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Josh Boaz, BS '04

Managing Director and Co-Founder, Direct Agents

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Josh Boaz’s digital marketing agency, Direct Agents, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. While the milestone is a measure of success for any small business, what may be more remarkable is that Boaz founded the company while he was still an undergraduate at NYU Stern. 

From early in his college career, Boaz knew that his Stern experience was going to be different than the average college freshman’s. “Everyone is very career-oriented,” he said. “People are doing interesting internships and part-time jobs. Having that exposure from freshman year helps motivate you.” He pursued a few internships but quickly found his niche at a technology marketing firm, rearranging his class schedule to allow himself to put in 40-to-50-hour work weeks. He thrived, so much so that by his junior year, he and his older brother, Dinesh Boaz, were ready to branch out with their own venture. 

Realizing that launching a start-up would require all the resources at his disposal, Boaz, who now also holds a JD from Fordham Law, sought out Richard Hendler, a Stern business law professor. Hendler became indispensable to the Boaz brothers, advising them on everything from how to incorporate their business to securing office space. In 2003, Direct Agents incorporated and within only a few years was ranked 64 on the list of fastest-growing businesses in America, by Entrepreneur magazine. The accolades and growth continued: Crain’s New York Business named it one of its 2012 “Fast 50” and it has been named to Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing privately-held companies four times and counting.

Direct Agents has evolved from a digital marketing start-up to a full-service digital agency that is taking advantage of the industry’s shift to real-time advertising and programmatic media buying. Today it employs nearly 50 people and occupies a floor of 740 Broadway near Astor Place in New York, just blocks from its roots at the Stern campus. 

Despite its good fortune, Direct Agents has also already seen its share of lean times. Boaz explains: “We are a consumer-based digital advertising company. When the economy started to slow down in 2008 – or even now when there is fear of a slowdown – advertising was and is the first thing to get cut. Until 2009, it was only growth.” On being positioned to weather the downturn, he recalls: “We were lucky to be in an industry that had been quickly expanding. Seeing that dip as a small-business owner allowed me to appreciate different things. We didn’t lay people off despite 30-to-40-percent declines in revenue. Holding on to good people paid off when the turnaround came. There will always be downturns, and you have to be prepared for that.” 

With the company Boaz has been keeping, he seems well equipped to handle potential setbacks. Last year, he and his brother participated in the pilot CEO-UBS Small Business Advisory Program, a philanthropic partnership between the Clinton Foundation and UBS Wealth Management Americas to provide small-business owners with the skills necessary to support business expansion and job growth. Boaz was mentored by high-level UBS executives, and the program culminated with an awards dinner attended by former US President Clinton. Boaz says, “It was a great honor and a milestone to reflect on my career. As much as we had accomplished in the last 10 years, there is always more to learn and to improve on.”