The Midwest Digital Marketing Conference returns to St. Louis this year with a startup pitch competition awarding a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Purina and UMSL Accelerate. Nick Szabo, Chief Operating Officer of Swizzle, designed this competition to be different than all the ones he competed in over the years.
Only five companies are pitching in the competition, and they’re not pitching to investors, but rather potential customers. The competitors also receive special access to conference speakers.
Swizzle said the concept behind the pitch competition was based on giving the five startups as much exposure during the conference as possible, even if they don’t win the cash prize.
The small number of competitors also keeps the companies from getting buried in a crowd.
“We had a panel of people who went through each candidate,” said Swizzle. “We chose these 5 because we believe they represent the best the Midwest has to offer in terms of Marketing Startups that the attendees of MDMC would be interested in knowing about. We also tried very hard to make sure we selected startups that were not in the same space as each other, so we have a good spread of solutions.”
SPN checked in with the 5 startups pitching at MDMC to find out more about them, as well as what is happening in the Silicon Prairie’s digital marketing industry:
Jimmy Zollo, Founder and CEO
Collaborata is the market-research marketplace. The company showcases the timeliest market research projects, executed by vetted industry experts, at dramatically low prices thanks to the power of cost sharing. In a growing $100 billion industry, there is no singular research and data marketplace. Collaborata fills that void.
Eighty percent of research buyers say their budget isn’t adequate to pay for all the projects they have planned, which results in the lack of execution of critically important projects. Collaborata solves this problem. Researchers can now stretch their budgets by sharing the costs with other clients.
At Collaborata, buyers can purchase completed projects instantly or co-sponsor new research under development and share costs with other buyers. And since Collaborata only showcases projects executed by vetted experts, buyers of research know they are obtaining high-quality work.Collaborata has fully developed the supplier-side of their marketplace and has more than 200 vetted research-company partnerships, ranging from some of the global giants to boutique agencies, all with an expertise in a particular consumer segment.
Collaborata has fully developed the supplier-side of their marketplace and has more than 200 vetted research-company partnerships, ranging from some of the global giants to boutique agencies, all with an expertise in a particular consumer segment.
Their platform was designed with key input from big research-spending brands like Kraft, the NBA, Gap, Kellogg’s, and Sony. Their client list continues to grow as they help get critical research funded.
Zollo says everything about running a startup is harder and takes longer than he could have ever anticipated, but that’s the fun of it. They are proud to be a midwest tech startup and can’t wait to showcase how they are changing the way research and business intelligence are purchased.
Gazella Wifi-Marketing from Omaha, NE
Eric Burns (supported by team members DJ Akers, Matt Ronay, Evan Masilko)
Gazella turns guest wifi into an automated marketing tool. They offer free wifi in exchange for an email, phone, or social media engagement. From there, the company’s automated marketing campaigns are proven to bring customers back to the location offering the free wifi.
They have clients using the Gazella Wifi-Marketing system all across the U.S.A, Canada, Ukraine, and Brazil.
Burns says it was a surprise how quickly their team has become a leader in the wifi-marketing space. They have consistently been noted in the top 3 wifi marketing companies and our 40+% month over month growth has them incredibly excited for the future of wifi marketing.
Gazella is currently looking forward to the MDMC pitch as launching their White Label platform to the world. For the first time ever digital marketing agencies can use the Gazella Wifi-Marketing platform for their clients with their own brand with our wifi marketing white label solution.
Lumanu, headquartered out of Milwaukee with an office in San Francisco
Tony Tran (CEO + Co-Founder)
Lumanua is a content marketing company aimed at B2C brands — specifically helping brands leverage influencers that can create compelling content that inspires behaviors like purchases and in store foot traffic. They have a unique blend of content creation and distribution that allows them to be very data-driven and turnkey in their approach to this space (versus our competitors who are much more akin to “agencies”)The unique backgrounds of their team members (MIT Computer Scientists, mathematicians, Bain & McKinsey consultants, marketing strategy at Fortune 500 companies like Starwood Hotels and
The unique backgrounds of their team members (MIT Computer Scientists, mathematicians, Bain & McKinsey consultants, marketing strategy at Fortune 500 companies like Starwood Hotels and Williams Sonoma) means they’re uniquely positioned to solve some tough problems in the social marketing space, primarily around what type of content can drive behaviors beyond just “likes / comments / shares” on social media.Lumana started in June of 2016, and are now post-revenue with a product that will be in closed beta this April.
Lumana started in June of 2016, and are now post-revenue with a product that will be in closed beta this April.
Coming up with a turnkey solution for the space they’re in was a challenge. Lumanu’s ultimate goal is to expand and scale their ability to service tens of thousands of B2C brands.
Tran says that being able to get revenue from brands like Harley-Davidson prior to the product being live showed them that they’re solving a real problem, one that companies are willing to pay for and be patient about it as they deliver the technical capabilities .
He’s looking forward to the MDMC pitch because he wants to hear the questions the audience has. He believes tough questions are great for Lumanu as an early company, because it allows them to address real problems that potential customers have and ensure that they’re on the right path as a company
MetKnow, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Will Edwards and Evan Tipton
MetKnow is a flash card and quizzing application that helps people in organizations learn each other’s name.
MetKnow officially launched in January of 2017, but the company was born from a college project Edwards developed to help his fraternity get to know each other called, “RememberTheMember.” RememberTheMember, now MetKnow, became a hit. The process of learning names had become gamified and soon after, every fraternity and sorority house on campus was using MetKnow to get to know each other.
Now, MetKnow helps people in companies, Greek organizations, clubs, and many other types of community groups. With integrations planned for other social network sites, Edwards believes MetKnow will become a valuable tool to anyone who has a problem learning the names of the people they interact with.
MetKnow was able to break even with revenue in their first two months of business and a patent is being issued on electronic flash cards and electronic quizzes for the sake of knowing people.
Edwards is looking forward to the chance to pitch in front of representatives from the leaders of the digital marketing industry. He is excited about the ability to make connections, hear opinions and meet those who know what it takes to succeed in the digital world.
Sitting Duck Media, St. Louis
Brian Lord, Kim Rohlfing, Andy Denny, Chris Chida
Sitting Duck Media is a digital out of home (DOOH) customer engagement platform placed in high traffic restrooms like stadiums, malls, casinos and airports. Sitting Duck capitalizes on a captivated audience in the restroom to generate robust analytics around actual impressions, dwell time and engagement through our patent-pending sensor technology.
Their internet-of-things (IoT) cloud-based software improves crowd analytics to optimize advertising content in order to be meaningful, relevant and engaging for consumers. This means that advertisers will be able to deliver strategically tailored, high-definition audio-video content with the right message, for the right audience, at the right time.
Sitting Duck started their print model 5 years ago and pivoted to a more advanced digital model over 2 years ago. One of the biggest challenge’s for the startup so far was engineering a product that was aesthetically pleasing, technically advanced, but yet simple to manufacture and install.
Early on, they were surprised by the lack of home platforms that could provide accurate impression levels to their advertising clients. They successfully filled that gap with a digital model that generates accurate impressions and robust analytics around audience viewership.
They look forward to hearing what advertising professionals think about our platform and seeing what other innovative products are being displayed.