Business Profile | Justin Jarvinen

April 2023 View more

Founder & CEO, BCKSTGR

He’s described as one of the most innovative and influential young entrepreneurs in America. Now Naperville Resident, Justin Jarvinen, is embarking on a new venture that he says is his proudest accomplishment yet. Naperville Magazine spoke with Jarvinen about his latest project and what drives his entrepreneurial inspiration.


In 2008, you were a finalist in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. What has been your proudest accomplishment so far?

JustinJarvinenI really view myself as a work in progress with no clear “accomplishment” to speak of. I’ve been blessed to win a handful of awards over the years, but I guess I’m most proud of the smaller things that might not mean much to other people. I think my proudest business accomplishment will be the business I’m working on now, because it’s something that addresses a desire of literally everyone, and it’s by far, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, well, besides raising a family. And that would have to be my proudest accomplishment – my family.

Your entrepreneurial drive and ambition have resulted in several start-up companies, including a social/professional networking company, carbon trading and finance, digital photography, and the entertainment industry. Where does your inspiration for new ideas come from?

I usually draw my inspiration from something really simple that most other people might miss. I decide to act on it if I can prove the really simple thing is something everyone experiences or needs. I’ve actually devised a methodology for identifying whether an idea should be actionable, or not, based on certain criteria. For example, the inspiration for my most recent company, BCKSTGR, came while I was attending a charity event where a private backyard concert with the Jonas Brothers was being auctioned off. It ultimately sold for more than $100,000. While the audience was going nuts, I was thinking about a virtual currency that could be earned by everyday consumers that they could use to purchase their own high value experiences. My inspiration was the frenzy created by the auction, and the fact that most people couldn’t ever participate in the excitement without a new way to pay for it. I mean, not many people can drop $100,000 on a concert. At some point in that nanosecond, I knew I could develop a technology that would convert the trillion dollars brands will spend on marketing, into a currency that consumers could earn—and spend on amazing experiences.

In 2011, you founded BCKSTGR, a revolutionary marketing and advertising engagement platform. Tell us about your newest venture.

The concept is pretty simple. BCKSTGR is an innovative platform that enables brands to define, incentivize, track and instantly reward consumer behavior. For example, if Joe’s Pizza Shop wants to reward people who tweet about their new pizza, Joe might set up a campaign that rewards consumers for tweeting, “Joe’s new pies are the bomb”. Whenever a consumer buys a pie and tweets that specific phrase, they’ll instantly receive points. BCKSTGR’s cloud-based platform automatically tracks millions of behaviors on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, credit card purchases and more, making the possibilities for developing engagement campaigns virtually limitless. Brands get all the data, so they know who’s doing what and when. So, basically, brands can now reward consumers at the exact moment they’re engaged in a very specific behavior that drives value back to the brand.

But remember that charity event I attended? So while businesses are growing by incentivizing and rewarding behaviors, consumers are using the currency they’ve earned to purchase once-in-a-lifetime experiences and other high value entertainment. Consumers are going to seek out and become loyal to brands that offer our currency because of the incredibly high value of the rewards they can purchase. We have deals in place with celebrity chefs who’ll do in-home cooking lessons, backstage passes to concerts and sporting events, working the pit crew at a Grand Prix race, and tons more.

Technology is radically changing the way we live our lives. How do you stay ahead of the rapid changes in technology to remain competitive?

I get asked this question quite a bit and the truth is I go into every brainstorm knowing that technology can address my needs, period, no matter what they are. I’ve done two things that had never been accomplished before in business, and it wasn’t because the right technology was finally available to me, it was because we took the available technology and forced it to suit our highly innovative needs. So, to me, staying ahead of technology is about maintaining my pursuit of the big idea. The technology will make itself available to me. A few years back someone tried to convince me the value wasn’t in the idea. I can comfortably argue today that the big idea is what drives technology innovation and that’s how I stay ahead.

You recently moved to Naperville. As you settle into your new home, what do you enjoy most about living here?

We moved from the city in June. Suburban life is definitely different, but one of the things I appreciate about Naperville is the abundance of things to do, particularly dining out. When we lived in the Gold Coast, there wasn’t a single restaurant we felt comfortable eating in with our young (and very active) son. But it seems Naperville was purpose built with kids and families in mind. And if Jillian (my wife) and I decide to take a break, the diversity of restaurants here is pretty impressive. We’re really enjoying our time here so far.

What do you enjoy doing during your spare time?

Well, not that there’s much spare time between launching a business and the demands of a two year old (and another one on the way), but my wife and I really enjoy discovering new restaurants and cooking at home. We held frequent dinner parties with friends when we lived in the city and we look forward to getting better acquainted with our new kitchen, and with some of our new friends.

Photo by Mike Hudson