The Entrepreneurial Life Cycle
Zak Dabbas & Ryan Unger, EO Chicago
The term “entrepreneurial life cycle” has taken on a new meaning thanks to the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) and Accelerator, EO programs designed to nurture and guide entrepreneurs into the EO family. Two entrepreneurs who recently took this path are Zak Dabbas (pictured right) and Ryan Unger (pictured left), EO Chicago members and founders of mobile marketing firm Punchkick Interactive. In this interview, Zak talks about the power of EO’s emerging programs and the impact they had on their entrepreneurial journey.
Your first experience with EO was through GSEA. What inspired you both to join the program?
ZD: When my business partner, Ryan, first learned about GSEA, he was very excited about the possibility of meeting entrepreneurs from around the world. For him, GSEA sounded like an amazing learning experience in a lot of different ways. It also sounded like a great opportunity to meet likeminded folk who shared the same passion to grow their businesses. I was also immediately hooked. I saw our participation in GSEA as a unique chance to explore new avenues for our business.
What opportunities did GSEA offer, and how did they lead to your involvement in Accelerator?
ZD: GSEA introduced us to a slew of successful, focused entrepreneurs, and it multiplied the hunger we had to grow Punchkick tenfold. It also introduced us to the Accelerator program, which helped take our business to the next level. Ryan and I have always been like sponges— we do everything we can to learn from the successes and failures of other entrepreneurs, and Accelerator promised more entrepreneurial-based learning than we had ever experienced elsewhere.
What was the Accelerator process like, and what type of value did you receive?
ZD: There are not enough words to describe my passion for Accelerator. I was paired up with two incredible mentors who challenged me to grow Punchkick in every way possible. Through Accelerator, I learned about everything from top-grading employees to preparing lines of credit. Today, managing Punchkick’s growth seems like second nature to me— but as a young entrepreneur, hearing from mentors and Accelerator speakers was absolutely pivotal.
How much has your business changed since you first decided to engage EO?
ZD: Punchkick Interactive has changed in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Prior to EO, we were growing the business in a reactive manner. From the learning we’ve received and the relation- ships we’ve created through the EO network, we’ve learned to take control of the company’s growth. Now we’re growing Punch- kick steadily through calculated decisions, smart hires and the fostering of a culture centered on excellence and integrity.
When you look back at your journey from GSEA to Accelerator to EO, what has this entire experience taught you?
ZD: Going from GSEA to Accelerator to EO, I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur is my true calling. I eat, sleep and breathe business growth. There’s nothing else that comes close. They say that ‘birds of a feather flock together,’ and that’s never truer than with fellow entrepreneurs. I’m so recharged after attending a University that I literally can’t wait to get back to work to apply the things that I’ve learned. It’s like a jolt of electricity!
What’s next for Punchkick and your EO experience?
ZD: Punchkick has an amazing future ahead of it. We’re working on some innovative mobile-marketing products that we’ll take to market later this year, and we continue to grow with Fortune- level clients that turn to us because of our award-winning experience in mobile. We’re an unstoppable force, but that force needs disciplined leadership— I hope to have that reinforced through active participation in EO. I look forward to participating in every University I can, as well as the Entrepreneurial Masters Program this year!
Zak Dabbas and Ryan Unger are co-founders of Punchkick Interactive, a full-service mobile marketing firm. Learn more by visiting