Adam Madlinger — who has run his own business for three years — is one of MIT’s youngest entrepreneurs.
The 18-year-old freshman from Martinsville, New Jersey, owns a video production company that produces instructional videos, athlete profiles, video yearbooks, and documentaries. Madlinger has eight employees, including his parents, and has sold hundreds of videos.
“We’ve made a boatload of money,” says this businessman, who has earned up to $150 an hour.
In high school, he and a friend, Dave Hondula, were co-executive directors of the school’s cable TV news program, BRTV, where they created videos for the local show.
One day, classmate Heidi Feiselman told the pair: “You do a great job. You really should go into business.” Soon after, they took her advice and launched AD Productions (AD for their names, Adam and Dave.) “We felt maybe it is a good idea to do what we love and get paid,” Madlinger says, adding, “If this is work, then work is play!”
In a school of 2,000, most students knew the team because they were at every school event with a camera. “We didn’t have to advertise,” Madlinger says. “We just told everyone, We’re in business. Tell your friends.'”
Word spread like fire.
The next thing they knew they got dozens of requests from classmates, parents, teachers, and friends. They shot a video for the school’s swim team and sold it to all the seniors.
Then they shot videos for several student athletes, who wanted to show off their abilities to prospective colleges. And later, they shot an instructional video for the school driver’s education program, which taught students driving tips in bad weather. “I was too young to drive so my Dad drove me around to make the video,” Madlinger says, adding that the school now shows the tape to all high school students.
“I love instructing people. It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve done something for other people, and you’re not looking for anything in return other than to benefit others.
“Money has always been a secondary consideration for us. Our first consideration is getting a good product, having our customers pleased with what they get.
“We started the company not to get rich, but to provide a service. When you produce instructional videos, you’re teaching people how to do things. It would be wonderful to produce fantastic videos that could influence a lot more people.”
The son of a librarian and a general manager at Verizon, Madlinger owns 200 videos. As a child, he sat fixed before the TV watching PBS documentaries, especially the science show NOVA. “I studied the shows for writing, editing, photography, style. I always knew I wanted to make a documentary.”
He got his first video camera at 14. Then, he and his friend, Dave, learned video production by doing. Every day after lunch, they stopped by the school’s audio visual room, where they fiddled with the equipment and soon learned to use it.
Madlinger plans one day to run a big company. At MIT, he intends to study chemistry. He’s interested in developing new drugs to cure disease. And maybe, he says, he could make documentaries for the pharmaceutical industry, describing new drugs that will serve people around the world. “I’d like to continue to make and sell videos and I love chemistry and engineering, so it would be great if I could somehow blend the two,” he says.
“I’d love to see something I’ve done have a positive impact on others. The world is full of problems; it would be wonderful for just one problem to be fixed by something I’m connected with.
“I’ve learned a lot from running a company. Being an entrepreneur has taught me to think big. You can’t let your mind constrict you. At first, I thought, how could I produce a documentary to distribute across the entire town? Now I think, how could I release a full-length picture and distribute it to every movie theater in the entire country?
“I’ve learned to handle myself professionally, to organize my employees, to meet deadlines, please customers, and manage money. The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, is that if you have one skill that a lot of people need and a lot of people don’t have, you can be a very big benefit to society.”