A Q&A with Accomplice president and Chief Data Scientist Brian Lewis. The San Francisco-based integrated digital marketing startup announced at the start of this month that it has raised $5 million in Series A funding from WME | IMG. It was founded in 2013 as Fractal Sciences by Lewis, CEO Lior Tamir, Idan Benaim and Shaun Porcar.
SUB: Please describe Accomplice and your primary innovation.
Lewis: Our primary innovation is the development of a single platform from which marketers can easily and confidently make, manage and measure integrated digital marketing that drives business results. Accomplice is the first platform for marketers to launch efforts like digital ads and social media content and then link it all with measurable bottom-line objectives like sales, signups and other key actions. In the current digital landscape, many marketers want to deliver measurable performance, but they don’t know where to start, and they don’t have the technical or big data resources to fit it into their daily operations.
Many digital marketers don’t know which activities—e.g. social media, paid ads, email, and content marketing—are driving the best results and which ones are underperforming. Making matters worse, they have to create, manage, and measure each of them with conflicting tools and different workflows. We solve the insights challenge because, from the outset, we’ve built our system to collect and manage third party data integrations with unified analytics and data science, all reporting web analytics through our proprietary tracking script. We solve the workflow challenge because we’ve built a unique interface that was specifically designed around the ways in which a marketer actually works—creating, deploying, and analyzing efforts, rather than setting up barriers around channel or media type.
By supporting their workflow from message creation to tracking the actual conversion on their site, marketers can now confidently set and surpass their business goals all with one platform.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Lewis: We help marketing teams at brands and agencies, SMBs, to the Fortune 500, for B2C and B2B. Among daily users, there are three main target users who will benefit most from Accomplice’s insights, and [we] have seen customers coming from both large and small brands and agencies.
For advertisers—marketing departments and agencies running paid social and search campaigns can maximize ROI with Accomplice. Our platform removes the guesswork and tedium around bid and budget levels for online ads because our solution automatically adjusts levels based upon real-time performance data. Our ad optimization algorithm tells advertisers which targeted audience group, creative assets, and budget combinations work—and then funnels budget to those ads that perform against their goals in the most cost-effective manner. The best ads continue automatically.
For social media and community managers—social media professionals can schedule, deploy, and manage their posts across channels in one central location, and connect those efforts to social engagements and on-site activities. The Accomplice platform’s unique recommendation engine tells marketers the best time to post on each network for each day of the week, based on their followers’ previous behaviors—instead of vague industry suggestions pooled from other brands—so social marketers can post with confidence.
For digital analysts—Accomplice makes cross-channel analysis and optimization simple with our proprietary tracking script and simple, patent-pending website tagging system. Our tracking script analysts can be sure that each digital marketing campaign will be tracked against any number of website events across channels, and found in central, customizable reporting structure. Analysts can easily set, report, and maximize KPIs using a ‘single source of truth’ across multiple datasets and channels.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Accomplice from the competition?
Lewis: Our most direct competitors are the companies providing full marketing suites—Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle. The difference is that their products aren’t really fully integrated—they are mostly a cluster of several tools that were built separately and stuck together only after being acquired. They use different technologies, different workflows, and disconnected data sets, so they aren’t actually able to realize the integrated vision that they promise.
Instead, our platform has been purpose-built from the ground up for marketers doing integrated digital efforts across channels, with the data and workflow built around supporting activities that drive bottom-line goals. Because we built the platform from the ground up, it’s all designed to work together, both from the perspective of data integration on the back-end, and user experience on the front end.
The rest of the space is all doing the same thing: Either deploying ads or social posts, or building dashboard tools that report on what’s happening but not actually following through with a way to do anything about it. Accomplice brings those parts together, and uses proprietary data science and technology to uncover the relationship between each effort and web conversions like sales and signups.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $5 million in Series A funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more funding?
Lewis: Brands clearly see the current trend and value of integrated digital marketing, and none of the existing tools have been able to step forward and address that need, so it’s perfect timing for us to scale up. We have gotten a lot of results and positive feedback from the brands and agencies that have been using the platform for their marketing campaigns, including WME | IMG, a customer and now a strategic investor. This new round of funding allows us to further develop a platform that helps marketers’ actual needs, and continue to build features that will help our customers find success and peace-of-mind across all of their digital marketing activities.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds, and do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Lewis: We will continue the development of the platform, with a focus on deepening our engineering, data science, design, and business resources. We are committed to delivering the world’s best solution for marketers looking to understand and optimize the value of their digital marketing campaigns. From design to development, and customer success, we’re just focused on building something that marketers love.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Accomplice? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Lewis: It was a bit of both. We saw companies making plenty of ‘tools’ but very few ‘solutions.’ Products were being made to service a narrow use case or workflow or channel, but none of them were being built to make a digital marketer’s overall day-to-day job any easier, which might span several channels, campaigns, and content types. We saw some old-school tech companies trying to acquire their way to be able to check off all the boxes, but they spent so much money on the acquisitions that they have to charge a lot of money, especially for technology that isn’t delivering on the promise in a marketer’s actual workflow.
The ‘aha’ came when we recognized that in coming years marketers will only have this challenge increase, not decrease—they need an integrated solution and the market is only giving them individual tools or clusters of individual tools branded as one. The digital marketing optimization platforms available only focused on one thing at a time and are not goal-oriented. Despite being labeled as comprehensive or suites, they are essentially are just a collection of individual tools. We built Accomplice to solve this problem and give brands what they truly need to stop wondering how best to use their marketing dollars.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Lewis: Everyone at Accomplice brought different expertise and experiences to the table with respect to digital marketing, so we started building our product to solve the problems we’ve all faced in our careers. We then reached out and started working with brands and agencies on cross-channel digital campaigns, social media management, analytics, and so on to verify our assumptions. In doing so, we were able to get an even better picture of exactly where marketers were getting hung-up, so that we could tailor the platform to that demand.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Lewis: We saw that we were able to help marketers know how to move forward, both from a strategic perspective as well as a tactical perspective; we were able to help them understand where to apply their brand and how to do it most effectively. We are doing this through a streamlined workflow and high-performing technology, but we are also building a real-time recommendation engine to serve as a marketer’s ‘accomplice,’ notifying them of what needs their attention and recommendations for actions to take. Our customers said we were their trusted partner, helping them accomplish their goals. We liked how ‘accomplice’ nods to both the partnership as well as the accomplishment that marketers want.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Lewis: We’re fully focused on product that services marketers’ real world needs. There’s a reason that no single competitor has been able to capture more market share—it’s hard to really build a product like this right. In order to be done properly, you have to seriously invest in engineering, design, and data science. One of our co-founders is a Ph.D. data scientist, and our CTO has extensive experience in the space, and the rest of our team comes from some of the most prestigious technology and marketing firms in the world—we’ve brought the best people together and we’ve resolved to not cut corners, and that means a lot of work. But it also means we’re able to be very proud of what we’ve brought to the market. Our customers are happy and our team is very excited to make it available to the public.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Lewis: We’re priced based upon the major value-adds we provide: Insights from tracked web events and optimized ads. Marketers want to deliver the best results across the board, so we’ve made our product accessible to an entire marketing department rather than a few people with login credentials. We’re also making ourselves available to marketers from SMBs to enterprise with tiered pricing starting at $249 a month, and unlimited seats and unlimited social channels in order to empower entire teams to get in there and work together to achieve the results they all want.
SUB: What are your goals for Accomplice over the next year or so?
Lewis: While we are on track to achieve some rather aggressive growth goals, we believe it is incredibly important—especially in the marketing industry—to be flexible and be able to adapt to the responses and feedback we receive from our customers. That has served us well and has enabled us to attract the number and quality of customers that we have so far, such as WME|IMG, Live Nation, Clif Bar, Alternative Apparel, Wanderlust and many, many more.
We are already adding new paid advertising channels, emerging social media channels, advanced attribution analytics and even more sophisticated machine learning algorithms that our customers find incredibly valuable. All that said, our overall goal as a company is to deliver the best possible platform for digital marketers today.