Posted Jan 10, 2017, 8:35 PM
Join Date: Oct 2011
What Monetate's move to NYC means for the Philadelphia region
Local success story Monetate's headquarters relocation to New York didn’t come as a complete surprise to many in the region’s tech scene, given the e-marketing personalization company’s rising success and client list packed with major, New York-based retail brands.
It did, however, stir up the question that always tends to surface when major exits, moves or deals go down — what does it mean for the region at large?
According to industry leaders, Monetate’s shift isn’t a damning blow, and the most optimistic among them even take it as a sign of good things to come.
“This may sound counterintuitive but I think this is good news for the region," said Chuck Sacco, assistant dean of strategic initiatives at Drexel’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, in an email.
"It demonstrates that you can successfully get something started here, but once you have honed your product-market fit then you always need to assess how to best deploy your human capital, this is especially true of customer-facing resources which seems to be what Monetate is focused on moving to NYC while retaining their core development team here,” he continued.
Since Monetate is keeping its development center – with about 60 percent of its staff – in Conshohocken, a more successful Monetate could translate into good things for its regional presence .
“If the customer-facing team is successful that should mean growth for the local development resources,” he said.
Others are downplaying the possibility the move means a larger impact on the local tech ecosystem.
To Cloudamzie CEO and area tech leader Bob Moul, Monetate’s shift in headquarters comes down to one company’s decision about carving its best path forward in its specific market.
Monetate, which also operates offices in London and Palo Alto, creates software that allows major brands to customize online experiences for specific customers’ needs by using machine learning and an increasing focus on its one-to-one platform. It counts big names like The North Face, QVC, Patagonia and Office Depot as clients. A key reason for the move was to have its client-facing and executive staff close to its client base and embedded in New York’s marketing ecosystem, CEO Lucinda Duncalfe said.
“While we hate to lose the HQ from the Philly community, it seems like a one-off decision to Monetate and not a trend or sign of structural issues regionally,” Moul said in an email.
Others see Montetate's growth and subsequent move as validation the region can take a homegrown startup to the next level. It raised more than $46 million in venture capital since it was founded in 2008.
"We think Monetate's move is a very positive reflection on Philadelphia's tech community. Philly is producing companies that are working with the world's largest brands, developing market changing technologies, and growing into new cities,” Curalate CEO Apu Gupta said in a statement.
Curalate is another fast-growing startup that’s become a favorite to watch in the Philadelphia tech scene. The company creates products for brands that enable images and videos to be intelligent about their contents and lead users directly to a point of purchase. It's been able to grow, while sticking to the city, for partially the same reason Monetate was able to — it hires people from beyond its borders. Duncalfe refers to Monetate’s hiring strategy as “location agnostic."
“Curalate's own growth in Philly, New York and Seattle has been possible because of our ability to tap into the best talent and be close to our clients in multiple places,” said Gupta. “We wish [Monetate] the best of luck for continued success."
Duncalfe herself maintains a note of optimism for the region’s potential in growing and keeping more startups past their beginning stages. While Monetate's HQ move was needed for the company to stay on path, Duncalfe said she sees current progress in the local region — especially in the choices being made by college graduates at local schools — as promising.
“We have such a wealth of universities here. It went from being nobody would ever stay, when I graduated from Wharton in ‘91 nobody would stay. Now people want to stay. That is a complete sea change," she said. "We need people to age up who get how great Philadelphia is. It’s improved but it’s still challenging.”
Once those founders and tech leaders who want to stay grow through the ranks, Duncalfe said, so will their companies.