Young Entrepreneur of the Year Featured

9:56am EDT July 22, 2002

Building a multimillion dollar computer interactive and Web design company may sound like a complex task.

However, the story seems quite simple when you hear it from Wil Schroter, who founded NGDA Interactive Communications at age 19.

“One thing that’s always stayed with us is we can really do whatever we want to do,” Schroter, now 24, says, relaying advice he recently gave to a college student inquiring about his success. “We can say we might have failed at one or two things, but it wasn’t because we didn’t try.”

When he was 18, for example, he spent his spring break — seven straight days — holed up in a dormitory room writing a database program for the computer sales company where he worked. The catch: he also had to spend that time learning Microsoft Access, because he didn’t even know how to build the program he had promised. Later, the program was rolled out to the entire company and sold to another.

His persistence continued with the start of his own company — despite loads of debt.

“I don’t think people realize when you first get started there is no money coming in,” he says, pointing out that credit cards financed the start of NGDA and left him with a debt he refused to specify.

“I’d probably say a year ago we finished paying off our first computer,” Schroter says. “We probably paid, at the end of the day, $60,000 for that computer. Now it’s a coaster somewhere.”

Typical of Schroter, the debt never made him hesitate in continuing his quest.

“I can honestly say the whole time I knew I was building something bigger and it was OK,” he says. “I can’t say it wasn’t frightening.”

Schroter’s constant search for more, better and bigger continues at NGDA, where the firm’s work, he says, is changing other industries’ use of marketing, technology and the Internet. He gives three examples.

  • E-commerce With the assistance of NGDA, a national pharmaceutical company will, for the first time, market a drug entirely online. “It’s a sensitive subject,” Schroter says of the drug, which treats infertility in males and is not prescription based. “People want to be anonymous, so the Web site makes a lot of sense.”

    Not only will the Web site explain the drug, it will allow customers to place orders and keep track of dosage.

  • Sales and marketing Schroter convinced another pharmaceutical company that its sales force could use a pen-based, lightweight computer when it makes calls on doctors. The computer would allow the sales representative to obtain a profile on the doctor, create a personalized sales presentation and automatically generate a follow-up letter based on the doctor’s reaction to the presentation. NGDA is working on a prototype for a few representatives to test before the final version is rolled out in about a year.

  • Entertainment NGDA has built an online, multiplayer game, Project X, for Sega.

Such client work has built NGDA to $6.5 million in capitalized billings in 1998, a figure Schroter expects to near $30 million this year.

Meanwhile, he continues to give advice to entrepreneurs who contact him on a weekly basis.

“The corporate world is always out there. You always have the opportunity to get a job,” he says of someone weighing the risks of starting a business. “The real opportunity is what you can build for yourself.”