When I started Brainient in 2009, we were one of a handful of companies (and one of the only ad tech start-ups) trying to get our feet out in Shoreditch alongside some already notable names such as Moo.com and Mind Candy. In just five years, the scene has exploded, with thousands of companies now plying their trade out in this corner of the capital. Then, again, just three years before my start-up opened its doors, YouTube was founded – and look how that has changed the way agencies create content and campaigns.
Back then, the only ad agency in the UK that was really concertedly working with start-ups was Albion. It was also the first London agency to have a dedicated start-up co-working space. Now, there are hundreds of ways that our industry can engage with start-ups, from mentoring at start-up accelerators to getting involved in the Tech City Investment Organisation, and even some agencies launching their own investment funds. With brands and clients increasingly desperate to innovate and start-ups hungry for paying clients willing to test out their technology, the role of the agency is becoming increasingly important as the middleman and broker.
It is often up to the agency to recommend (or reject) the adoption of a new form of technology, be it in a creative campaign or to overhaul a business process. It is the agency that is expected to have the right – and most relevant – answers so the client can get ahead of the pack.
Technology must be seamless as it solves problems that most of us haven't yet realised exist
Unfortunately, there is also a lot of hype for agencies to cut through. At Brainient, we have been lucky. We were accepted into Seedcamp, went on to raise $4 million and worked with some of the UK’s biggest agencies and brands including MediaCom, Amnet, Disney and Coca-Cola, as well as broadcasters such as ITV and Channel4.
That means I’ve been able to view the start-up world from the viewpoint of both buy side and sell side. In order for technology to be effective, it must be seamless as it solves problems that most of us haven’t yet realised exist. Technology touches every part of the modern agency – from obvious things such as campaigns, content creation and distribution right through to business processes, enabling trends such as an increasingly mobile workforce and international payment systems.
Y Combinator has the motto: "Build products people want." This is great advice, even if you’re building products before people realise they want them. Another piece of advice is focus on something you love. For Brainient, that’s the world of online video advertising and content; over the coming weeks, I hope you too will find a new solution you love to a problem that perhaps you had not yet realised existed.
Emi Gal is the founder and chief executive of Brainient