VivaKi Reactivates Ventures, Taps Razorfish's Hyder To Nurture Start-Ups

Publicis' VivaKi unit is re-accelerating its role in nurturing new media start-ups, naming Alyson Hyder as vice president of VivaKi Ventures, a role that has been vacant since Tim Hanlon left a year ago. Hyder, who joins from was vice president-digital media and marketing at Publicis' Razorfish unit, assumes VivaKi's ventures role from Sean Kegelman, who continues to lead partnerships for the VivaKi Nerve Center, and to whom Hyder reports.

In an interview with Online Media Daily on Friday, Kegelman said Hyder would broaden the perspective of VivaKi's work with new media and data start-ups to strike early stage deals with companies that could represent competitive advantages for Publicis clients and/or strategic and capital investments for the agency holding company.

He said VivaKi's ventures focus had narrowed during the year the role became consolidated under him, and that much of his focus was either on nurturing the original deals struck by Hanlon before he left, or on expanding proprietary relationships with VivaKi's biggest partners, companies like Google, and Google's DoubleClick and Invite Media divisions, and BlueKai.

"When I took this on we folded it into the partnerships group," Kegelman explained. "We kept the model of advisory role for emerging media companies, but we focused on the ones that are best aligned on the product offerings that we have here in VivaKi. By bringing Alyson in, we're going to broaden it out again so that it's not focused just on the product centers we've developed in the [VivaKi] Nerve Center."

Kegelman said Hyder would continue to focus primarily on start-ups that are most relevant to VivaKi's interests, and the clients of Publicis' digital and media agencies, especially "data platforms, mobile, social and video," and he said the deals she structures will be based on three primary objectives: "connecting clients with emerging companies that impact their core business; working fluidly with agency teams; and contributing to the ongoing growth and development of the VivaKi Nerve Center.

Hyder, who will be based in San Francisco, previously oversaw media accounts for clients such as Best Buy, Disney, Miller Coors, Nike and Weight Watchers at Razorfish.

The re-expansion of VivaKi's ventures efforts comes at a time when other big agency holding companies and smaller, independent agencies have stepped up their work with potentially game-changing start-ups. Ironically, the move comes as Interpublic's Mediabrands division has restructured and appears to be downplaying the role of ventures. As part of that restructuring, Tim Hanlon quietly stepped down as head of Velociter, the ventures-focused unit he created to develop relationships between promising new media start-ups and Interpublic and its clients brands.

Hanlon joined Mediabrands in October 2010, when then Mediabrands Ventures chief Matt Freeman was leading the charge to develop new businesses and new business opportunities that would grow from them for Interpublic and its clients. Since then, Freeman has left to become Global Chief Innovation Officer at Interpublic McCann Worldgroup, and new Mediabrands CEO Matt Seiler has taken a narrow view of venture-related activity, reorganizing the agency around businesses and services that directly impact the clients of its Initiative and UM units.

During his stint at Velociter, Hanlon developed a portfolio of stakes in 14 startups. During his tenure at VivaKi and Denuo, Hanlon created a portfolio of 43 equity stakes, which included exits with Sling Media (which was sold to Echostar), Rapt (to Microsoft), Navic Networks (to Microsoft), SnapTell (to Amazon/A9), IMMI (to Arbitron), Pelago (to Groupon), Tumri (to Collective Media), and Dapper (to Yahoo), as well as Brightcove, which just announced an upcoming IPO.

Interestingly, Interpublic recently cashed in a big chunk of one of its most successful venture capital initiatives - an early stake in Facebook. The deal, which sold half of Interpublic's stake in the social network, netted the agency holding company $133 million, which it is using the help buy back shares of Interpublic stock.

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