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Sergio Alvarez: Deal with Blackstone 'validates what we've built'

For 30 years, Blackstone Group LP has spent billions scooping up portfolio companies across a wide variety of sectors. But until now, digital media marketing wasn't one of them.

As of Tuesday, the New York-based firm is backing Ai Media Group, an eight year-old company that has become known for its unique brand of search engine marketing. The company reports its findings back to clients in real time, with the idea that it can drive sales and leads, aside from tracking clicks.

Other than Blackstone's minority investment — the firm isn't disclosing how much it's putting into Ai — the company hasn't taken any outside capital. Its founders — CEO Andy Fenster, COO Sergio Alvarez and CIO Ron Trenka — bootstrapped and mortgaged homes to make the business work. The hard work paid off.

Today, Ai Media has amassed a client base from a variety of industries, including telecommunications, education, government, fashion, finance, consumer packaged goods, health, beauty, travel and luxury. AllState, Time Warner Cable, New York Sports Club and World Wrestling Entertainment are just some of big-name companies that tap the Ai's expertise. The New York Business Journal caught up with Alvarez to discuss Ai's journey so far and how the deal with Blackstone transpired:

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