Startups: Bring More Than Code To The Marketing Table

In the tech startup world entrepreneurs tend be geeky and focused on code. Which is okay, but not enough for those looking to strike it rich with a new ad-marketing platform.

According to executives speaking at a startup “boot camp” put on by Y&R earlier this week in New York, it’s critical for new platforms to have solutions for specific problems. The more scaleable the better.

The agency and marketing executives on one panel, moderated by consultant/investor (and former Johnson & Johnson CMO)  Brian Perkins said they constantly meet with entrepreneurs and can detect pretty quickly when they come across a technology without a viable purpose.

“The key question for us is, ‘What are you bringing beyond code,’” said Dawn Winchester, chief marketing services officer at digital shop RG/A. “Give me something concrete.” The best way to end a meeting quickly is to start off with a vague question like “What keeps you up at night?” said Winchester, which she takes as a sure sign that little effort has been made to understand the needs of the marketing business from a tech standpoint.



Carl Fremont, chief digital officer at MEC agreed. “You have to identify where in the ecosystem you fit” before taking a meeting with an agency or marketer,” he said. “Solve a problem, fill a gap and have a context,” he said.

Jack Haber, vp global advertising and digital services for Colgate Palmolive said that the search for new platforms within the company can be a serendipitous one. “Things come up you didn’t know you wanted.” Haber said while the company does have people internally that are on the lookout for the next new platform (including himself), “I do lean on the agencies quite a bit” as a filter for new technology ideas.

Bant Breen, Founder and CEO of startup Qnary (which works with brands to improve their online “personas”) and a former Interpublic executive, has sat on both sides of the table. One problem is a failure to communicate properly, he said. Any good startup “should evolve dramatically,” almost daily. “You need to communicate and update your progress.”

In addition to being relevant to solving a problem, Breen said, “a startup that is not relentless will fail.” And for the lucky 1% of startups that actually get a test budget from an agency or client, he added, “don’t think you’ve won the war. That’s the first date.” 

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