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Emerging on Top After the Bubble Bursts: Red Ventures’ Ric Elias, Founder and CEO of Red Ventures, Named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Services Award Winner

Elias honored for emerging out of the internet bubble and continuously revamping the company business model

PALM SPRINGS, C.A. — Ric Elias, Founder and CEO of Red Ventures, has been named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year’® 2011 Services Award winner. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year is the country’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award encourages entrepreneurial activity and recognizes leaders and visionaries who demonstrate innovation, financial success and personal commitment as they create and build world-class businesses.

Elias was recognized for using insight and innovative thinking to grow the Fort Mill, South Carolina-based company into a top-ranked online marketing services firm. By changing the company’s business model on more than one occasion, he has built a nationally recognized company that drives millions of dollars in sales for 13 industry-leading brand partners, each business a testament to the adaptability of the Red Ventures team. Elias was honored at the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards gala, the culminating event of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum’® held in Palm Springs, California. The Forum is the nation’s premier gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. Awards were given in nine additional categories. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners were selected by an independent panel of judges from approximately 300 regional award recipients.

“By constantly evolving his business model to acclimate to a rapidly changing industry, Ric Elias has proven himself to be a truly innovative business leader. We are proud to present him this year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Award in the Services category,” said Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year, Ernst & Young LLP. “Putting to practice his small business, open-door policy, Elias has created a company culture that allows employees to succeed while generating exceptional results for their industry-leading clients.”

Tumultuous times

Elias first exercised his entrepreneurism as a young boy in Puerto Rico, where he sold avocados on the side of the street at a high markup. He carried this business savvy throughout his education, earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he met Red Ventures Co-Founder Dan Feldstein. The company began with seed money from private investors in 2000 as Red F, providing online discounts and loyalty programs. When the internet bubble burst a few months later, Red F lost a majority of its start-up money, and Elias was forced to cut three-quarters of his staff and rethink the company’s business model.

With renewed spirit and determination, Elias renamed the company Red Ventures and changed the fundamental business model to focus on customer acquisition, creating a niche market in the industry. The new model was a massive success, with 9,000% growth in the company’s first three years. Today, the company employs more than 1,100 people and generates revenues in excess of $200 million. Red Ventures values its relationships with its 13 industry-leading partners, offering them all-inclusive services from lead generation to end transaction, and has ambitious plans for continued growth

Rising to the top

If there’s one thing Elias values most, it’s the employees who have helped Red Ventures become the industry giant it is today. From the outset, he recognized the importance of rewarding employees for their accomplishments rather than seniority as a way to ensure that Red Ventures customers receive outstanding quality service. By providing employees with top-notch tools, technologies and perks, Elias has maintained a cohesive workforce that cherishes the same small business and honest mentality as their CEO. This dedication led the Charlotte Business Journal to rank Red Ventures as the No. 1 Best Place to Work. Red Ventures’ investment in state-of-the-art technologies has also garnered the attention of stalwarts like Google and Bing, whose representatives have visited the company headquarters to exchange ideas.

National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Services finalists

In addition to Elias, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year national finalists in the Services category are: COO Miles Lasater and Chairman and CEO Mark Volchek of Higher One, a New Haven, Connecticut-based company offering advisement services to help college business offices manage operations and provide enhanced service to students; CEO and Owner Ron Roma of Healthesystems, LLC, a Tampa, Florida-based company that offers innovative solutions to workers’ compensation insurance payers that manage the health services provided to injured workers; and Dr. William C. “Kip” Schumacher, Chairman and CEO of The Schumacher Group, a Lafayette, Louisiana-based company offering emergency health care staffing and management services.

National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Overall Award winners

Reid Hoffman, Chairman, and Jeff Weiner, CEO, of LinkedIn Corporation were named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Overall Award winners.

About Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year

Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in 50 countries.

About Ernst & Young’s Strategic Growth Markets Practice

Ernst & Young LLP’s Strategic Growth Markets (SGM) practice guides leading high-growth companies. Our multidisciplinary team of elite professionals provides perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries. Ernst & Young is the undisputed leader in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies and convening the experts who shape the business climate. For more information, please visit us at, or follow news on Twitter at @EY_Growth.

About Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 152,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.

Media Contact

Ami Shukla

Director, Corporate Communications

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