Saturday, March 2, 2019

startup company

startup company

How Marketing Fueled A Start-Up To Achieve Uncommon Success - Forbes

Posted: 02 Mar 2019 06:09 PM PST


As an MBA professor, I see a number of students who aspire to create their own firms. For those of us educated in the last century, the courses, incubators, advisers, and funding that exist at the top schools is unlike anything we witnessed. It is far easier today to learn about being an entrepreneur and to find resourcing within higher education to support a startup. Despite the greater access, the number who have the tenacity to pursue a new venture beyond the first couple of years is limited as the challenges are quite daunting.

One early success story is a company called Rhoback, co-founded and run by Kristina Loftus, a former student of mine. I have had the good fortune to watch her develop the company from its infancy (and can attest to her grit, determination, and creative marketing prowess). As CEO, she has stewarded the firm to achieve strong early growth behind great marketing—a differentiated product that has a great story. Below, I share insight about how she used marketing skills to help drive early success.

Kimberly A. Whitler: Can you share a little background on your firm for those who aren't familiar?

Kristina Loftus: Rhoback is a high-end lifestyle activewear brand for men.  We're known for our incredibly soft high-performance and wicking fabrics and for the construction of our products, which are made to transition from activity to activity – whether that be a round of golf, an intense workout, or a dinner party.  We specialize in performance polos, pullovers, and t-shirts but are expanding our line into other activewear products. The brand was born out of social media so we tend to focus a lot of our marketing efforts in digital ad and social media to drive ecommerce engagement.  Our name, Rhoback, comes from our brand inspiration (and mascot), the Rhodesian Ridgeback, a dog that always craves activity.

Whitler: What inspired you to start the company?

Loftus: A few years ago, my co-founders, Matt Loftus and Kevin Hubbard, started an Instagram account with a couple of our friends which they ultimately used as a marketing platform for men's apparel brands. They developed a following that numbered in the thousands by posting adventurous photographs on Instagram while wearing khakis and buttons downs… essentially traditional, cotton attire. Once they started sweating through said attire, they started looking to replace it with stylish wicking apparel. We immediately realized that there were no high-quality activewear brands that reflected our fun, active lifestyle, so we set out to make it.

Whitler: Can you share more about how digital, social, and marketing activities have helped drive awareness, interest, and growth?

Rhoback's mobile pop-up shop, a custom designed teardrop camper.Rhoback

Loftus: Rhoback is primarily an ecommerce company.  We've found that digital marketing and social media are great ways to bring new audiences to our website and social channels.  That said, since launching the brand, we've discovered the importance of meeting potential customers in person and letting them feel and see our products first-hand.  So we built a wooden teardrop camper to use as our mobile pop-up shop to hit the road and spread the brand up and down the east coast - as far south as Vero Beach, FL and as far north as Nantucket, MA.  Not only has the importance and success of in-person connections been a surprise, but it has brought on new challenges. Specifically, managing the operations of the business – from fulfilling orders to answering customer service emails to procuring new growth opportunities – gets a lot harder to juggle when you're on the road.

Whitler: Do you have any news to share about how the business has grown?

Rhoback, high end activewear for adventurersRhoback

Loftus: 2018 was an incredible year for Rhoback.  We released our new line of performance q-zip pullovers and tees. We expanded our collection of performance polos and even added long sleeves to the lineup! We traveled over 30,000 miles (50K miles since we started!) selling out of our handmade wooden teardrop camper and met thousands of new faces and current customers along the way.  We have been able to grow well over 300% from last year and 500%+ growth in Cyber weekend sales alone. In our first two years, we are growing faster than industry-leading activewear brands like Under Armour did in their first two years. We've been so lucky to see such incredible growth. One of our biggest goals is to develop a relationship with UVA similar to what Nike has with the University of Oregon or what Under Armour has with the University of Maryland.  We see our presence in Charlottesville, VA, as a strategic advantage.

Whitler: That's terrific. Any insight on how the marketing activities are having an impact?

Loftus: We've been really fortunate to see a lot of traction in the industry as a result of our marketing efforts. Our focus on content creation has led to an Instagram engagement rate that is ~3x higher than our competitors which in turn leads to more loyal customers. We have also seen a number of celebrities wear Rhoback, many of which we share via Instagram, and other social media outlets to further engage our audience. Some examples include Kevin O'Leary of ABC's Shark Tank (aka Mr. Wonderful), John Boehner, former Speaker of The House, Brian Scalabrine, Boston Celtics NBA Champ, Chevy Chase, actor and comedian, Sam Hubbard, NFL defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, Sam Bradford, NFL QB and former Heisman Trophy Winner, Brogan Roback, NFL QB for Pittsburgh Steelers and HBO's Hardknocks star, Jesse Watters and Dana Perino (and her dog Jasper), Fox News anchors, and Don Lemon, CNN news anchor.

We even received a nice letter from President George W. Bush about playing golf in our polos!

We were also lucky enough to be included in some fun media and TV features from 2018 – we didn't pay for any of these, we simply reached out to editors whose audiences we thought would be interested in hearing our story. We were included in articles and features in Golf Digest, Town & Country, CNN, Fox News, Golfweek, Roll Call, Manhattan Magazine and other local news outlets.

Whitler: That has to be really exciting. What marketing advice do you have for other startups? 


1. Take advantage of creative partnerships and leveraging networks, especially on social media.  Try to tap into some of the relationships that you already have to get your idea to the next level – don't be afraid to ask for help or favors.  Invest some thought into a partnership that will benefit both parties and spread awareness of your brand or offering.

2. Just because you're new to the space doesn't mean you can't learn and innovate in it – being inexperienced can actually be an advantage! Lack of experience means you're unaware of some of the invisible boundaries placed on an industry that are just waiting to be broken. Use your propensity to think differently as an opportunity to take chances and risks on new ideas.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler and @Rhoback (Get 10% off of your first order with WELCOME10)

Business Briefs: OpenRisk Technologies Inc. Joins the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator - India West

Posted: 02 Mar 2019 09:00 AM PST

OpenRisk Technologies Inc. Joins the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator

Wells Fargo & Company announced that OpenRisk Technologies Inc. has joined the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, bringing the total number of companies in the portfolio to 21. "We welcome OpenRisk to the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator program and applaud the passion, agility and focus they bring to create innovative solutions and unique customer experiences," said Lisa Frazier, head of the Innovation Group at Wells Fargo. The Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator program began in 2014 to advance emerging technologies in pursuit of breakthroughs for financial services. Startups are eligible to receive up to $1 million in funding, along with guidance from Wells Fargo business and technology leaders to help refine the launch of their ideas. OpenRisk Technologies Inc. has built a derivatives collateral and liquidity management platform that leverages semantic web, artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies to analyze data, facilitate post-trade operations and manage risks. "OpenRisk is excited to be part of the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator and to work with business and tech leaders through the program to validate key components of our platform," said Narasimha Kodihalli, Indian American founder and CEO of OpenRisk Technologies Inc.

Indian Firm Expands Magnet360 Business in St. Louis Park

Magnet360, also a affiliate which was acquired by India-based Mindtree three years ago, has grown from 160 to 450 employees globally, since the approximately $50 million acquisition was announced in January 2016. Magnet, now part of a division of IT-consultant Mindtree has opened an expanded, 30,000-square foot headquarters in St. Louis Park. The clients, mostly Fortune 200-size firms, include Ecolab, U.S. Bancorp and Best Buy, according to reports. Magnet360 had revenue of $25 million-plus prior to its 2016 acquisition and said it was growing by 20 percent-plus annually in recent years. Magnet360 was formed in 2008 by co-founders Scott Litman and Dan Mallin, veteran technology-marketing entrepreneurs. The majority partner was Skip Gage, the longtime marketing executive and founder of Gage Marketing. Gage was chairman of Magnet's board, it said. They and subsequent investors Salesforce and StarTec Investments, and several individuals, infused nearly $5 million by 2013 to roll out what became a fast-growing firm with more than $25 million in revenue, reports said.

ShiftLeft Raises $20 Million Series B Funding

ShiftLeft Inc., an innovator in application-specific cloud security, has raised $20 million in Series B funding. This latest round, led by Thomvest Ventures, comes less than 18 months after the company announced its first round of $9.3 million, bringing the total raised to nearly $30 million. The company is using these funds to drive broader adoption of its code-informed runtime protection by expanding the breadth of its product portfolio, application coverage and global sales and marketing initiatives. The investment underscores both the importance of ensuring security despite this complex landscape, and ShiftLeft's unique ability to empower application security teams to protect the enterprise, it said. "Our founding vision is that application security needs to be a seamless part of the development process, not an afterthought," said Manish Gupta, CEO and co-founder of ShiftLeft. "The problem has long been inaccurate tools and a heavily manual process, leaving security and development teams frustrated and applications vulnerable. ShiftLeft completely upends this paradigm, delivering automated and customized protection for every software release, and the analytics dev teams need to improve on the overall security posture."

Qu Records $10 Million Series B Funding Round

Qu, formerly Gusto POS, has raised $10 million in a Series B funding round. The funding round was led by existing investor Cota Capital. The company will use the funding to further accelerate its already strong momentum in bringing to industry-leading POS solutions that address the needs of fast-casual and QSR enterprise restaurants to market. "I am really excited to bring some of the best technology and restaurant industry expertise together," said Amir Hudda, CEO of Qu. "The continued support from leading Silicon Valley based fund, Cota Capital, coupled with NRD's knowledge of operational challenges being faced by enterprise-scale restaurant chains, validates our strategic vision, market opportunity and momentum." Qu has grown into an enterprise-class POS platform that is used by leading restaurants across the U.S. to help them move faster, stay nimble, and increase profits. Qu's cloud based, API-first architecture and omni-channel ordering solutions enable centralized POS management and allow restaurateurs to deliver a seamless, uniform guest experience anytime and anywhere orders are placed. The funding will enable Qu to accelerate the development of strategic initiatives, building upon the successful launch of the industry's first integrated platform for order taking, order processing, and order delivery.

Rainshine Entertainment Acquires Stake in Kinsane Entertainment

Kinsane Entertainment Inc., a global digital entertainment company focused on 2-to15-year-olds and families, co-founded by Kurt Inderbitzin, Indrani Pillai and Saahil Bhargava, announced that Rainshine Entertainment has acquired a significant stake in the company. Established in early 2018, Kinsane Entertainment has a 360-degree approach to developing its children and family-focused universes, that includes building the franchises through a mix of videos and games. Since its inception, the company has launched two popular universes that include a pre-school focused universe that has over 50 million views and 150,000 subscribers of its videos. Its family-focused universe, 'Otto in the Middle,' launched first in the form of games and has 1.2 million downloads across the app stores. Kinsane further plans to launch two brand new family focused animated shows: Commenting on the deal, Neeraj Bhargava, chairman and CEO of Rainshine Entertainment, said, "Kinsane is a young company with an exceptionally talented team and incredible accomplishments of building significant properties like KinToons on YouTube along with globally popular games based on some very well-etched and lovable characters. We are very excited about working with their team, helping them grow their existing character brands while producing new, alluring content that captures the imagination of kids and families globally."

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