Communications Specialist, Iowa JPEC

Whether he knew at the time, David Rodnitzky honed a savvy business sense while in law school at the University of Iowa.

When an auction was held in the Iowa City area, Rodnitzky and a friend would attend a preview the night before and list everything for sale. They returned home and charted the closed prices from eBay for items that would be auctioned the next day.

“We would go back and bid 50% of what the closing price was on eBay,” Rodnitzky recalled. “We sold them and that paid for our spring break. That is a form or arbitrage—buy low, sell high—and that has always been fascinating to me.”

Rodnitzky earned a law degree from Iowa, but the Iowa City native was unsure of his future. He liked mountains and wanted to try something new, so when a high school friend said he enjoyed San Francisco, Rodnitzky moved west. When he arrived in Silicon Valley, there was one thing he knew:

I didn’t want to be a lawyer,” Rodnitzky said.

He tried several jobs that took him all over the professional map. He helped at a law firm doing legal research, worked in user testing for a video game company, and worked at a management consulting firm.

“I lucked into marketing at a startup after a bunch of wrong turns, and the rest is history,” Rodnitzky said.

After eight years at several startups, in 2007 Rodnitzky was working for a company that required quarterly travel to India, and the time abroad took its toll. The company wasn’t doing well, and on top of that, Rodnitzky and his wife were expecting a child.

“Being in India when your wife is pregnant is a bad idea,” he said.

With no grand plan, Rodnitzky left his job and plopped down at a coffee shop in Pacifica, a town 12 miles southwest of San Francisco.

In the coffee shop Rodnitzky came up with an idea to pursue several opportunities at once. Those included in-person conferences, several websites, and consulting.

“I was throwing things against a wall to see what would stick,” Rodnitzky said.

The conference idea fell apart, and one of the websites, which sold wrinkle cream, was doing well until it was hacked. On the consulting side, callers kept asking for help with online marketing.

“I took a follow-the-money approach,” Rodnitzky said. “If people are banging on my door wanting my help, maybe this is something I should pursue. I started as a consultant.”

The consultancy turned into 3Q Digital, a digital marketing agency that began in 2008 with one employee. By the end of 2020 the company had nearly 400 employees working in six offices across the U.S. and more than 20 virtual locations. For Rodnitzky, the success of 3Q Digital is more special since he is a native Iowan.

“Growing up in Iowa there is not a sense of expectation that you will be a great, successful entrepreneur,” Rodnitzky said. “I had a little of that fly-over state syndrome where I assumed all the great successes happen on the coast. That has always been a chip on my shoulder. I am proud to be an Iowan who has proven you don’t need to be born and living in New York City your whole life to drive entrepreneurial success.”

Any company looking to increase sales through online marketing would benefit from 3Q, Rodnitzky said. The company provides “end-to-end” digital marketing services—from analyzing the client’s current needs, planning a strategy to drive performance, implementing a marketing campaign across social media, search engines, and other digital options, and interpreting data and analytics to assure that the client is making sensible decisions.

“We drive results for people,” Rodnitzky said. “Clients are happy with the investment they make with us. They put a dollar in, and get more than a dollar back in revenue, so that has been helpful for us.”

Rodnitzky sees potential for 3Q Digital to expand into new categories or carve an international footprint.

“There are a lot of things we can do with 3Q,” Rodnitzky said. “My focus is for us to continue to be a market leader.”

Rodnitzky resides in San Mateo, California; his parents remain in Iowa City. He enjoys California living but fondly reflects on growing up in Iowa with its strong sense of community, season changes, and Hawkeye games. He says the education and experiences he received at Iowa are foundational in helping him achieve success in Silicon Valley. It hasn’t hurt that Rodnitzky is one of those polite, friendly Iowans.

“Doing business the right way, treating people with respect, and having people recommend you to others because they like you and think you are a genuinely decent person has been helpful,” he said. “All that is part of being an Iowan was a huge help in my career.”

Rodnitzky has received the Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors. The University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center will recognize him Oct. 8 at Hancher Auditorium.