Here are 3 ways to discover the latest marketing startups

Another week, another hot new startup emerges. Whether it’s a brand trying to keep abreast of new technologies to develop innovative campaigns or an agency looking to keep ahead of the competition by using the latest and greatest tools, the challenge remains the same. How do you keep up?

There is certainly an expectation, on both the agency side and brand side, that we should have a deep understanding of all the startups in our market and the possibilities of partnering with them. Whether that expectation is realistic is another matter. 

For both brands and agencies, there often isn’t the luxury to have someone or even a team of people identifying, meeting and assessing opportunities on an ongoing basis. The good news is that there is help at hand. There are now a number of companies (startups of course) that are setting out to address this challenge in a variety of different ways.

One such company is VentureScanner. It is best to think of it as a startup database which has the goal of tracking, in real time, startups in any emerging technology sector. Its approach uses a combination of technology to aggregate all the available data in a specific sector complemented by sector analysts to organize the companies into clusters that represent different technology sectors such as Internet of ThingsRetail Online to OfflineFinancial Technology and 3D Printing. Every couple of weeks a new sector is added. This week sees the launch of the Marketing Automation ‘venture scan’ which highlights 314 companies in 21 countries. It segments the markets into the following categories: email marketing, SEO, content marketing, social intelligence, marketing automation, social media marketing, and website analytics.

In many ways its simplicity is its strength. As with most technology solutions, its value is directly proportional to the effort put into using it. The use cases of a database such as this are wide and varied. For example, you have a great idea for a campaign based on a branded 3D printing experience. The “3D printing” category scan, can help you identify a range of companies to potentially partner with.

Another software platform company is Kite. Kite is trying to be much broader than VentureScanner, part marketplace, part database and part collaboration tool. Founded by ex-digital agency veteran, Mark Silva, it sets out to solve the challenge faced by agencies and brands, which is to scan the tech landscape and discover startups that meet a specific need.  Creating a marketplace and embedding a new way of collaborating within any company is never easy. The vision for Kite is definitely bold and if successful, it will be a very powerful tool.

Finally, there is Partnered, a true marketplace for matching brands and agencies with startups. The model is pretty simple: a brand publishes a brief, a startup responds, the winning startup gets to work with the brand. Due to the transactional nature of the site many of the briefs are very tactical rather than strategic. For example, one brand has a brief asking startups to respond to the challenge of increasing views of branded video content.

All these software tools have a role to play in helping both brands and agencies identify companies to partner with. In the same way that a media or influencer database is the starting point for an outreach campaign, a database of startups is just that, the start. The real skill lies in understanding the true capabilities of the startup, filtering the startups against the right criteria and setting up the partnership in a way that aligns the interests of both the startup and the brand.

David Hargreaves is a partner at BrandGarage, a co-innovation company that works with brands to set up and manage innovation programs.

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