He’s back in business



Stuart Lewtan ’84 has brought his entrepreneurial know-how to the matchmaking business, but he’s not looking to find compatible couples. Instead, Lewtan’s latest venture seeks to bring together professionals in need of well-informed advice (ranging from a 30-minute phone call to a multi-week engagement) and consultants who can provide the necessary expertise.

After two years of planning, Lewtan launched Zintro in September. He’s already signed up more than 700 clients (investors, consultants, operating managers, analysts, lawyers) and 7,000 experts (independent consultants, physicians, engineers, scientists, business owners), with hundreds more coming on every week. Zintro is the only Web 2.0-style business that helps clients find consultants based on their area of expertise, contact them, qualify them, and facilitate a consultation. From a consultant’s perspective, Zintro helps to find high-quality prospects and market services to them.

“Every month on Google there are 24 million searches that include the terms ‘expert,’ ‘consultant,’ ‘specialist,’ ‘engineer,’ or ‘scientist,’ ” Lewtan says. “Before Zintro, it was virtually impossible to convert such searches into conversations with actual people.”

Zintro is free to both the client (expert-seeker) and expert until both agree to a consult (at which time a modest transaction fee for a “zintro” is charged). Zintro also offers a variety of premium services to help clients and experts differentiate themselves and navigate the Zintro network.

Now that the business concept has been proven out, Lewtan plans on rapidly growing Zintro’s marketplace of clients and experts. “It’s like an eBay for consulting services: Buyers gravitate to the place where there are sellers and sellers come to the place where there are buyers.”

For Lewtan, Zintro represents a return to the high-risk, high-reward brand of entrepreneurship that he left several years ago following the sale of Lewtan Technologies, the start-up he built into a 100-employee business before selling it in 2004.

In recent years, the 47-year-old did some angel investing and served on corporate and non-profit boards (he’s still an active member of the Brandeis Board of Trustees and the Board of Overseers at the Brandeis International Business School), but he longed to rejoin the fray.

“The truth of the matter is that I am an entrepreneur,” Lewtan says. “It’s what I do. It’s what gets me excited.”

He explored a variety of ideas before settling on the concept of matching clients and experts. “I was looking for a highly disruptive business — something that changes the way the world does things,” Lewtan says. “I wanted something that could be very big, and solve real problems. I felt this was something I could sink my teeth into.”

He’s back to working 70 hours a week, but there are noticeable differences in this second effort to build a business.

“Having done it before, you come in with built-in credibility and are confident in your team-building skills and operating capabilities,” Lewtan says.

Additionally, those moments of inevitable self-doubt are much less frequent when you have reached the summit before. He’s employing the same tactics that have always guided him.

“Once I’m comfortable with a general concept, I pick a point off in the horizon, and aggressively drive towards that point,” Lewtan says. “Once in this mode, I try not to worry about near-term obstacles like what would-be competitors might be doing. If you keep driving toward the goal, one day you find yourself there with a crowd of onlookers wondering how you got there first.”