Founder & CEO
Location: St. Louis, MO
Jesse Pujji left a job at Goldman Sachs where he was making more than $300,000 a year and was on a path to making millions before age 30.
“I left because my heart wasn’t in it,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was clear to me that I’d happily cut my earnings dramatically to do what I loved, and that was starting a company and building it as the leader.
“The first few years were scary, and it was a huge risk. But two to three years in, after a big exciting deal, I knew it was the right path for me.”
Pujji carved his entrepreneurial spirit growing up with lemonade stands, snow shoveling and then as a high school deejay. Today, Pujji is the founder and CEO of Gateway X, a venture studio and holding company.
After leaving Goldman Sachs, Pujji moved to San Francisco with a dream of building a tech company. Friends and mentors suggested digital marketing because it was “quantitative and analytical like Wall Street,” he said. “I fell in love.”
That was the impetus for founding Ampush, a digital marketing and advertising firm.
“As we launched the company, Facebook launched their first ads platform, and we started to experiment with it,” Pujji said. “Within weeks, we were profitably running ads for clients on Facebook (back in 2010!). Six months later, Facebook called and said we were one of their top 100 advertisers and one of the fastest growing. We became one of the first 10 companies in the world to build software on their APIs. Our early customers were Uber, Dollar Shave Club, Peloton, Blue Apron and many other tech darlings. We grew to 200 people and hundreds of millions in ad spend.”
Before he worked at Goldman Sachs, Pujji’s first job out of college was at McKinsey & Company, where he learned the value of a structured approach to problem-solving. It’s a skill he still applies today.
“It starts with quantifying whatever metrics you are trying to solve around and then understanding the drivers,” he said. “But not just one-level deep, multiple levels deep until it’s super clear what exactly is causing the changes/issues you see. Once the problem is broken down into smaller drivers, it’s easier to design actions that will have an observable impact to improve the metrics.”
In 2006, Puggi graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with a dual concentration in finance and entrepreneurship and a second degree in political science. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two kids. Outside of work, you can find him traveling, playing tennis, watching Pixar movies and indulging in dark chocolate.
He met his wife at age 7, started dating her at age 16. They've been married 11 years. They got married on the anniversary of their first homecoming dance, September 23rd.