Opinion

The secrets of the Fast Starters

BRW fast starters 2015Some of adland’s most entrepreneurial agencies were recognised on this year’s BRW Fast Starter top 100 list. Here Alex Hayes speaks to some of the agency bosses about the secrets of their success.

Entrepreneurial, agile, innovative and growing. These are some of the qualities that link the adland companies on this year’s BRW Fast Starter list. But scratch the surface and there are some interesting back stories, and locations, separating these companies which span ad and influencer agencies to SEO and lead generation companies.

The criteria:

The list is comprised of companies which started trading since July 1, 2011 and be Australian owned. Companies had to report revenues of at least $500,000 in the 2013/14 financial year to qualify, and entries are signed off by an independent auditor.

The list:

37 – Jack Media – a Byron Bay ad tech company – revenue $6.016m; Growth – 80%; Employees – 6

Jack media logoStarted four years ago and based in Byron Bay this ad tech company is proving you don’t have to be city based to get on. The company specialises in lead generation, buidling digital solutions for clients, and based on a pay-per-performance basis.

Co-founder of the business Andy Crawley credits their growth to “business culture and hard work” and being “extremely mindful with new hires”. But he adds: “Running a good business doesn’t mean you can’t have personality or be good people to deal with.”

Andy CrawleyWhen it started Crawley was based in Sydney and his business partner James Kitchener was in Whistler, Canada. But the duo decided to move to Byron two years ago as a “lifestyle choice”.

Crawley admitted it presents a challenge with hiring as it can take a little longer. “But when you do hire someone you know they are committed to being in Byron and they will be with you long-term,” he adds. And when it comes to attracting customers he says they have not found it a problem.

He also credits the company’s independence to its success in working with clients. “Being independent makes us agile, and because we’re small people like working with us,” he says.

45. The Royals – Melbourne and Sydney based creative agency. Revenue $5.167m; Growth – 66.9%; Employees – 38

‘The most interested agency in the world’ according to their agency tagline The Royals have been around for a stroke over four years now, and work with clients including Deakin Uni, NAB, Fairfax, Campari, Google, Sensis, Jetstar, Cancer Council, Intel and MTV.

the royals partners

The Royals directors

Managing partner Andrew Siwka credits the agency’s success to wanting to maintian a startup mentality and a willingness to reinvent the agency’s business model.

“It gives us a sense of validation, it’s all worthwhile and we’ve just ticked over four years so it feels like we’re maturing a little bit I guess,” he says.

the royals logo“I think we’re probably reinvented oursleves a couple of times over that time and a big chunk of what we do is spin off startup businesses from product development which give us that startup mentality.

“We always think what is it that’s going to make sure we’re not the soup du jour one day and the Droga5 the next is to constantly be relevant and reinvent ourselves. It’s semi-exhausting but a necessity these days.”

Managing partner Dan Beaumont adds: “We’re still establishing ourselves in the industry and building The Royals brand but it’s a solid indicator that we’re heading in the right direction.

“I do wonder if we might have ranked higher if amounts of blood, sweat, tears and late nights were measured and taken in to account.”

Values are also important – although they limit them to three – audacity, camaraderie and revelry – as they want their staff to be able to remember them.

“We talk about being the most interested agency in the world, and that sounds wanky, but we think that gives our staff a can do attitude, and find a way to make it happen,” adds Siwka.

48. Opentop – Melbourne based advertising technology company. Revenue: $4.860; Growth – 21.7%; Employees – 20

Founded in 2011, Opentop focuses on helping brands generate leads, secure audiences and generate revenue in a digital environment.opentop

Aaron Woolf, founder and chief executive officer of Opentop, attributes the company’s success to creating technology that enables brands to grow online, and great people driving the business forward.

“Our technology has enabled brands to grow and better connect with their audiences online,” said Woolf.

“While investing in technology ensures we will continue to develop new ways for our partners and advertisers to grow, it’s our people that are driving Opentop to new heights.

“Opentop’s success comes from its ability to provide growth mechanisms for both advertisers and publishers. Opentop uses its technology to help advertisers generate leads and build communities, while also helping publishers captivate, monetise and better connect with their audiences.”

Clients include Flight Centre, Marks & Spencer and Sky Sports.

55. BEcause Brand Experience – Sydney based experiential agency. Revenue: $4.056m; Growth – 69.3%; Employees – 7Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 1.53.45 pm

This four-year-old experiential agency is an offshoot of the British agency. While it is affiliated with the network it is wholly owned by Meredith Cranmer, who relocated to Sydney to start the office, without having worked here before.

“My biggest challenge was moving to a market that I’d never worked in, all I had was a few case studies and a few LinkedIn contacts which I managed to turn into meetings and those into pitches,” she says.

Woolworths, Sanofi, AGL and Casella Wines are a few of their clients.

Cranmer

Cranmer

While the agency has also benefited the growth in experiential marketing Cranmer says they have also benefitted from showing the return on investment to their clients as they go.

“Prove effectiveness, a good idea execute well and show the value back to the client and make them understand how experiential works in their media mix. It’s a really good place for us to be to be sat strategically at the table with clients, and understanding experiential can’t do everything for all brands and that was the key to our success,” she says.

While an independent with a small staff they outsource a lot of their functions, with Cranmer crediting entrepreneurship and being able to share spaces with other agencies (including The Remarkables #78 on this list) as a boon to the fledgling business.

“When we did first start I remember meeting with the banks and they were saying it’s a terrible time because of the global crisis, but I think that was good as it made us more agile. We don’t have the big reception with the fancy clients and the beautiful receptionist. That’s right for some clients, but the fact is a big client like Woolworths can work with us and get a lot of value from us.”

59. Red Engine – Sydney based content strategy agency. Revenue: 3.458m; Growth – 161.6%; Employees – 25

red engine logoThis Sydney based agency is cashing in on the content boom, creating work for the likes of Telstra, Commonwealth Bank and Fairfax Media.

The agency also looks to push the boundaries, with Mumbrella recently featuring the 360 Degree video it created for Telstra.

 

71. Online Marketing Gurus – Sydney based SEO agency. Revenue – $2.53m; Growth – 317.9%; Employees – 14

A small marketing agency promising to cut the jargon and deliver more hits for its clients. And looking at the client list it proves there can be a large profit in working with a long tail of local businesses.

75. Penso  – Melbourne based with a Dubai office. Revenue – $2.418m; Growth – 30.2%; Employees – 17

Penso logoDescribing itself as a creative communications and digital innovation agency Penso boasts clients including Carlton & United Breweries, Xero, Collingwood Football Club and most impressively Emirates. Indeed the airline affiliation has seen the small agency expand with a Dubai hub with more clients coming on board.

Founder Con Frantzeskos comes from a big agency background, holding digital strategy director roles for DDB in Australia and Ogilvy in Asia before taking the plunge to start his own agency.

Frantzeskos

Frantzeskos

He said: “It’s a real honour and achievement to be put on the BRW Fast Starters list. We seek to grow businesses with an approach that is quite different – we’re a cross between a management consultancy, advertising agency and digital agency.

“As we are a startup, people join us with an element of unknown but our team are now doing the best work of their careers for our clients all over the world, and this is another sign that we are on the right track, delivering growth for our clients.

“This is just the beginning. The recent establishment of a Dubai office and many client enquiries in Asia and the USA demonstrates we’re on the right path.”

78. The Remarkables Group – Sydney based blogger management and influencer agency. Revenue: $2.323m; Growth – 97.8%; Employees  – 8

Murphy

Murphy

A small agency which makes a big noise in the industry founder Lorraine Murphy admits her success if probably down to being “first to market” in the influencer and talent space and also a healthy combination of “naivety”.

“It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t work – I don’t think that was optimism I think it was absolute naivety. But I was so pumped up on this idea I had it never occurred to me it wouldn’t work,” she adds.

The entrepreneurialism to go into a niche no-one else in Australia had ventured into was also a boon, with Murphy adding: “If you spot an opportunity and it’s not something others have taken yet it’s worth doing,”. She notes there are more than 20 other agencies operating in the same space.

And as with all successful businesses there was also a sprinkling of luck involved, with Murphy having to apply for a de facto visa to be able to start the company after leaving Naked.

“I applied for it and knew it could take until October, but somehow it came back in 28 days so I was able to start in May,” she says. “If I’d had to wait until October I wouldn’t have been first to market and it would have been more difficult.”

 

Digilante logo

92. Digitlante – Sydney based digital creative agency. Revenue – $1.8m; Growth – 13.2%; Employees – 11

A digital agency which boasts clients including Virgin Money, LJ Hooker, Qantas Credit Union and Subaru amongst its clients.

And their introductory video appears to be modelled on a Guy Ritchie film:

100. Flagship Digital – Gold Coast based digital agency. Revenue – $1.46m; Growth – 88.7%; Employees – 10
Flagship digitalLead generation, branding and web design and SEO are at the heart of this Gold Coast based agency’s competencies.
  • Alex Hayes is editor of Mumbrella
Leaders from some of Australia’s most successful agencies will be sharing their secrets at next month’s SAGE conference. Click here to see the program and here to book.
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