Entrepreneurs to Watch in 1998

By Joelle Klein and Jeffrey L. Newman
When Jaime Levy, renowned Alley interactive producer, became frustrated with competing against larger, more established companies for multimedia jobs, her long-time friend, encouraged her to start up her own company and gave her a big wad of cash to do it.

"I thought, you mean, I have to wake up early and go into an office every day, hire a secretary?" says the former creative director of the recently defenestrated Word. "I was afraid at the task of starting a company. But in retrospect, I'm glad I did it and only wish that I started it sooner."

She solicited the help of digital renaissance man Scott Alexander to act as her creative director. Alexander was working in that other Silicon area in California as a digital artist, musician, producer and content developer, among other things, but he moved to New York to help his buddy build a business. The two creative types then asked Jordan Serlin, a former VP of marketing for CRT Multimedia, to join them as the business development guy.

EH develops "modular content pieces," i.e. low-bandwidth animation and cartoons that new media nad advertising agencies can buy or license for use in their ad campaigns or Web sites. Their design repertoire includes streaming Java applets, microsites, search and commerce systems and interactive ad banners, but Serlin explains that advertising agencies should not feel threatened by EH. "We're not competing with them because they probably don't have a division to do[low-bandwidth animation]," Serlin says. "We want them to say, "Hey, let's outsource to them."

With over 5,000 square foot of office space in the Flatiron District and only four full-time employees, EH sublets part of its space to other new media designers with various specialities, such as interface design, 3D animation, Java programming and datamining. In an arrangement Levy describes as a "digital kibbutz," the company has an established relationship with these specialists to pull them into various projects on an ad-hoc basis, making them an integral part of the business operations.

"This way we don't have to increase our overhead to have this type of expertise in house," Serlin says. Using Flash, Shockwave and Java, EH has created a portfolio of cutting-edge cartoons and animations. Through cold calls and strategic relationships with companies like Sun Microsystems, EH hopes to convince Web-developer types to license or purchase their creation, or hire the company for custom development. They're betting that as Web users become more sophisticated, second and third generation developers will call on EH to help spruce up their site' s image with dynamic interactive content.

EH's long term goal although Levy admits it's unrealistic is to create specialty content sites. But in the short-term, the company's founder would like to increase animation business for banner ads, serialized character development (see Bulbo the Mouse on EH's site) and interactive ad campaigns. The Java game banner EH designed for SonicNet last Fall increased the music site's clickthrough rates by over 400 percent from its previous campaign, Serlin says.

The company won't disclose its projected revenue, but Levy does have this to say on the subject: "I want to make money this year."