20 Days to 20 Years!

By Michelle Pujadas, Founder & Co-CEO

Zer0 to 5ive celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 20 days – May 21st. It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by since we opened our doors. This will be the first of a series of blog posts celebrating the last 20 years, recognizing many of the people who made our success possible, and looking forward to the next 20 (!!).

Zer0 to 5ive was a long time in coming. In 1998, I was an SVP at Ketchum’s Pittsburgh office, leading its Tech Practice and traveling 13 days a month, with two young girls at home. I loved the job, the people, and the clients, but Ketchum was looking for big global companies for its tech roster, and Pittsburgh – home to Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and Duquesne universities – was becoming a hub of startups. These startups had big ideas, but little idea of how to launch into the market, never mind build a long-term brand. From this “perfect storm” came the idea of starting Zer0 to 5ive, which at the time would focus solely on emerging tech. The “when” and “how” was on my mind until I finally pulled the trigger in 1999, with Santi – then President of a Westinghouse division and now my co-CEO – filing the paperwork on May 21, to become “official” as Zer0 to 5ive, LLC.

Getting to our own launch – and early success and momentum – involved many people whom I want to thank. Some I still know and talk to regularly; others I have lost touch with over the years, but still feel their impact. So a BIG THANK YOU to Mike Bolton, former Managing Partner of PA Early Stage and SVP at Safeguard Scientifics, who encouraged me to go it alone and provided many an introduction; Harry Wallaesa, former President of Safeguard Scientifics, who had the confidence to bring me on as VP of Marketing for Safeguard, while also acquiring one-third of Zer0 to 5ive with the idea of providing real marketing services to Safeguard’s growing portfolio of companies; Bob Longo, our very first client at Carnegie Learning, who then went on to bring us into a number of other edtech opportunities—including working on Apple’s PowerSchool brand for 4+ years—and who remains a friend today; Laurie Mizrahi, who designed our wonderful logo, in return for messaging; and Jennifer Helfer, our first employee, who has gone on to be an agency superstar in London.

Additional THANKS to Paul McKeon, CEO of Crescent Communications in Atlanta, and his business partner, Ruth Doering, who entrusted the expansion of Crescent when I left Atlanta to move to Pittsburgh, knowing that we would ultimately be folded into Ketchum and that I would have a home in Ketchum’s Pittsburgh office. Zer0 to 5ive is modeled after Crescent – one of the first agencies to understand the power of integrated marketing for tech companies.

In our early months and years, we had wonderful co-workers, clients and partners – thank you to all who believed in us, especially those from the Safeguard family and its various venture funds, and to the 0to5ers who helped the Zer0 to 5ive Roadmap™ become a reality and a sought-after service, and who made Zer0 to 5ive an agency that clients returned to again and again.

Last, but certainly not least, a big THANK YOU to my husband Santi, who believed that I could do it, supported me, and then left his own thriving career to join me to ensure Zer0 to 5ive would be a commercial success – who knew that revenues and cash flow were not the same??!!

Stay tuned for more posts from me over the coming days and weeks!