Ernst &Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®

By Utah Business editors | Photography by Eric Delphenich

July 9, 2013

Starting and running a successful business is tough—it takes much more than an idea and enthusiasm. Being an entrepreneur requires hard work, perseverance, thick skin and huge risk-taking. And the big paycheck doesn’t come overnight; many small business owners earn nothing in the first months and some are even forced to ask their small staff to go without a paycheck just to keep the lights on. That’s not to say there aren’t major benefits of entrepreneurship. The reward of building something meaningful out of nothing more than an idea is immeasurable. Here we profile a group of entrepreneurs who have done just that—turned an idea into a lasting organization. Join us as we applaud the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year honorees.


Dave Elkington, Chairman, CEO and Founder

Dave Elkington is passionate about the innovative technology pioneered by The company has a huge footprint in several distinct disruptive innovations: software as a service, internet lead generation and predictive analytics.

“We innovate. We out innovate everybody,” he says. “We’re filing between one and three patents a month, and it’s not for litigious reasons. It’s because we want to provide technologies that make our customers win. And we want to protect our customers; we want our customers to be better than anyone else.” provides sales automation technology that helps inside sales reps be “rock stars,” says Elkington. The platform includes more than 100 million unique data profiles—accounting for about half the adult population of the United States—along with 10 billion sales interactions with those people. Some of the company’s enterprise clients include Dell, Marketo, Seagate and Groupon.

Elkington says he is drawn to entrepreneurship because, “It’s the endorphins and the adrenaline of the wins, and it’s also the experience of the losses—both of them create the richness of life, and it’s addicting.”


Tony Zito, CEO

Rakuten mediaFORGE

MediaFORGE is an online marketing company that specializes in interactive ads. “It’s a performance-based model; we only get paid when our clients get paid. And that’s very unique in our market. We’re the only company that uses our engagement-based model in the world. So in terms of market share, it’s mediaFORGE,” says Tony Zito.

The company started out as a developer of widgets for MySpace. As MySpace faded in popularity and influence, mediaFORGE found itself searching for a new identity—and realized it could transform online banner ads by integrating its interactive widget technology. It was a huge risk, and Zito put his own skin in the game, forgoing a salary for a few years.

“Today, we’re the 55th fastest-growing company in the country. We were recently acquired by Rakuten, the third-largest ecommerce company in the world. We’re operating in Japan, in the UK, Brazil and Australia, and hiring people like crazy here in Utah,” says Zito.

“Every ad is unique based on the user that views it. And that ability to optimize the creative in real time is fairly unique, and then to be able to do it on a performance basis so there’s no risk to the advertiser is also unique.”


— Award Winner —

Phil Hansen, CEO


In 1999 Phil Hansen worked at an advertising agency. He was excited about the possibilities of the internet, but his boss told him that no one would ever pay for advertising online. Hansen quit within a week and soon began working at a company that was creating web pages and exploring online advertising. That company would later become CLEARLINK.

CLEARLINK has expanded substantially since those days, both in size and in scope. It now provides digital marketing and customer conversion services for Fortune 500 brands including AT&T, Verizon and Century Link. The company added 500 jobs last year and tripled revenue, Hansen says. 

Hansen and his leadership team have created an environment at CLEARLINK that emphasizes more than just profits. Instead, they determine success by focusing on what they call the “triple bottom line,” the company’s overall economic, social and environmental impacts. That includes an emphasis on taking care of employees.

“You spend as much time here as you do with your family, so why not enjoy that?” he says.


Real Estate Management & Construction

— Award Winner —

David Bateman, CEO

Property Solutions International, Inc.

A few short years ago, Property Solutions International arrived at a fork in the road. It had achieved stable, long-term success with its software applications for the multi-family property management industry. In fact, the company was growing by about 80 percent each year, says CEO Dave Bateman.

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