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The Three Digital Amigos

Friendship is key for success in San Francisco for Laker buddies


Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Once buddies in Lake Oswego, these three young men are now business partners in San Francisco. From the left are Andrew Seidman, Ben Childs and Zach Mandelblatt. They are working hard and being good guys.

The digital marketing scene — pay-per-click management, search engine optimization, call tracking, social media management, to name a few services — is incredibly competitive in San Francisco. But the city has never seen a company quite like Digital Reach Agency LLC.

That is because it features three friends from Lake Oswego — Ben Childs, founder and president of the company, and Andrew Seidman and Zach Mandelblatt, all 2005 graduates of Lake Oswego High School, former tee ball teammates, and buddies since their days at Oak Creek Elementary School.

If that doesn’t give enough of a Lake Oswego slant to their company, Childs has hired a number of other former LOHS grads. The company is not called Laker Digital Reach Agency, but it could have been.

Such a company cannot be said to have been a longtime dream of the three pals, because it came as a total surprise to all of them. This saga began as a Kerouacian auto journey across the entire U.S.A. only a year ago as three brilliant young men were still struggling to find the key to success. What better way to talk about good times past, bad times present, and in this case hatch an idea for the future.

“In 2013 we were on a road trip from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco,” Seidman said. “On the way we made a plan to form a company and see where the ride would take us.”

“Zach got cut from his baseball team and was visiting a buddy in D.C.,” Childs said. “Andrew and I flew out to help him drive his car cross country because, hey, why not? Needless to say we didn’t have a lot of things going on in those days.”

True. Mandelblatt getting dropped by his professional baseball team, the Joliet Slammers, was no reason to celebrate. Childs had graduated from Santa Clara University with an English degree in 2009, which he called the worst possible year to get such a degree. Subsequently, he bombed out in three “futureless” jobs. Seidman seemed to be doing the best. He had written a book on poker.

Digital Reach had actually been started by Childs in 2011. He has no warm memories of that time.

“I started the company in my room,” he said. “I threw up a terrible site and called my brains out to get my first client.”

Plus, his first attempt to attract Seidman as a partner did not work out.

“What’s funny is that I asked Andrew if I could borrow $330 to get all my business licenses,” Childs said. “But I refused to write a business plan to show him how I’d make use of it, so he passed.”

But the journey two years later changed everything.

Seidman said, “We were road tripping the car, we had a lot of conversations about what a company might look like, who would do what, etc. A few months later, the first iterations started happening, and about eight months later we officially formed our partnership.”

“Andrew and Zach started pitching me to get involved,” Childs said. “My thought was that they’re both geniuses and we’re pretty good friends, so what’s the worst that could happen?”

On that note, Digital Reach was in business, and so far the partners are cutting it in the big city. Customers like their policy of no tricks, hard work, month-to-month plans, and always keeping in mind that a contract can be cancelled at any time. This has allowed them to extensively expand their infrastructure.

“In many ways Digital Reach typifies the San Francisco startup culture,” Seidman said. “All of their employees are under 30, work 100 percent online, and throw tech jargon around casually. But, while they’ve had great success so far, the road ahead is long and competitive.”

“There are digital marketing companies under every rock these days,” Childs said. “We just try to be honest, accountable and work hard. If we’re just good guys and put in the work, we’ll get there.”

But the X factor in Digital Reach reaching success might be the seeds for the friendships planted many years ago.

“Being able to speak clearly and connect with your partners in a meaningful way has allowed us to overcome some hurdles that other companies might have struggled with,” Seidman said. “There’s a lot of mutual trust and strong communication, and I think it’s represented in the high quality of work we’ve been able to produce.”

But what about the future? Can the friendship hold up in the furnace of capitalistic competition in one of America’s most happening cities?

Childs, a man of dry and sharp wit, wryly made the suggestion that a decade from now the three friends might only be speaking through their lawyers because of pending litigation.

Childs said, “We’ll all look back and laugh at how simple it all seemed.

“But for now it’s pretty sweet.”

For more about Digital Reach Agency LLC, go to www.digitalreachagency.com.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Ben Childs, left, seems bemused with what Zach Mandelblatt is coming up with on the white board. Also interested is Andrew Seidman.

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