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Startup Spotlight: An Interview with Agency Spotter

Agency Spotter: A marketplace for businesses and creative agencies

Today’s startup spotlight is with the co-founder of Agency Spotter, Joseph Raccuglia. Agency Spotter offers businesses a better way to search, compare, and connect with creative agencies.

Tell me about your professional background?

I started my career in money markets accounting with State Street Bank in both Boston and Dublin, Ireland.  Those years proved to be great experience helping me gain a number of skills that continue to pay dividends for me professionally. However, I came to the realization that I wanted to switch gears from the “back of the house” and move into a role that had a direct impact on the direction of a business. I did an International MBA at Boston University, which was a catalyst in my career switch into marketing at American Express in NYC where I held a number of roles in digital strategy across the organization. That’s what I was doing most recently before taking that dive off the cliff into the world of startups.

How did the idea for Agency Spotter come about?

My co-founder, Brian Regienczuk, and I have been friends for 13 years, and we share backgrounds working with big brands where we were tasked with searching for, hiring, managing, and unfortunately sometimes firing creative agencies. We had both suffered the frustration marketers face when vetting the right agencies for their business. Brian has also operated his own design firm giving him first-hand experience with the challenges agencies face in closing new business. After some initial effort, Brian approached me to help tackle the problem. We quickly moved into Alpha testing with agencies and marketers who helped validate the need for a solution. That’s when we decided to bring Agency Spotter to life and solve these problems while creating new value for everyone.

How would you describe your value proposition? What are you bringing to both sides?

We have created a digital marketplace, where business marketers from big and small brands can come to search, compare, and connect with the world of advertising, design, digital, PR and research agencies. On the business side, we take their search from months to minutes and provide tools that give them more confidence in their decisions. On the agency side, we provide a permanent promotional presence through valuable exposure to a captive audience that drives leads in a way that doesn’t exist today. We’ve done this using technology and design to make it an easier, faster, and more transparent process for everyone.

Do you think your marketplace will create more competition than already exists today?

With over 120K creative agencies in the US alone, the competition is already fierce. What we see is that in many cases the agencies that get the most attention are the ones that get the jobs, and it’s not necessarily based on merit. We hope that with Agency Spotter, we can level the playing field and give a lot of agencies the opportunity to compete for business that they wouldn’t normally get to.

What is one area of marketing that has been successful for you?

We have an active social media presence across many outlets, and we’ve gained a lot of traction through these communications. You always hear success stories about startups that have built their businesses off of Facebook and Twitter engagement. For us, it’s really been about LinkedIn, and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised given we are focused on a B2B process that traditionally is based on networking and relationships. LinkedIn provides the right forum and authenticity for us to make valuable impressions and connections. Participating in groups, conversations, sharing with our network, and reaching out to key decision makers has done wonders for us. It’s one of our biggest traffic drivers.

Are there any noteworthy challenges or lessons you’ve learned along the way since founding the company?

We noticed early on that we were getting a fair amount of traffic on our site, but while our number of visitors was growing, our conversions (turning visitors into registered users) were not following suit. We quickly realized we were relying on our homepage to do all the heavy lifting, but at the same time, people were accessing us through our “side doors” -our blog, direct links to agency portfolios, etc.., and we weren’t asking them to sign-up there. We tightened the reigns on all parts of the site so that no matter how you enter, there are multiple, easy avenues to registration. We’ve seen the improvement in our metrics from these efforts. Lesson learned.

Have you experienced any entrepreneurial challenges so far?

Brian and I are in a unique entrepreneurial situation because we’re located in two cities. Brian is in Atlanta, and I am in Boston. It’s been great, but one challenge inherent to this is communication. It can be difficult to rely on the phone for everything. Skype, IM, and web-sharing apps have been crucial. Despite this challenge, we’re always finding ways to turn our distance into advantages. We already have wheels on the ground in two large agency markets that are 1000 miles apart and have access to a larger network of talent than we would if we both lived in the same area.

Do you have any big milestones coming up soon?

One of our recent milestones was forming an advisory board full of talented experts from a number of domains that our business touches, and we are really looking forward to working with them. Also, we just returned from an amazing visit to Minneapolis where we got up-close-and-personal with a ton of agencies in order to show a more intimate profile of their expertise, people, and culture.  In just a short time, we will be launching full marketing initiatives in a number of key markets from New England to San Francisco. All of these are crucial in helping us gain recognition and traction with local businesses and agencies.

If you had once piece of advice you would want to give to someone who is interested in founding a company, what would you say to them?

There is a lot of great advice out there, but don’t hold yourself directly accountable to it. At the end of the day the most important thing is to get customers. That’s the only thing you should be worried about. Don’t spend your time trying to live up to other people’s expectations and “rules to live by.” Get customers, and you’ll succeed.

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