A Reflection On My Douchebag Years
Marc Lotenberg | CEO, Surface Magazine

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Why Should You Care

In his 20s, Marc Lotenberg founded 944 Media, a marketing company that published a lifestyle and entertainment magazine, using money he had received for his Bar Mitzvah and “an unbelievable amount of credit card debt.” After a fall out inspired a desire to change his life, Marc is now CEO of widely respected arts publication, Surface Magazine.


Marc Lotenberg is the CEO of Surface Magazine, a successful publication which focuses on contemporary design.

In his 20s Marc founded 944, a magazine that focused on fashion, entertainment and lifestyle. He initially funded the magazine on his own using money he had received for his Bar Mitzvah and “an unbelievable amount of credit card debt.”

The magazine was initially successful, and, in 2008, Marc was named Inc’s top 30 under 30 as CEO of 944 Media.

Though, in 2010, 944 Media filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, Lotenberg bounced back with new successful endeavors.

Marc is currently the CEO of Surface Magazine and GenArt based in NYC, two successful media and art enterprises.

In the past few years, Marc has also spent some time in Kenya working in an orphanage.

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You can’t tell someone heartbreaks are important, falling on your face is important, getting kicked while you’re down is important, I think it teaches you so much and if you learn from each of those things it makes you into a great person. If you keep doing it well then you’re an idiot.

Hi My name’s Marc Lotenberg, CEO and creative director of Surface Magazine and Gen Art.

In my 20s, I was working on 944 the brand was about finding you know the people who made each city tick. It was at the time a very like pop culture, you know cheesy magazine, but so were those people at that stage in their career. We were always a few years ahead of the curve. For instance, Lady Gaga, we did her first-ever American Cover. Like the article, we did a performance which we paid for.

I went out there like not even knowing how to do a magazine. I’m like in my apartment making a dry erase board like “alright, it’s gotta be designed.”

I went to people and I’m like “hey I’m doing a magazine” and then they would ask me a question like “What’s your distribution?” And I’m like well, so I’d write that down and then I’d go to someone else and they’d be like “what’s going to be the page rate?” so they were the ones teaching me without even know it so I’d go back and be like okay, I’ve asked these people and like 7 of the 10 people keep asking me what the distribution is. And the other magazines don’t have good distribution. So why don’t you just make a magazine that has good distribution.

If you look at the first year of the magazine, you know there were spelling issues on the cover, major screw ups, things that were printed wrong. But there was so uch passion in the product. People we’re literally jumping out of the table when you’d bring like 100 magazines to all of these places, they would run to grab them because they never saw anything like that.

When we started growing fast, we were a high speed train with, we were going to derail at some point.

We were living this life like 24 or 25 years old and I had 3 black cards and I Was doing whatever the hell I wanted. I mean we we were bringing in significant amounts of money. I mean every restaurant, bar, hotel, you know we’d walk in and it’d just be like unlimited food, unlimited bottles. For someone in their 20s that was the coolest thing.

Once you get into that place like “oh it’s really cute what these guys are doing” to “oh blah blah you’re bringing 20 million dollars in revenue and you’re making forbes list and inc list” and competitors now are like these aren’t just cute kids, they’re taking market share away from us, we need to crush them. Once we started getting hit by everyone trying to knock us off our pedestal that’s when the crash starting happening for us.

The first 7 years were the best 7 years of my life. The last 3 or 4 years were horrific for me.

When we sold it it felt like a giant relief only because I wanted out really bad. I wanted out, I wanted out of that whole night life and the drinking and the partying. I just wanted out. As a failure, yeah I battled that a lot of times. A lot of times I think, “wow, how did I screw this up?”

We weren’t a success at the end of the day. We were a success while we were in in it * but we didn’t succeed because we didn’t finish the exit. The only way to make up to it is it to take all the lessons I learned from past and apply it to this and succeed.

I think the kids today see this story and it’s like “Oh, I’ll start this business and in 18 months I’ll have a million dollars and you don’t have to have any revenue and you just need twitter followers.” It’s such bullshit and at the end of the day you, those are fairy tale situations and I think the millennials right now just think everything’s a fairy tale situation and I think they need to, it needs to go back like, it’s not an 18 month plan. That’s not reality. You have to put in the time and effort.

Now, the things I want in life are different anyway. Money’s not the driver like it used to be for me.

And if I look back, and I did look back at like I made this list of things that I wanted and it was like 30 to 40 things that was on this list of like what I wanted by 35. Well it’s like I want to have, the bucket list, the plane the crazy cars the boats, I was already living that life. So all of the stuff that I was dreaming of I was having, it just didn’t make me happy at all.

There’s nothing on that list from when I was in my early 20s that I would include on my list today.

Made By

Cinematography: Danielle Calodney

Edited by: Danielle Calodney

Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann

Produced by: Laura Lehmann

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