When Jonah Midanik started Immersion marketing agency in 2003, the advertising scene was, obviously, very different from today. There were none of the demands for real-time buying networks, and adtech itself didn’t really exist. As time drew on, however, companies began to expect more data-driven results, leaving the agency model as disrupted as every other industry by tech.
“The agency model is absolutely evolving at a rapid pace, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to fit into that evolution. I wasn’t sure what our differentiator was going to be,” Midanik said.
“The agency model is absolutely evolving at a rapid pace, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to fit.”
While Immersion did help clients with a variety of live marketing initiatives like sponsorships, retail events, and product sampling, Midanik found that it was difficult to actually give a client true ROI metrics. So he made the leap from a service company at Immersion — which he sold to his partner — and for the past 15 months, has been developing the Limelight Platform.
Limelight allows its clients to build, plan, and communicate campaigns in one place, rather than having to rely on multiple vendors for services. And it seems the company has tapped a market with high potential, as the company has announced a $3.1 million round of seed funding with the official launch of their platform. The company is backed by angel investors and venture capitalists iGan Partners, Jason Tryfon, Sandhill Angels, Hyde Park Ventures, Acceleprise Ventures, and Christian Nokes.
Despite the fact that Limelight already boasts clients like Allstate, BMW, Heineken, and Mercedes-Benz, the company has only started marketing and ramping up sales efforts in the past week; Midanik notes that the company snagged BMW as a client through a cold e-mail. Instead, Midanik has mostly been working out how to go from a service agency like Immersion to a product-focused company like Limelight. “In a service business you have to tell your clients yes, and in a product business you have to say no a lot. Focus is very key,” said Midanik. “We have a big client education process because they have this problem, but they don’t sit down and realize they have this problem in this way. So we have to say, we’ve packaged up all these problems and we solve them all at once.”
Midanik noted that one of the biggest challenges coming from a service-focused background and switching to a product-focused background was building an infrastructure that could support big enterprises. “We were always servicing big clients, but with service you don’t need a big infrastructure to support these companies. You need enterprise security, servers, and support and they all need to be working in conjunction,” said Midanik.
But even with the challenges of building an end-to-end scalable platform, Midanik feels that transitioning to a company like Limelight was worth it, as he’s noticed in his agency experience that clients are increasingly becoming smarter about budgets and expect more efficiency as better technology becomes available. “It’s becoming increasingly easy to commoditize products, and there’s always going to be a role for amazing agencies, but a lot of companies are commoditizing things and it’s forming a pretty significant amount of agency revenue,” Midanik said. “Where is that going? What is the future of the agency?”
Today, Midanik said that some agencies themselves are using Limelight to better drive their strategies. Going into 2016 with a strong seed round — after making the transition from a “typically profitable service business to money-losing product in the first few years,” in his words — the company is now intensely focused on its growth phase to scale in Canada and the US. “We’ve got a great roadmap, and we are ahead of everyone else in the product marketing space. But we need to maintain that lead. Product focus is forever and permanent, and having a technology lead is something we always have to beat.”