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Meet Rich Rudzinski of Tragic Media

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rich Rudzinski.

Rich, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My entrepreneurial journey really began at UCSD. I entered the college as a computer engineering major, but shifted to a new media degree (ICAM) after feeling too constrained by the very defined course path of CE. ICAM allowed me to pick and choose the courses that interested me, and studied a mix of digital music recording, coding, and new digital media.

After graduation, I spent a few years running live sound and doing recordings for local music venues, and started to build small websites on the side. Not wanting to move back to LA to pursue music, I decided to focus on my digital skills and got a job at a growing local agency, Digitaria. It was there that I learned how successful digital agencies are run, and how to develop complex websites with a team. I learned a lot in my time at Digi, but after 2 years I hit a growth ceiling in my role and in 2009 at the age of 26 I left my stable job to embark on my entrepreneurial journey.

I first started Tragic Media as a name for my sole proprietorship. I worked as a consultant for agencies in San Diego, and some remote, that needed quality front-end or Drupal/Magento/WordPress development help to augment internal teams, or to assist on fire projects. I got a lot of fire projects…

My reputation grew and in 2012 I hired 2 other front-end developers and continued to provide consulting services for large agencies for the next two years. In 2014 we grew tired of being the punching bag of the agency world, forced to work late nights and weekends in order to hit impossible deadlines on projects that got handed to us already on fire, and we decided to bring our expertise directly to the end client.

We had seen first hand how expensive, mismanaged, and under qualified the majority of agencies are. Constantly over-promising and under-delivering for their clients. So, I decided to shift Tragic’s focus away from helping other agencies with their project fires, and instead focus on helping clients avoid digital tragedies.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has been nothing but a challenge. The agency world is cut-throat, and technology moves at an incredibly fast pace. Also, starting a business at a young age was a challenge in itself.

In the beginning, agency work was very demanding and not well paying. One agency even went so far as to coerce an employee to leave my company in the middle of a project in order to cut my company out and get my resource at a cheaper rate.

After branching out on our own, it took a while before we were able to figure out how to appropriately market ourselves (it is something that we are still working on). At our core we are a design and development company, marketing was not a strength of ours until recently.

One of our biggest struggles has been with funding. I started Tragic at a young age without a lot of credit history. Growing a business is hard, and I have no other partners or investments. Banks don’t like to give money to people without credit history or to businesses that provide services. So finding adequate funding to grow my business is always a struggle.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Tragic Media story. Tell us more about the business.
Tragic Media is a digital agency in San Diego, built to provide expert digital solutions without the bloated infrastructure of traditional agencies.

We are a talented and seasoned team, focused on expertly crafted digital experiences built on enterprise, open source technologies. Each member of the team brings a unique set of skills and years of experience. We work collaboratively out of our small office in the Gaslamp District, ensuring each project we tackle is built to the highest standards with attention to budget and timeline. We don’t cut corners by using poorly constructed ‘pre-built’ solutions, junior resources, or outsourcing overseas. We take pride in our work, and help our clients get the most value from their digital investments through our iterative project build approach and growth-driven maintenance. We work hard to feel like an “in-house team” for our clients, providing our years of expertise to everyone from startups to global brands alike.

Our approach and our vision is what really sets us apart from other agencies/teams. We have a big focus on technology, strategy, and user experience. I think a lot of agencies get caught up in the design instead of focusing on the goals of the user, most agencies also don’t think through the constraints of the platform that they are working on during the design phase. And it usually becomes a nightmare during development.

I am most proud of our range of clients. We really strive to work with any reasonable budget, and focus on designing/developing the best solution possible in our clients’ budget, and then working with them over time to continue to grow and evolve their digital presence. We have experience working with big names like Pixar, Intuit, and GM; as well as local legends like Pokez Restaurant, SD Sports Acu, and Geek Girl Editing.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The digital industry is moving faster than ever and is growing to more areas than just “the web”. There are a lot of big movements happening that are going to impact our daily lives in very big ways over the next 10 years:

+ Artificial Intelligence – AI is going to continue to grow and will soon influence many aspects of our daily lives.

+ Blockchain technology – This one is a little abstract, but blockchain is the technology used in cryptocurrency. This technology is built in a secure and decentralized manner and will begin to revolutionize security in more areas than just cryptocurrency.

+ Internet of Things (IoT) – IoT is still in its infancy. Soon everything will be connected and technology will begin to seep into even the most mundane aspects of our lives.

+ Progressive Web Apps – This one has a large impact specifically in the work that we do at Tragic. Being able to bridge the gap between the web and the phone and allow businesses to build one application instead of three, is going to help to push business and technology faster than ever. This technology is also in its infancy but is moving fast!

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