Jeb Balise ’04

By Carol Latter

Balise-SS-Atashian-2-12349696644_a7c4752be2_oFiguring out what career path to follow was a bit of a puzzle for Jeb Balise ’04. After graduating from Trinity with a bachelor of arts in economics, “I was all over the place in terms of what I wanted to do. I was in the music industry for a few years, and then I decided to go to business school.”

The Massachusetts native earned his M.B.A. from Fordham University in 2009 and took a position in finance but soon realized it “wasn’t something I was excited to do when I woke up each morning.” After 18 months, he quit to start his own business.

Today, he is the CEO of Manhattan-based PuzzleSocial Inc., which creates “gamified” crosswords that can be played on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. The company’s first game, Daily Celebrity Crossword, launched in May 2013 and now draws more than 250,000 users a month. The firm contracts with roughly 30 of the most experienced crossword writers in the country, “who work to create a fresh, fun, and relevant puzzle every single day of the year.”

Balise holds two U.S. patents for the concept underpinning his online gaming platform and has raised nearly $1.8 million from angel investors who believe in its potential. His goal is to make Daily Celebrity Crossword “the number one solved daily puzzle in the world.”

Balise has been a crossword enthusiast since he played his first online puzzle in his dorm room as a junior at Trinity in 2002. “It’s a very soothing activity for me. Every night for over 10 years, I would do a puzzle before bed; that’s what would let me sleep. And ultimately, I started a company based on that.”

He credits his time at Trinity for providing him with valuable skills and contacts who have become lifelong friends–including former HBO and Time Warner Cable president Thayer Bigelow ’65, who wrote the first check for PuzzleSocial and now sits on its Board of Directors. Bigelow, says Balise, “gave me my start.”

Bigelow calls Balise “a classic entrepreneur. When he has an idea that he is passionate about, he will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make it happen. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t connect with the audience and don’t look at the competition. Jeb does.”

Balise feels “honored” to remain actively engaged with Trinity, driving up to Hartford several times a year to participate in various activities. He’s a member of the Annual Fund Participation Task Force and the Long Walk Societies Committee. As a speaker at the Bantam Sophomore Success Program, he uses his own experiences to encourage undergraduates to create a life they love: “I try to discuss what is possible in the context of having a finite amount of time on earth. In that context, fear goes away and it gives students confidence that they can really go after something they care about while they’re here.”

Balise, who teaches entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at Fordham Graduate School of Business, was most recently involved in Trinity’s inaugural Entrepreneurship Competition, serving as a mentor to the winning team. Over several months, he helped Alex Barker ’14 and Jake Shimmel ’14 refine their concept for Underdog, a team-based fantasy football app that earned them the top prize of $10,000 and will be released commercially next year.

At both Trinity and Fordham, Balise tells students that if they focus on pursuing something they love to do, “you can accomplish whatever you want.”




Jeb Balise ’04 speaks with students during the 2014 Bantam Sophomore Success Program, run by the Career Development Center and designed to help sophomores gain skills and strategies to develop their academic and career interests.