Surefire Local CEO & Founder’s Story
Chris Marentis is a passionate entrepreneur and innovator whose dream is to leave a legacy bigger than himself, to make a difference in the lives and communities around him, and to change the world. He lives and mentors by the motto “If you can think it, you can do it”.
Chris grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His father owned a home contracting HVAC business. From early on, Chris was exposed to all that it takes to be a business owner – the highs and the lows. The qualities of an entrepreneur took root in him, driven by his dream to be a successful businessman.
Chris struggled in school due to a learning disability. He coped by working harder and longer than his peers. His perseverance and diligence gave him an out-of-the-box approach to challenges, and ultimately led him to the field of advertising, where creativity was valued over the well-worn path. This was the launchpad for Chris’s career.
As a media planner for Young and Rubicam, Chris thrived by adopting new technologies and applying them to advertising. The boy voted least likely to succeed was considered a boy wonder, working on top brands like J&J, Frito Lay, and Coca Cola.
Later, developing a new line of business, Retail Sports Television (RSTV) at Miller Freeman, Chris was told that the firm could no longer afford to fund the new operation. Seeing value, he engineered a spin out and later sold for stock to IDB.
Chris anticipated how the online world would transform media and saw an opportunity. He joined AOL as General Manager of its Sports, Health and Fitness Channels. At a critical time for the company, he reversed the model of paying for content to charging content providers…creating an entirely new and profitable revenue stream worth over $700 million annually and transforming the industry.
Chris was there when traditional media was disrupted by the online world when the power shifted to interactive bits. If information is power, the Internet democratized that power. Consumers had other sources besides advertisements and sales people to make decisions. While large companies with big budgets could afford to play that game, the local entrepreneur, the guy like Chris’s father was left behind.
This disadvantage inspired Chris to write Surefire Local: the guide for local SMB’s to compete in the digital world – his opportunity to give back to entrepreneurs like his dad. Chris was invited to speak at events and demand grew for ways to implement his ideas, galvanizing in the launch of Surefire Local to arm local SMBs with the digital weapons to compete against the big guys.
Chris turned his vision into a reality when he started GenNext Media after running two venture backed companies. Both experiences taught Chris three important lessons: 1) how Web 2.0 and geo-spacial mapping changed search and marketing communication forever, 2) how to build a team and, 3) how to build momentum in a new market.
GenNext Media started in 2009 as an information services company after writing his first eBook, Disrupted, on the future of marketing technology. Applying the themes from Disrupted, Chris started to pursue several new business ideas, including Energy Performance Pro (EPP) and Surefire Local. After spending time and resources on EPP, he realized the idea was not a winner. He quickly cut his losses and channeled his remaining resources into what became Surefire Local, learning an expensive lesson.
Surefire Local was in the sweet spot of a marketing revolution ripe for disruption. The company accelerated as Chris started speaking to business owners evangelizing the solution. Feedback was strong. Educating entrepreneurs began to generate trust in Chris and the Surefire brand; the initial business model was based on selling “do it yourself” services. Businesses began asking for help implementing these new ideas and Surefire evolved into a SaaS and services business.
Today, Surefire Local employs over 100 people and grew 1,600-percent over the past 3 years. In 2014, the company was recognized on the Inc. 500 list as #341 nationally and the 20th fastest growing private company in Virginia.
Chris never forgot where he came from, WHY he is here; to empower America’s entrepreneurs to compete. Chris sets high standards, with aspirations of becoming a leading brand in local digital marketing. The company’s open technology framework integrating best-of-breed web services into a single marketing technology platform is a huge differentiator. As a result, Surefire Local offers powerful digital marketing solutions previously only available to large enterprise.
Success is a result of Chris’s relentless focus on client outcomes and client experience. It is embedded in Chris’s DNA and the DNA of the company, and it is contagious. The Company’s dramatic growth came with only 1-2 sales people at any given time and a limited marketing budget, thanks to referrals from rabidly loyal clients.
In an overwhelming fast-paced technology environment, Chris simplified life for his clients by combining best of breed technologies, marketing services and support to drive sales. He created an opportunity in a chaotic market.
The Company’s latest innovation Surefire Local Marketing Cloud, an SMB’s Digital CMO, provides data, insight and competitive tactics to marketing novices. It gives an SMB complete control to effectively compete and beat more expensive and complicated products like those offered by HubSpot opening up a multi-billion dollar market for Surefire Local.
Chris’s interest in mentoring isn’t limited to the office. He strives to lead by example. As a loving husband, father and friend, he lives out the importance of honesty, integrity, joy, and persistence and embodies the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena.” The company culture is built to transform young professionals into highly successful people, in and out of the office. Chris invests in employees sharing business insight, wisdom, technical skills, and most importantly the leadership to excel in a career and in life.
A servant leader in the local Christian community through his church, Chris played a significant role raising money for the construction of the new house of worship. He regularly participates in fund raising events by serving, donating and evangelizing.
Realizing that creating employees with a servant heart starts with demonstrating servant leadership in their community, he is launching “Surefire Gives Back” – a program that encourages employees to take two days of paid leave each year and give back to their local communities.