As mobile continues to grow, companies are scrambling to keep up. Some brands have adapted well (Nordstrom comes to mind) but most are still figuring out how to reach customers via this new channel. Seattle mobile marketing upstartup SPARQ, which just moved to new offices in the University District, wants to build an inclusive platform to do the work.
The more than 10-person company has been growing fast since its founding in 2010 as SPARQCode, doubling revenue on a year-over-year basis and recently adding Seattle investor Christopher Ackerley to the board. We caught up with CEO and Founder Jesse Chor, a former Microsoft employee, for this edition of Startup Spotlight:
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “SPARQ.ME is a marketing platform that helps drive sales and new customers from mobile devices. Our main clients are social gaming companies, real estate, and retail brands.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We realized early on that many companies had a good desktop marketing strategy, but had an incomplete mobile strategy. We said: ‘What if we can help them launch a mobile presence that will materially generate more sales leads across any type of mobile device?'”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We did an angel round in 2010 with some of the best-known angels in Seattle. They are an awesome group and the help and expertise they bring is amazing.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Recognizing that not all mobile devices are the same, we have built a system that will optimize and deliver the best user experience (and hence lead generation) possible for any given device.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Changing our client acquisition focus from the small businesses category to large enterprises. We learned the hard way why small businesses are consistently viewed as a very challenging category to penetrate.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not focusing on the large enterprise market sooner.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Tough one. I’ve actually met three of them and unfortunately, I will not be able to meet the fourth due to Steve’s passing. In 2008, I met Jeff Bezos at a startup school at Stanford and he was pitching AWS (Amazon Web Services). I thought that his product was incredible and very forward-looking. Hands down, I’d go with Bezos. He’s not afraid to make mistakes and I love the culture of innovation that he has created at Amazon.
Our world domination strategy starts when: “SPARQ becomes a verb.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We are relentless, we love challenges and we are laser focused on creating great outcomes for our customers.
We are truly unique because: “We hear this quite often from our customers. They typically say that prior to contacting us they have researched and looked at other companies in the space and when they came across our product, it was clearly a cut above the rest. Where some other mobile platform might offer one piece of what we do, no one has pulled together all these pieces in a seamless system: SMS/QR codes + mobile websites + lead generation + analytics. In short, our company’s core product is not a feature, rather it is a complete, end-to-end platform.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Scaling our system for major traffic growth. We’ve signed on some customers that push even AWS to its limits during our peaks, so it was a real challenge to be able to react and scale quickly.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: We were originally boot-strapped and had this idea that we could do it ourselves and may never need funding. What I didn’t realize at the time was that besides money, investors could bring a lot of help and networking contacts that materially expedite the company’s development. I would recommend raising smart money at the right valuation from the right sources for your company, even if you don’t think you need it. The right investors with strong networks can accelerate your growth.