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Tom Bedecarré
Founder and Chairman
AKQA

Early signs of entrepreneurial character were evident when Bedecarré began one of his first jobs, delivering newspapers. During his first week, the paper announced its annual customer service awards to be given to the best carriers. Although new to the job, he went to each customer on his route, introduced himself and told each of them he wanted to become the best carrier and would appreciate it if they would vote for him.

Bedecarré won the competition, and to this day feels it was because he made a personal connection with his customers and delivered a quality promise. Bedecarré went to Stanford intending to be a liberal arts major, perhaps going on to attend law school or enter government or politics. He interned with Leon Panetta, who was a freshman congressman at the time and realized, in the time he spent in Washington, DC, he wanted to be doing things, not just talking about or arguing issues. His time and course load at Stanford spurred his interest in computers, technology and innovation, interests complemented by the love of communication he developed at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He soon developed a passion for advertising during his early days at Ogilvy & Mather in New York.

The three-piece entrepreneurial puzzle now intact, Bedecarré founded AKQA in 2000 in the middle of the dot-com bubble by helping to bring together four companies. He and his partners had a vision of how devices would be connected, how media and communications would be shifting to digital and how the skills of an ad agency and a technology web development shop combined would create something new.

Then the dot-com bubble burst

It was in this crisis that Bedecarré used all those skills he had learned through the years. In 2001, AKQA let go about 60% of the people it had just brought together. He closed offices. Partners with whom Bedecarré had worked for more than a decade were asked to leave, and the remaining management members loaned money back to the company to pay the employees who were retained and keep cash flow positive.

Through these tough times, Bedecarré remained focused on digital advertising, considered by many to be a risky strategy. Bedecarré credits reaching out to all of their key clients personally, almost all of which they still have today, with helping AKQA stay afloat.

A vision renewed

AKQA weathered the storm and is now enjoying great financial strength. With its ability to provide both advertising and technology expertise, clients are offered website development, e-commerce, social media, mobile app development, search engine marketing, data analytics and digital product design services. Further proof of AKQA’s success is its recent acquisition by WPP. AKQA continues to operate as an independent brand within WPP.

Bedecarré credits his team’s technical acumen for the credibility AKQA has earned from the technology, IT, CIO and CTO organizations within their clients’ operations. And, his team’s creativity is an important factor in the relationships formed with marketing teams. He is also unwavering in his belief in innovation and technology and believes in being shamelessly optimistic and positive about customers and the future in order to thrive in the advertising marketing space. Today, Bedecarré says he is excited to see the vision put down on paper 13 years ago become reality, but he continues to look forward.

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