From Intern to Client: Catching up with Aeris’ Nick O’Brien
As a 3Points intern, you truly are immersed into the company culture from the first day you step into the office (or, now, log into the Google Hang). Interns are quickly given meaningful work to dig into that gives value to the company and its clients, and are also given the opportunity to directly interact with CEOs and heads of marketing. We’re very proud of our intern program, and we’ve loved seeing so many past interns grow in their careers after 3Points.
One intern in particular, Nick O’Brien, took what he learned from 3Points and co-founded a startup of his own, Aeris. Not only is he the co-founder with his two friends and fellow 2020 Vanderbilt graduates, Andrew Medland and Isaac Lichter, he is also the CFO, leading fundraising efforts, managing the budget, and executing marketing and brand strategy for the company.
Aeris was founded by the trio after Medland and Lichter contracted and recovered from COVID-19 in early 2020, spurred by a desire to find a way to help others during the pandemic. Their original product is a copper phone case that lowers transmission rates of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, with its antimicrobial properties. Their patent pending process is now being used to place copper on other high-contact objects, such as AirPods cases and water bottles.
Aeris pulled in 3Points for media outreach assistance earlier this year, making Nick our first intern to later become a client. After the project, we caught up with Nick to chat with him about how his time at 3Points helped him start Aeris, what it was like going from intern to client, and Aeris’ goals for the future.
You started with 3Points as an intern and one year later you were a client — what was that experience like and in what ways was it different than you expected?
I always knew I wanted to be a founder — part of the reason I enjoyed my time at 3Points was the exposure to the Chicago startup ecosystem — but didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. When it came time to try our hand at PR in Chicago, 3Points was an obvious choice. While I have firsthand experience with how 3Points treats its clients, I was still surprised at the level of personalized service we got from Day One, and the team’s persistence and success in getting us some top-tier press.
What was your biggest takeaway from your internship at 3Points?
Shoot your shot, and then shoot it again. PR is, like many things, both an art and a science — a craft and a numbers game — and even the best-written cold email is unlikely to succeed with an audience of one. Optimize for quality and quantity, and you’ll start to see payoffs sooner than you think.
How did your experience at 3Points help you start Aeris?
Working at 3Points showed me how much people care about good stories, and taught me how to share them. With that knowledge, I was confident that we had a story worth telling and that there would be countless people interested in hearing it. Further, I knew how to get the word out.
What have you learned about germs and public health through your experience with Aeris? What is one thing the average person should know about surfaces and infectious diseases?
As a society, we are largely unaware of the microscopic world around us. Bacteria and viruses are everywhere, but it’s easy to ignore what we can’t observe. So, we rarely consider the impact of the materials we use on pathogens. Stainless steel looks shiny and clean, but is actually a harbor for germs, which can live on its surface for weeks at a time. Copper and its alloys, on the other hand, destroy most germs within minutes of contact. By [using stainless steel and] optimizing for the appearance of sterility, people have overlooked functional environmental design — especially in healthcare, where the risks are greatest.
How was it living in San Diego with your two co-founders while getting the manufacturing up and running? What was the most fun thing you did there?
It was an amazing experience. It’s hard to overstate how challenging it is to get a brand-new manufacturing operation off the ground when you’re racing against the clock, but somehow we managed to pull it off. I won’t pretend that we had a lot of free time, but when we did we played chess and spikeball mercilessly.
You’ve been doing a lot of influencer marketing for the Aeris phone case. What was your strategy and what are the results you’ve seen?
So far, we’ve been doing grassroots product swap campaigns to help spread the word. With a small budget, this is the best way to capitalize on influencer marketing: find like-minded people with large audiences who are willing to publicly talk about your product if you send them a sample. We’ve managed to garner millions of impressions using this method.
Can you tell us about the hospital donation project?
When we first had the idea to start Aeris, we wanted to figure out the best way we could use the project as a vehicle to make a difference in the pandemic. We determined that we could maximize our impact by donating one case to a frontline worker for every case sold, helping reduce phone contamination where it matters most.
What are your goals for the future, with Aeris and in general?
At Aeris, we’ve developed a technology that can make virtually any hard surface inhospitable to germs. Our everyday carry products are just the start — there are countless areas that could benefit from reduced surface contamination. Right now, we have our eye on public transit (press release coming soon!). Personally, I am having so much fun building Aeris that I have no other plans at the moment, but if that changes I’ll probably tweet about it (@commute). (You can also find my new, bite-sized newsletter, meant to provide quick hits of news, insight, and inspiration to readers each morning, here.) Thanks!
We’re proud of Nick and all that he has accomplished since his internship at 3Points. If you’re interested in gaining marketing and public relations experience in the fintech, tech, and startup spaces, take a look at our Chicago Tech PR Intern position that is posted on our website.