Age of CEO: 35
World records he holds: Five (plus the most successful Kickstarter fashion campaign to date)
Lesson: Don’t stop self-promoting.
Jake Bronstein has taken a circuitous trip from celebrity to success.
1. Trying to impress a girl in 1997, he records an audition video for Real World–in–a–Winnebago spinoff Road Rules and follows his sister’s advice to be “wild, urban, and Jewish.” Three weeks later, he is on MTV.
2. Bronstein relocates to New York, where a woman “jumps out of the bushes” to ask if he and the girl he is with would model for YM. Around this time, on a lark, he enters the NBA draft (he is not picked).
3. At Playboy, where he works for a spell, he lies to his boss and says he dreams of working for FHM, only to discover that said boss is working on the American launch of FHM and that he will be made an associate editor. He gets fired when he makes an off-the-cuff comment about that month’s cover girl.
4. Next begins the period of his life he explains thus: “Well, Jackass had just started.” He bathes in Bryant Park, frees a fish into the East River, and travels to Finland, where he goes ice-swimming naked. Gawker begins snarkily covering his antics.
5. Capitalizing on this notoriety, he forms Zoomdoggle, a time-waster website devoted to fun, like adding a “b” and an “r” to the “one” on a dollar bill.
6. A guy trying to sell bottled New York City tap water hires him as a marketing consultant. “We got a lot of press,” says Bronstein. “No sales.”
7. The two of them eventually co-create Buckyballs, a magnetic toy that becomes, per Bloomberg Businessweek, “the most popular cubicle toy since the Rubik’s Cube.” But it turns out that when children swallow Buckyballs, unfortunate intestinal problems can ensue. The company shuts down.
8. A world-records enthusiast, Bronstein tries to propose to his girlfriend through the world’s longest whisper chain, and fails. The second time it works, a video of the event goes viral, and 1 million views later, he and his fiancée are telling their story on CBS’s ‘Early Show.’
9. His company, Flint and Tinder, launches a Kickstarter project with the stated goal of “sparking a revolution in American manufacturing” through selling premium men’s underwear. It raises almost $300,000, ten times its goal, but still comes out $30,000 in the hole when the project is finished.
10. The company’s second Kickstarter, for a hoodie guaranteed to last ten years, collects $1.05 million, making it the most successful fashion Kickstarter to date.
11. Flint and Tinder develops into a lifestyle brand, selling high-quality, made-in-America men’s products: selvage jeans, “field archery wall art,” and a balsam pillow (sold out). Bronstein now employs eight people and runs the company from an office in Chinatown. It’s BuzzFeed’s old space, in fact.