In March 2009, Michael Streko of Neptune City faced a tough choice: Take a pay cut at his New York City marketing job or leave with a severance package.
He’d just gotten married and bought a house; he had a 2-year-old son. “I was working 14-hour days, and I only saw my son for 30 minutes a day due to the commute,” he says. It was a risk, but he took the severance. Five months later, he sold what he calls a pet project—cheapatlanticcity.com—for six figures. He used the cash to keep his family afloat and start knowem.com.
KnowEm does brand, trademark and intellectual property protection across thousands of social media sites. Businesses like Yahoo, Flickr, Continental and United Airlines hire KnowEm to make sure their names are secured and not misrepresented. Today, a quarter of the Fortune 100 use KnowEm. They’re also working with major players in the pharmaceutical, fashion and electronics industries to identify people using social media and the web to sell counterfeits.
Streko, now 30, is committed to keeping the company local. His 44-plus staff work remotely and are based in New Jersey or New York. They also hire interns from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.
“There’s also no better feeling than watching television and seeing someone advertise a twitter url that my company secured for them,” says Streko.