Ten Minutes With Greg Topalian
A major event planner - he started NY Comic Con
Photo by Andrea Topalian
Greg Topalian started New York Comic Con—a wildly successful trade show for comic fans, now in its tenth year. After graduating from Fairfield University with a BS in marketing, Topalian married Andrea, a photographer, and moved to Wilton 15 years ago. The couple has three kids, Olivia (12), Kylie (10), and Derek (8). After 17 years as an SVP at Reed Exhibitions, he recently launched LeftField Media.
What is LeftField Media?
LeftField Media launches or acquires experiential events that focus on passionate fan bases. I always had a burning desire to be more of an entrepreneur.
You started New York Comic Con. How and why?
Ten years ago, when I was at Reed Exhibitions, I was heading up a group called Launchpad, where my entire focus was to create new events. I had the idea for Comic Con a few years earlier but never had the time. The inspiration was my brother who was a massive fan when we were growing up. I couldn’t believe that New York, of all places, didn’t have a show for comics. It was insanity! Twice as many people showed up as we had expected, including the fire marshal.
Describe how your parents influenced you.
My dad spent his entire career at General Foods, which is now Kraft, and was the head of research and development. I have spent much of my career innovating and creating new things. I really believe that growing up in an environment where my father helped to create products, and where anything was possible, fostered that skill. From my mom, I learned to have empathy and how to use humor, which have been invaluable skills both personally and professionally.
What are your passions?
I’m a huge baseball fan. I named my son Derek—after Derek Jeter. I love to cook, and to try new craft beers. I always enjoy visiting Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
What scares you?
Being bored and feeling like I’m not achieving anything. I also don’t love spiders.
Last home improvement?
We just had a bar seating area added to our kitchen. So far it’s very popular with our cats.
Favorite Wilton haunt?
In the morning, Connecticut Coffee, and in the evening, The Little Pub. Both are cozy and have great food.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.
People are shocked to learn that I was incredibly shy as a child.
What is your personal motto or philosophy?
The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled. I have screwed up a lot in my career and almost every one of those mistakes led to something great.
What are you never without?
My phone. And that’s not something I’m proud of.
When was the last time you were star struck?
I met Bill Clinton at an event I was running. I was too shy to go up to him and ask for a photo, and he ended up introducing himself to me. I almost fainted.
What’s the biggest risk you ever took?
Starting LeftField Media.