Jan 4 – Izzy Branam, a senior at Zionsville Community High School, is busier than most seniors. In addition to his school work, he also has to run his own company, Fia.
Fia is an automated and streamlined hiring process that helps employers search for sales talent and helps them identify high performers who would be a good fit for their companies. Pranam is more than a high school student about to enter the world. He has been in the world and has already solidified himself in the field he wants to work in before graduating from high school. But his entrepreneurial journey didn’t start in high school.
“I’ve always been that kid who sells stuff, you know?” Branham said. “All I can get and make a quick buck.”
In the sixth grade, Branham bought a lot of sunglasses in bulk and sold them to his classmates for about 20 times what he bought them. This was when he realized that he loves being a businessman.
“I thought I was the richest man in the world,” he said.
It was fun selling those sunglasses, Branham said. Although it was challenging, he viewed it as a game and he enjoyed it very much. He compares selling it to someone who competes in a sport.
In middle school, Branham got involved in the Chicago music scene as he started DJing around town. He admits he wasn’t very good at it, but his participation in this scene earned him a lot of connections with local artists. Use what you learned as an entrepreneur selling sunglasses to start marketing these artists.
“There were a lot of really talented teenage musicians in the space, but they didn’t know how to market themselves,” he said.
From this idea, Branham started his own record label, and by the time he was in eighth grade, his label had managed over 100 artists. In the eighth grade, Branham and his family moved to Zionsville, before his freshman year of high school.
While in high school, he became interested in artificial intelligence in the field of digital marketing. Branham identifies with the Facebook Pixel, which is a piece of code that tracks who is likely to buy a product and who isn’t.
After learning how to use Pixel, Branham thought he could use the software to help companies search for job candidates. He said a lot of companies waste money trying to hire the right person, but his company takes an analytical approach to a recruitment program.
“I have never hired anyone in my life,” Branham said. “I’ve only been hired for a fast food job once. In this place, you might think that’s a terrible idea and you might be right, but at the end of the day, I think that’s actually one of our biggest strengths that we don’t have a bias for the traditional way it’s done That’s because the traditional way this is done clearly doesn’t work well enough.”
Today, Branam runs Fia with his business partners Krishna Thiru and Emma Hamilton, both seniors of Brebuf Jesuit Preparatory.
Fia officially became a registered company in April of 2021. In the early stages, Branham and his business partners weren’t well connected in business, so they took the time to go to networking events and get their name out in the digital marketing community in Indianapolis.
Back in April, Branham and his team won the Innovate WithIN competition, a competition for high school students to pitch their business ideas. Next, they applied for the Origin program through Elevate Ventures, an Indianapolis-based venture capital and entrepreneur development company.
The program trains them on how to effectively present their ideas and other aspects of running a startup company. All three decided they wanted to take their business to the next level and applied to another venture capital competition not expecting to win anything. They ended up being one of the winners of the contest, taking home $1.5 million in investment for their company.
Branham and his partners did a lot of preparation and training for the final pitch. The team prepared a slideshow to help guide their audience through their presentation, as well as practice the public speaking aspect of their presentation.
The main part he believed helped his team win were all the mock presentations they did with their business mentors. They would apply to their mentors, who had all been through those situations before, and then receive feedback on what they did well and what they needed to improve.
That was incredibly valuable,” Branham said. “I don’t think we could have done without them.”
On the first day of the competition, Branham skipped a pre-calculus class to give his presentation. The day he was preparing the test he missed at school was when he learned they had made money.
Branham said that four or five days after my introduction, I was taking this test and had to pick up my phone while I was taking the test. I went and grabbed my phone after I finished and I’m out of school and find I have an email and read it in the middle of the school hallway.”
It was there, in the hallway of the school he was about to graduate from, that he discovered that his plan had won the competition. After leaving school, Branham and his associates went to celebrate the food.
Branham and his business associates became one of the youngest venture capital-backed CEOs of a US company that means a lot, of course.
“It is a great honor to bear this title,” he said. “I mean, I can’t take much credit for that in terms of my actual contribution or my hard work. I kind of went through the doors that opened for me and paid enough to keep going, even when it was hard.”
Although he is still in school and running his business, he said ZCHS has been supportive of his business venture. He’s got his last two shifts of school, so he only works at school during the morning hours, then works at a shared workplace the rest of the day.
As far as after graduation, Branham has not made any specific plans but says he is still thinking about what to do after high school to help himself and Fia move forward.
Pranam encourages everyone to pursue their dreams.
“I want to urge anyone who feels like they want to take a bullet at something like this, just go for it,” Branham said. “A year ago, when the idea came to me, I remember telling someone I didn’t think I could do it, and they told me there was only one way to find out.”