Mark Vella, Founder & CEO of advertiise
1. What does Advertiise do?
Advertiise is a marketplace that connects and expands the advertising community. It is the first-mover in peer-to-peer advertisement brokering.
2. What inspired you to start this? What problem are you solving?
In 2008, Advertiise founder Mark Vella owned three gyms in Sydney, Australia. He needed more revenue, but couldn’t decide whether to spend more marketing dollars to increase memberships, or find another revenue stream completely. The former seemed like the obvious choice, until he noticed the abundance of empty wall space in the gym – specifically the soft-drink fridge in the lobby. He got the fridge for free from the soft-drink company, but always knew their products didn’t align with the values the gym promoted, unlike the supplement store around the corner that would really benefit from having their logo on that fridge, as well as their supplements in it. He struck a deal with them to do just that, and with that successful handshake, advertiise was born.
Since then, advertiise has grown to become a business solution for not only small advertising buyers and sellers (like Mark and the supplement store), but large buyers and sellers too. The platform has expanded the advertising community, by connecting buyers to more inventory, and sellers to more buyers.
3. How long did it take you to go from prototype to launch?
Advertiise was incorporated in 2012, and has gone through many technical and functional iterations before finally releasing its new platform in February 2017.
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
A sophisticated customer segmentation model was built prior to platform launch, however this model evolved dramatically over the last 5 years as the platform became more refined and targeted to potential customers.
5. What are your greatest achievements so far?
• Building and releasing a world-class platform – now validated by our users and potential customers
• Building a strong and dynamic team – built on integrity, passion and purposefulness
• Raising $500k capital (2016-2017) as well as soft-circling US$1.5mm from US and off-shore pre-Series A fund raising efforts.
• Building a truly scalable company based on collaboration, not competition for all participants.
6. What are your future goals for your company?
• To truly connect and expand the advertising community - “To change the game!”
• To grow and scale into new markets, new customers and new enterprise partners across the world
• To truly build a billion dollar company with a healthy exit in 5-7 years.
7. How has Startup Calgary helped you?
Startup Calgary has been incremental to the relationships, networking opportunities, and connections to advisors and mentors in the startup ecosystem. advertiise wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the efforts of everyone involved with Startup Calgary and their joined vision to help startups succeed in Calgary.
8. How can companies make the most of their experience with Startup Calgary and Launch Party?
It’s like the saying “you have to be in it to win it…” – Calgary has developed the ecosystem, foundation and systems to help startups progress and succeed. Founders and participants in a startup business can no longer say that Calgary doesn’t have the right support for them to develop and grow their business.
We think this has been demonstrated though the efforts of Kari, Jenn and the Startup Calgary Team over the last year.
My message to startups is to get involved with the startup community – whatever stage you’re at.
Launch Party is a great setting to mix and mingle with the ‘who’s who’ of our community. It is a safe and fun environment to meet people and collaborate! Advertiise has experienced significant growth since our participation at Launch Party only 12 months ago!
9. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
• Be smart! Learn from people who have done this before.
• There’s nothing wrong with talking to people about your idea, but make sure you eventually start talking with the right people.
• Everyone thinks they have the next billion–dollar idea, but you need to take things with the right approach in the right order.
• Collaborate with the right people from your startup community. Start with community meetups and networking events.
• Your idea will go through a natural validation process the more people you talk to. You’ll naturally refine your idea until you’re ready to start executing on specific activities
• And most importantly, be [smart] enough to know you can’t do this yourself. Start collaborating with like-minded people who can offer value in moving things from idea to conceptualization. Stack your ‘team’ with people who have complementary skillsets and experience.
10. If you could do one thing differently while building your startup, what would you have done?
We would have built the right team from the get go. We would have asked ourselves: Are they going to be around to the end? Are they going to deliver the same passion as the founder and see projects/tasks through to completion?”
If not – how will you secure accountability as the company grows along with work demands? Don’t be afraid to challenge and push each other to make sure that everyone is getting the right expectations out of their experience.
11. If you could tell the rest of the world something about Calgary, what would it be?
Calgary is an innovative city looking to solidify its position as a tech community outside of traditional oil & gas industry. I believe the city is making all the right efforts to achieve this. Calgary provides the right atmosphere for companies to develop and grow and ultimately succeed. There is a heartbeat in Calgary which needs to be felt to truly experience the energy that is growing right now.
12. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup? Could be obstacles or happy accidents. If so, what did you learn from these?
The one thing which really surprised me was how willing people are to help you succeed. There is an abundance of people who WANT to help at any stage of the startup jourrney. Many friendships and connections have been built on these efforts.
On a general note, I learned very early on that it is unbelievably EASY to succeed OR fail. It’s an extremely fine line between succeeding and failing and there is only room to learn from mistakes if it was indeed failure along the way…
13. If you had to tweet another start-up advice (140 characters or less) what would it be?
Buckle up – it’s going to be one hell of a ride!
15. Could we share your website and social media handles with our community?