Versatility, creativity and innovation are key traits that Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) tries to cultivate in its students. Since graduating from the college in 2012, Ryan Glynn has exemplified those characteristics by launching two companies that aim to make waves in the entertainment industry, in addition to working in the information security field.
“I’m kind of doing start-ups mixed with my full-time job,” said Glynn, who majored in Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) at the College of IST with a focus on intelligence analysis and modeling as well as cyber security. He is currently a senior associate in information security at Capital One in Richmond, Virginia, where he has been working since graduation.
While Glynn has established a comfortable career at Capital One, he also directs his creative energy towards other projects. Since graduating from the College of IST, he has bootstrapped a start-up in digital retail, CinemaRama, as well as co-founded a technology company called mhoto. CinemaRama officially launched in February 2014 , while mhoto was established in February 2013. Glynn has been interviewed by Forbes and Al-Jazeera America, along with being published in Engadget and Entrepreneur Magazine.
CinemaRama’s mission is to give artists complete control over how they sell their creations and the purpose of the sales (commercial or personal use). It is the first site to streamline commercial licensing while also giving the highest payouts of any digital retail company to artists across all mediums, including music, film, voice acting, graphic design and stand-up comedy.
“It’s a digital retail service mixed with a payout tool,” Glynn said.
CinemaRama is currently in open beta, he said, “which basically means all features are currently operational though we are still trying to make it more intuitive for the user.” The funds were primarily bootstrapped from his own paychecks and savings accounts.
“I have been working at various jobs since I was 11 years old and worked three jobs in college, so I had quite a bit saved up when I graduated,” Glynn said. “I was fortunate enough to have two friends that were so passionate about the idea that they also invested some money, which helped bring CinemaRama to where it is today.”
Mhoto, which Glynn is no longer involved in, works on composing brand new musical soundtracks based on analysis of text, photos and videos. As its first project, the mhoto team helped HBO in scoring episodes of “Silicon Valley” by using images and video clips of the episodes to compose accompanying soundtracks. The mhoto cofounders were also featured in an episode that recently aired.
“When I first started working on mhoto with my co-founder, I was excited because it was entirely different from my bootstrapped start-up,” Glynn said. “The differences between the two startups varied with having another founder and developing a technology instead of a digital retail. I love challenges, so I saw it as not only a great learning experience but also a good way to challenge myself.”
Some people may not see a strong correlation between information sciences and the arts, but Glynn has managed to fuse his technological background with his artistic endeavors. While in college, he did research for Penn State's International Center for the Study of Terrorism and held a top-secret full-scope and poly-security clearance until graduation. He also worked as a lab assistant at the College of IST for Ed Glantz and Guoray Cai. In addition, he completed work under Jake Graham in creating a new capstone course for the SRA major.
Glynn’s empathy with the struggles of musicians and artists began in high school; he worked in the music industry for seven years as a Web developer and manager. His experiences, he said, made him aware of the conflicts between musicians’ desire for creative control and the business practices of record labels.
“With CinemaRama, artist registration is free, which means artists won’t lose money when attempting to sell their work,” Glynn said. “The site gives purchasers the ability to ‘tip’ the artists during checkout, which means the biggest fans will be given an easy opportunity to show the artist that they love their work.”
While artists currently have well-known outlets such as iTunes, YouTube and Google Play to showcase their work, Glynn said, CinemaRama offers a number of advantages over its competitors. Instead of taking a flat 30 percent cut, CinemaRama takes 20 percent maximum and 10 percent minimum. In addition, he said, the large companies “force the artists to sell at prices that are beneficial to the retail store; they don’t allow free downloads and they don’t allow the consumers to tip the artist.”
“CinemaRama is better because it allows for the best of both worlds, while providing more to the artists,” he said.
According to Glynn, his IST education provided him with a foundation of knowledge and experiences that helped him while forming CinemaRama and mhoto. He cited two professors, Glantz and Don Shemanski, for sharing their insights on business and technology law, respectively.
“Understanding what your professors’ strengths are and how to utilize them is a huge plus,” Glynn said.
Glynn was able to re-connect with his former professors, as well as network with current students, during IST Start-up Week 2014, which was held April 7-11. During Start-up Week, entrepreneurs from across the country, including many IST alumni, shared their strategies for success with IST students and the wider Penn State community during classroom talks and networking sessions.
“I remember watching Steve Huffman (co-founder of Reddit and Hipmunk) the first year (of Start-up Week) and thinking, ‘I’d like to do this in the future,’” Glynn said.
What advice would Glynn give to Penn State students who would like to carve out a niche as an entrepreneur?
“I would say just focus on one idea at a time, because as you work on that project, the idea is going to evolve,” he said.