MDC Partners, the holding company that owns ad agencies like Crispin Porter & Bogusky and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, is about to launch a “Million-Dollar Challenge.” One (or more) lucky marketer will win $1 million and the chance to run his or her own agency.

Winning a million dollars to start your own digital marketing agency may sound like a great deal, but as with any offer that sounds too good to be true, this one comes with a catch.

In addition to the $1 million that the new agency will win, the creator will have to cede 51% of the company to MDC Partners.

Miles Nadal, the chairman of MDC, tells The New York Times that he wants to be a part of the startup boomlet currently happening in digital:

“It’s a great time, as we come out of the recession, to back entrepreneurs. There’s such an amazing amount of talent in the world today, to not capitalize on it would be a lost opportunity.”

According to Nadal, there's only one criteria for entering:

“You do brilliant work, you want to make brands famous and you want to drive results for clients.”

According to The Times, "MDC will review the submissions, choose at least one plan from among 10 finalists and invest $1 million in starting it up in exchange for a 51 percent stake in the new shop."

While starting up your own agency may sound like a dream job, potential contestants should be wary. If you've got a truly brilliant idea for an agency, chances are it can progress elsewhere. Once you give someone more than half of your company, it stops being your own. In this case, before you've even signed a client.

Infrastructure and hiring costs can burn through a million dollars pretty quickly. Not to mention that one great client could be worth more $1 million once an agency starts doing business. 

That said, it could be great PR for the investors, who are excited to own a majority stake in some new business — or many. As Nadal tells the Times:

“If we have five great ideas, we’ll put up $5 million.”

Image: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Meghan Keane

Published 25 June, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (3)


Paul Davidson

That's very intersting, Meghan. Thanks for the heads up. Why would any savvy marketer bother with this when having to give up 51% of the company?! It may've been worth considering if it was 49%, but even then, it's a very large chunk of the business to forfeit when similar investments may be possible through regular channels.

about 8 years ago



Interesting article.

Ownership of a fledgling business is over-rated. I'd take 49% of 'something' ahead of 51% of 'nothing'.

The opportunity factor is enormous, but is presumably restricted to New York based marketers?? Once you make your name (if you need to) and have some clients that choose you, you get the chance to truely be your own boss a little down the line.

Ultimately it is a little'Apprentice' like in model and will therefore attract certain candidates.

about 8 years ago


Eric Faigan

A complete waste of time! Entrepreneurship is about vision and control over your idea from inception through creation and eventual success.  Once you cede control of your business you become another cog in the machine and the impetus for developing the business is lost forever.  There are many other channels through which great ideas can receive funding - this certainly is not one of them. 

about 8 years ago

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