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According to a 2019 report, there are an estimated 618,000 so-called “millennial millionaires,” born between 1982 and 1996, who have accrued a net worth of at least USD $ 1 million. Experts cite the reason for this wealth boom being inheriting their parents’ riches, which the report also estimates at around USD $ 68 trillion. (1)
Jonathan Mellert Manzi is not part of this demographic, though. He did not become a millionaire by inheriting wealth. At just 16 years old, this then-youth from Massachusetts made his million net worth through managing a business, the youngest to do so. Today, he is co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of two tech firms in the Bay Area, only getting richer in his 30s.
Attaining this much wealth at such an age is impossible without an intense desire to succeed in entrepreneurship. However, as this lengthy biography explains, Manzi did just that.
Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1991, Manzi attended an all-boys grade school in Boston’s North Shore. In 2007, at the age of 15, he established an internet advertising company called Vintage Network. This company’s job was to help clients offer their goods or services, simplifying web marketing strategies that involve big-ticket freebies upon signing up. (2)
One year later, the company had earned a gross value of around USD $ 3.2 million, impressive for someone his age. However, managing it could not have been easy; he had two offices in the Boston area and kept in touch with a partner in Romania. It did not help that one of his employees had been embezzling over USD $ 15,000 from the get-go, which he learned relatively late. (2)
Yet, Manzi had grown to love the chaotic side of doing business. In an interview with Stanford Magazine, he admitted that he would feel uneasy if not faced with a tumultuous situation. Chaos is so exciting that he barely sleeps when faced with it, a trait he still carries while navigating the waters of innovation as the current CEO of Beyond Protocol and Ink Labs (more on these later).
Jonathan Manzi: An Entrepreneurial Athlete
In 2010, Manzi enrolled in the Stanford University’s Management Science & Engineering (MS&E) curriculum. He spent the first quarter of his freshman life managing Vintage Network. Three years later, the company was dissolved.
The end of Vintage Network did not mark the end of Manzi’s journey to entrepreneurial success. His decision to defer his studies for an entire quarter to manage his business had put him in the eyes of the university’s business experts, particularly Graduate School of Business lecturer and entrepreneur David Hornik.
Hornik, who has been a business partner and investor in multiple companies over the past 20 years, saw in Manzi a so-called “addiction to company building.” Believe it or not, it is a real problem that affects one’s mental health. The university is no stranger to such issues, with students often dropping out to get their fix – similar to a drug or alcohol-induced addiction.
Some of these students will find success, albeit not as much as those with completed degrees. In the interview mentioned earlier, Manzi said he was confident about his decision at the time from a cost-benefit perspective, so it made his professors somewhat worried. However, Hornik said he would look for him if push came to shove.
Fortunately, Manzi did not fall into the addiction trap, eventually returning to pursue his MS&E studies. He even chose to pursue a second degree in philosophy, believing that it would translate to becoming a better entrepreneur.
Thus began the journey of one of Stanford’s entrepreneurial athletes and students that manages his / her venture while hitting the books. In his second year, Manzi served as the entrepreneurship chair of the student government – and it only got better from there.
A Glimpse at Innovation
In his fourth year in college and over a year after Vintage Network’s dissolution, Manzi founded a new company called Ink Labs. The Nebraska-based firm aims to enable easy printing, copying, and scanning for college students. (3)
Contrary to what some may believe, there is a demand for Ink Labs’s service in colleges and universities. Despite electronic means being available, many students prefer printed handouts and materials. However, most setups on campuses suffer from an unoptimized system, from printer compatibility issues to terrible user interface.
Being a student himself during that time, Manzi understood the need to help his fellow students study a lot easier. To achieve this, Ink Labs introduced a printing kiosk solution known as the SmartStation. With nothing more than the student’s ID card, the kiosk can allow users to access documents (via physical or cloud storage) and print copies of the materials.
The company initiated its pilot test in 2016 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, met with positive reviews. This success inspired Manzi to move Ink Labs from its California base to Nebraska, partnering with more campuses ever since.
The SmartStation concept garnered considerable attention from investors. In 2017, the company secured seed funding worth around USD $ 6.65 million from hundreds of startups and investors, including some big names. Overall funding reached as much as USD $ 15 million. (3)
Busy with Blockchain
Fresh from his success with Ink Labs, Manzi decided to pursue a different venture: blockchain. Perhaps no market can get any more chaotic than this technology, given that it is the basis for cryptocurrencies and other digital currencies.
In 2018, Manzi founded Beyond Protocol, a Silicon Valley-based project featuring developing distributed ledger technology (DLT). Its primary concern is creating a DLT system that is more resistant to cyberattacks and other risks, enabling blockchain to see more widespread use. To do this, the company aims to create what Manzi calls “a new internet for devices.”
As simple as the term appears, its nuts and bolts describe a complicated endeavor. A year after its inception, Beyond Protocol came forward with the first version of its DLT system: a single line of code that allows for secure messaging between hardware and installing a crypto-based gateway in devices (regardless of their specs). (4)
It is worth mentioning that there are as many uncertainties in the blockchain as certainties, if not more. However, if webinars like the one seen above are any indication, he shows considerable confidence in his investment. Just like with his first venture, he probably has crunched the cost-benefit numbers and determined that he can make it work.
Beyond Protocol began in “stealth mode,” taking its time to develop its DLT system while the economy changed for better or worse. Then, last July, the company saw its first application of their technology, partnering with a sports collectible venture.
Manzi was more than willing to risk his company’s stake in blockchain by securing the purchase of two pairs of sneakers owned by Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Jorge Masvidal. The records of the winners would be recorded in the company’s DLT, safe from anyone attempting to steal or modify the data. (5)
While there is hardly any word about how that turned out, the fact that Manzi was able to secure another partnership a few months later says a lot about his company’s success. This time, the project involves securing the data of custom food and supplement orders from several American football players, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski.
Revolutionizing Every Industry
Throughout 2021, Manzi has put his blockchain tech to the test, mainly in sports. However, the thing with blockchain is that it is flexible enough to see use beyond managing digital currencies. Ever the forward thinker, he wants to see his tech applied to every known industry.
Last November, Manzi forged yet another partnership with Vanderbilt University, primarily its innovation center called The Wond’ry. This project features creating a secure system for storing biometric data, which can be used in medical studies and developing more effective treatments. In this case, the project focuses on developing wearable hardware for managing mental health.
It should be somewhat apparent by now that Manzi has a penchant for looking for combinations that work. The case of the football players is a three-way crossover of sports, healthcare, and technology. The Vanderbilt partnership is another three-way crossover of biometrics, blockchain, and medical care. In addition, in his latest collaboration, announced a week before 2021 ended, he aims to combine blockchain with artificial intelligence and market predictions.
Those who have benefited from Manzi’s extensive entrepreneurial mind, like Gronkowski, have lauded him for introducing game-changing tech. Given several years of advancements, there may no longer be a facet of life that does not employ such innovations.
The Future of Jonathan Manzi
With two companies under his leadership, what does the future hold for this young entrepreneur? Then again, the better question may be, “What does Manzi have in store for the future?”
While retaining the title of youngest millionaire through business management, Manzi has come a long way from his first venture. His dedication to running ventures while working toward his college degree speaks volumes about his work ethic. Few people can ever work effectively while everything around them burns (metaphorically speaking), and he is one of such people.
Today, at the helm of two successful tech firms, he continues to produce results even in chaotic environments. The uncertainties prevalent in blockchain are not intimidating enough to deter him from making it big in the industry. It is no surprise if everyone looks forward to what he will show the world next – blockchain and more.
- “A LOOK AT WEALTH 2019”, Source: https://blog.coldwellbankerluxury.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/CBGL-Millennial-Report_SEP19_FINAL-4a.1-1.pdf
- “The Company He Keeps”, Source: https://stanfordmag.org/contents/the-company-he-keeps
- “Jonathan Manzi Recent News and Activity”, Source: https://www.crunchbase.com/person/jonathan-manzi/person_overview_investor/timeline
- “Your Questions, Our Answers.”, Source: https://beyondprotocol.medium.com/your-questions-our-answers-2f4f21fff46a
- “Beyond Protocol Launches Unhackable Blockchain-Ledger Technology to Record Proof of Ownership of Rare Collectibles”, Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/beyond-protocol-launches-unhackable-blockchain-ledger-technology-to -record-proof-of-ownership-of-rare-collectibles-301345414.html
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