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Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year...2020 Style

MBA alumnus Nolan Gallagher wins accolades for his visionary startups

October 12, 2020
Nolan Gallagher_2020 Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year

On Monday, October 5th, the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies awarded Nolan Gallagher (MBA ’06) its Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year award. Gallagher joins such past Marshall alumni honorees as Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi of Kiyonna, and Chris DeWolfe of MySpace.

Nolan Gallagher is the founder and CEO of Gravitas Ventures, an all-rights theatrical distribution company that he started in 2006 after stints with Comcast, General Cinema Theatres, and Warner Bros.

As a Full-Time MBA student in Professor Helena Yli-Renko’s feasibility class—the first such class she taught at Marshall—Gallagher was challenged to produce a 150 page feasibility project.

“It forced me to be extra determined about whether or not I wanted to take this next step to start my own business,” he said.

There was a great deal of trial and error as he honed his business plan. While still a student, Gallagher would put on his best suit and, using his frequent flyer miles, travel to talk to smaller companies around the country about his new venture. Several were impressed that he’d made the effort to visit them when most people wouldn’t bother.

And some were willing to take a chance on his fledgling Gravitas Ventures.

“They had no idea I was just one person who was working from a poker table,” Gallagher admitted.

Gallagher’s thinking was ahead of his time, as few people were talking about video-on-demand (VOD) back during the mid-2000s. Luckily, that isn’t the case today.

Currently, Gravitas Ventures releases over 300 films per year—nearly a film per day—and to date has released more than 2,500 films, collaborating with thousands of artists along the way. The company partners with the likes of brick and mortar theater chains AMC and Landmark, cable and internet providers Verizon and AT&T, and streaming services Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu.

Gallagher said that, even in the midst of the pandemic, “We are very much open for business.”

Since this year’s event was virtual instead of in person at Town and Gown, there were a few changes. Greif Center founder Lloyd Greif couldn’t physically hand out the award. But Marshall staff had thought ahead and shipped the award to Gallagher in Cleveland so he could hold it up for everyone on Zoom to see.

And there were none of the usual handshakes but instead virtual high fives. One bright note was that people from around the world could attend, including one student currently based in Egypt.

Throughout the event, Nolan Gallagher offered inspiration and practical advice to current entrepreneurship students tackling their own feasibility plans—and whatever comes next.