Executive edge: Rob Schuham
On a summer morning, Rob Schuham rides his bike up Boulder’s Flagstaff Mountain, looks out over the Flatirons and sighs, “I’m so glad I live here.”
That same day he packs his bags for Istanbul where he’ll share a platform with former vice president Al Gore to speak on the global climate crisis and how digital media can provoke a movement.
He’s chief buzz advisor of Gore’s Climate Reality Project, among many hats he wears including chief innovation officer for Match Marketing Group, founding partner of Undercurrent and founding entrepreneur of Common. He is also an angel investor in a number of Boulder companies ranging from food and beverage, personal care and technology to marketing communications.
“I’ve been involved with the Climate Reality Project for a little over three years. Al Gore approached us about helping him redefine and sharpen its mission,” said Schuham. “We renamed it and rebranded it to be more of a grassroots program. It became very near and dear to my heart – so much so that I now do it philanthropically and it constitutes the bulk of my philanthropic work.”
He calls Gore “an amazing person. His raw intellectual firepower combined with his ability to think at a global systems level is really unmatched. He’s one of the few people who is able to take a lot of very inane climate science that exists and really start to connect the dots in a way that people can understand.”
Last year Schuham was among a group of climate scientists and others who journeyed to Antarctica to see the impact of climate change. Among the honorary guests were Richard Branson, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Brokaw and Ted Turner.
“The trip was transformative,” said Schuham. “It wasn’t just eye-opening in terms of being up-close and able to witness what is going on with climate change first-hand, but to do it with the caliber of climate scientists that we were with was really special, really powerful and really disturbing. All of us came back with a focus on dealing with the climate crisis.”
Years ago, Schuham left behind such storied ad agencies as Chiat/Day in San Francisco and Ayer in New York and Chicago, to found his own companies.
“I’ve never looked back,” said the 49-year-old Chicago native. “They were great agencies where I was able to get credentialed and it was an awesome experience to work with those kinds of brands, but now I’m working at roughly the same scale.”
Among his clients are General Electric, American Express, Adidas and the Ford Motor Co. Together his companies employ 155.
“I love to be surrounded by great partners,” said Schuham. “I think my success has been because I surrounded myself with fantastic thinkers and leaders and I much prefer to work in a collaborative fashion than a top-down fashion. Everything I do is grounded in strong collaborative thinking.”
Before starting his agencies, the University of Colorado graduate was marketing director for Boulder-based Schwinn Cycling & Fitness where he helped bring the company out of bankruptcy by repositioning the iconic brand and helping launch Schwinn’s Spinning fitness craze.
“I feel like I’m in the right environment to do the kind of thinking I love to do,” said Schuham, who splits his time between Boulder and New York. “My role is in buzz creation and most of that is in digital. I’m constantly looking for ways to aggregate my own ecosystem of different marketing and strategy practices to do what I would call social good for the world. I would call it being positively insidious.”