew their follow base and online audience with targeted individuals, enabling them to transition to become modern forces of influence in today’s digital age.
Michael Coudrey: Prior to this specialization, I began focusing on an upcoming election and participated in activism throughout the country. I began to organize people and encouraged them to begin voting to change the countries outcomes, and to also change their financial wellbeing through a better performing economy. In doing so I switched a majority of my social media use towards this, and thus gained the knowledge on how to effectively utilize social media to gain significant influence and reach. I also learned how to articulate content in a manner that can go viral online and effectively encourage voter participation. After having great success in this, I was confident in taking on congressional candidates and other individuals in the political space.
How many candidates did you work with in the last election?
Michael Coudrey: We worked with 7 congressional candidates in the 2018 election, managing the entirety of their social media accounts. We are also poised to work with many more in the upcoming 2020 election as well.
What kind of startup culture did you create at YukoSocial?
Michael Coudrey: All of the individuals we use to help us create content for our candidates work within the realm of politics already, and a majority of them have prominent and influential social media accounts themselves. We are all incredibly aligned in many capacities, so the environment in which we work is quite smooth. This is also a creative job in many ways, so we foster an environment that is very free-flowing, to allow a natural stream of consciousness to influence their work.
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Does your company allow you to have political influence?
Michael Coudrey: Yes, I believe it does in some capacities. We have the immediate ability to gauge voter interest and understand public opinion. There’s also a great deal of market sentiment that we can analyze. In doing so, we can advise candidates or political individuals to push for things the public ultimately wants. We give them a direct line of communication to thousands of their constituents, allowing them to tailor their approach and policies accordingly. More often than not, this allows them to advocate for causes the public wants, and we advise them on these issues.