When Jim Weiss ’87 graduated from the Newhouse School, he figured he’d soon be promoting musical acts like the Rolling Stones or Madonna. Instead, he created one of the top health innovation companies in the world.
As the founder and CEO of Real Chemistry, a global health innovation company, Weiss employs thousands of people in 15 offices around the world, all dedicated to making the world a healthier place through leading-edge marketing and communications. Weiss and his wife, Audra ’89 also founded the Weiss Center for Social Commerce at the Newhouse School in 2012, with the aim of helping Newhouse students develop their skills working with social media, technology and analytics.
The Weisses returned to campus Oct. 15 to kick-off the center’s 10th Social Commerce Days. The annual event include a series of workshops, class visits by Real Chemistry staff, career development sessions, interviews and special discussions.
Weiss credits his success to intelligence, charisma and a strong connection to the Newhouse School.
“It’s exciting what this little school can lead to,” Weiss says. In a sweater and sneakers, lamenting a horrific umpiring call that knocked his San Francisco Giants out of the playoffs, Weiss was the focus of attention for more than 100 students in a stadium-tiered classroom in Newhouse 3. That this many students would show for an industry talk on a day of the week when most Newhouse students don’t have classes is testament to Weiss’s star power. Students, with coffee and notebooks in hand, eagerly lapped up Weiss’ optimistic message.
Attending Newhouse is akin to being an Ivy League student, Weiss says. Newhouse students are “the best and the brightest. ”
“From here,” Weiss says, “you can go anywhere.”
For instance, Weiss did not know his future would be in healthcare, an industry where hundreds of billions of dollars are invested as the industry morphs from traditional doctor visits to digital (video and internet) health care. That world offers “a vast array of options” to anyone who is smart, curious and gutsy enough to try. As he started his own company and acquired others, it never dawned on Weiss that he might fail. Newhouse, he says, does that to people.
As much as the COVID-19 pandemic was a global crisis, Weiss says, it also offered opportunities for people and companies willing to evolve and adapt. Weiss and Real Chemistry took charge and became a vehicle for change.
The next big challenge? The environment. Don’t let it overwhelm you, Weiss says. Charge it. Tackle it.
“Never has the communication factor been more important,” Weiss says.
After a question-and-answer session, as dozens of students waited for a chance to meet and talk with Weiss personally, it was apparent to students their day off from classes was well-spent.
Rock stars, no matter from what walk of life, have that effect on you.
And as for Weiss, ever the optimist, he doesn’t rue not partying with Mick and Keith.
“That can still happen,” he says with grin.