Section: Features

Former Kenyon student joins technology start up in New York

Former Kenyon student joins technology start up in New York

By Rachel Dragos

For most Kenyon students, the end of the summer marks a crucial transition from internships and jobs back to academic life in Gambier. But for Josh Wolfson, formerly of the Class of 2015, the end of the summer did not bring the beginning of his senior year but rather a job offer. Wolfson started the summer at what he believed to be an unpaid internship for the start-up mobile and tablet advertising company Parrable.

“Around halfway through the internship,” Wolfson said in a phone interview from New York, “they jokingly said they couldn’t have me go back to school and needed to keep me. And so, at a certain point I [said], if you’re serious about that, make an offer.”

That joke turned into a reality when Parrable offered him a full-time position in sales.The decision to leave Kenyon wasn’t an easy one for Wolfson. “I really love Kenyon,” Wolfson said. “I really love the community.” He said that his friends, particularly those he made as a member of Delta Tau Delta, were particularly difficult to leave behind.

The opportunity, however, was not something he could let slide.“I’ll be building something from the ground up,” he said. “Right now, it’s a company of eight. In a few years down the line, it could be a company of 75 and I could be head of a department and a real board member. At 21, that’s the kind of thing I couldn’t pass up.”

Wolfson expressed enthusiasm for Parrable’s work and said the company’s advertising takes on a refreshing “privacy-friendly” approach. Some privacy-conscious consumers feel uneasy about the trend toward targeted online ads dependent on “cookies” unknowingly embedded in users’ computers.

The technology developed by Parrable, however, is mobile friendly and focuses on what Wolfson calls an enjoyable ad experience for users. “That’s one of the big reasons I like the company that I’m working at,” Wolfson said. “I like to be a part of good work … where advertising makes you smile. I think good advertising is always a good thing, and people recognize that.”

A former film major at Kenyon, Wolfson hopes to eventually use his background in film to help the company create ads or help the company advertise their own technological developments. With a start-up company like Parrable, however, the future is always uncertain. Perhaps, Wolfson suggests, in a few years the company will be sold and he will return to school. Or, maybe he will return to Kenyon next year, as a senior. “I’d like to go back to Kenyon,” Wolfson said. Yet his future, which is closely entwined with the future of the company, is unclear.

Many of Wolfson’s peers and professors were surprised, yet supportive, with his decision not to return to Kenyon for his senior year. Those close to him, however, affirmed that Wolfson possessed the passion, charisma and confidence for such a job. “Josh has always been a bit unorthodox,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama Cory Claffey-Koller wrote in an email. “I remember him asking if he could order Domino’s to the first screening of my American Cinema class. But that’s the sweet spot: bold, unflappable, yet thoughtful enough to get us all breadsticks.”

Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell told the Collegian in an email that he was “very surprised” with Wolfson’s decision “because I know he really loved it here.” However, he went on to add that he is “proud of his courage and impressed that he is so poised in taking control of his future.”

Jacob Pleasure ’15, a friend of Wolfson’s, said in an email that “everybody who knows him recognizes his unique ability to meet and make impressions on all kinds of people.”
“We all miss him, but we’re proud of him and we know that what he’s doing is right for him,” Pleasure said.

Meanwhile, Wolfson will start a new life in New York City, where he is also designing an app during his minimal free time. But regardless of where the future takes him, Kenyon is, in a way, always with him.  “Part of what is so great about Kenyon, and liberal arts in general, is that you’re learning so much in the classroom, but it’s a lot more than that,” Wolfson said. “The skills that you need to work in sales or advertising you learn in a liberal arts school. The ability to talk to people, the ability to learn a little about everything — and sell all of it.”

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