Mark Smith, CEO of Absolute Summit, hatched the idea for the company with some college friends back at Stanford University in the early 1990’s. Smith, a Computer and Information Sciences graduate, worked tirelessly to raise the money to start Absolute Summit with best friend Jack Stevens, a Graphic Designer and graduate from nearby San Jose State University. With initial funding from their parents and friends, the duo set out to conquer Silicon Valley.
Together they started Absolute Summit in the apartment over Jack’s parent’s garage, selling search engine optimization services to small, local companies who needed internet presence. They targeted sports affiliated businesses, since both Smith and Stevens are avid sports fans, and they thought they could parlay their knowledge of sports into a tidy SEO company. Since the 1990’s saw the onset of search engine optimization and its boom, they got in at the right time, building what would become the fourth largest SEO company in the United States.
Initially, the pair covered all the basic jobs affiliated with the company—Mark handled the accounting, legal and all computer-related positions; Jack handled marketing, and sales. They worked around the clock, soliciting new business at alumni meetings of their respective colleges, acquaintances from their gym and softball leagues, and local sports teams. Their breakthrough came when they landed the account for the Stanford Cardinal football team, and the business escalated from there. Soon they picked up new employees and moved their headquarters to Palo Alto, California, where the company resides today.
Not ones to be complacent, both Smith and Stevens branched out from exclusively serving sports teams and affiliated companies, to a wide array of clients, including Geico Insurance, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and CarMax. The success was a slow build, but with the addition of Matt Cox, SEO Analyst, the opportunities continued to pour in, taking Absolute Summit from a startup SEO company to one of the strongest forces in SEO. Matt Cox attended school at Manhattan College in New York, with a B.A. in Marketing. He took an interest in SEO when he took a trip to the San Jose area to visit friends, and they discussed the new, booming industry. He was introduced to Jack Stevens by mutual friends, and then joined Absolute Summit soon after. Cox’s college roommate, Chad Conley, skilled in web development, moved cross-country to join the up-and-coming Absolute Summit at Cox’s urging. Together, the four of them have built an impressive empire.
Mark Smith didn’t set out to run a large company; he, like many others who graduated in the early 1990’s, just didn’t want to work for someone else! The opportunities were too great to pass up, so he took the risk after graduating from Stanford in 1993 to make the leap into a blossoming industry—search engine optimization. Smith had a minimal hand in creating Architext, which later became the search engine, Excite. It was through his fellow students and this experience that he learned the processes of SEO, and saw a way to use his computer knowledge to make his own company. His understanding of SEO, computer analytics and sports were the solid foundation for the start of Absolute Summit. In addition to running the day-to-day operations at Absolute Summit, Smith is also on the board of the Stanford Educational Committee, and is involved with the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford.
Smith’s cohort, Jack Stevens, thought he would use his Graphic Design training from San Jose State to work for a large company, creating advertising designs and logos; he just never dreamed it would be his own company. He had to wear several hats to make Absolute Summit successful, but graphic design skill, dogged determination, and ability to relate to anyone made his sales pitch for this start-up SEO company a fruitful one. Much of the progress and profit of the company can be attributed to Stevens’ efforts to make it happen. Today, Stevens’ role includes running the marketing and design division to keep Absolute Summit’s image new, fresh, and at the top of its game.
Matt Cox’s role was instrumental in getting Absolute Summit to flourish. He immersed himself in search engine optimization and all that it entails, and becoming such a qualified expert that he has been asked to teach SEO at various colleges in the area. While working closely with Jack Stevens to ensure that the reputation of Absolute Summit was reflected in their marketing online, Cox also oversaw the company’s jump from just a sports-related business to one that could successfully offer SEO for any industry. His knack for finding just the right keywords and keeping apprised of the latest algorithms used by the search engines helped to cement his expertise in the SEO field. While working closely with Stevens and the marketing department, Cox heads research and development to keep Absolute Summit heading in the right direction.
Chad Conley, was the last piece of the puzzle—and a very important one. Although he was tentative at first to leave his native New York, he felt the move cross-country might turn out to be a good lesson in business, and at the very least he could meet some new people. Now a Californian for almost thirty years, Conley’s decision to stay has certainly paid off. His ability to revamp the initial Absolute Summit’s website to make it more user friendly made Absolute Summit a prime example of how web development could be instrumental in helping other company’s benefit too. He essentially helped turn the small start-up into a prime example of how small adjustments to web development coupled with effective SEO could turn a small business into a large, profitable, sought-after company.
As Absolute Summit celebrates over twenty years in business, its effect on the SEO industry has made an impression that can never be forgotten. The four main founders continue to learn and grow their business with a will that never stops.