StartUp The Conversation: A Startup Success in ePrize

August 28, 2013, 5:27 PM

ePrize is a digital engagement agency headquartered in Pleasant Ridge. Since its founding in 1999, ePrize has expanded to offices in New York, Chicago, LA, Nashville and Seattle. ePrize also recently helped fund a startup -- LevelEleven, a salesforce motivation app developer in the Madison building.

StartUp The Conversation is an occasional series on Deadline Detroit that features local startups and small businesses. Deadline Detroit submits questions and Janice Pollard, marketing and public relations manager at ePrize, responded in writing.

What does ePrize do?
We work with Fortune 500 companies and [small-and-medium-sized businesses] to execute promotional engagement campaigns across web, social, and mobile channels. We began as a startup ourselves just 14 years ago by building brand loyalty through sweepstakes and other giveaways. 

We do this through web and social campaigns designed to foster ongoing relationships, and use mobile engagement techniques to drive engagement on the consumer’s most personal device.

We recently worked with Auntie Anne’s on a national brand awareness campaign across mobile, social, and online platforms to promote a new pretzel flavor. The campaign was extremely successful, as Auntie Anne’s achieved over 200,000 registrants, 34% of whom came from mobile. This nearly doubled Auntie Anne’s goal at the beginning of the campaign.

How will you know it's working?
Our revenues have grown from $200,000 from when we started to $70 million a year today.

To further expand the capabilities and services we offer clients, we’ve acquired five companies over the last two years. Most recently, we acquired a notable competitor,, as well as Palo Alto-based Mozes, to help brands engage audiences in venue, such as at concerts and sporting events.

What change are you hoping your company brings about? 
The ways in which brands communicate and engage with consumers are rapidly changing, and we want to stay at the forefront of the process. We’ve entered a digital age in which people are in constant communication, and we want to help brands enter that discourse in a way that’s relevant to the consumer. Our vision is to be an indispensable partner for brands as they seek to create lasting and personal relationships with consumers.

Why Michigan?
Michigan has a thriving business climate to run a company. We find a strong collaborative environment here that rivals entrepreneurial communities in big cities like Chicago, New York, or San Francisco. We also have access to young talent from top local universities -- a lot of our employees are people who have grown up in Michigan and want to stay here. We’ve had the opportunity to move elsewhere, and we have offices across the country, but we keep the vast majority of our operations in Michigan. We want to stay and grow with the state.

In spite of recent headlines around Detroit's bankruptcy, it’s actually a great time to be in the Detroit technology ecosystem. Startups really have nothing but opportunity ahead and are being given the tools to thrive. There’s a wealth of individuals here who have the skills and enthusiasm to learn and grow with companies. Also, what Detroit offers that the Silicon Valleys don't is a community that knows each other. It's so easy to build your network and foster relationships because people are more than willing to introduce you to the right people to help grow your business.

What should Detroit be doing to promote business growth in the city? What barriers exist?
Play hard and feed the curious: Detroit has to continue to present itself as an appealing place for top talent to not only work, but play. Part of cultivating a creative class is giving people outlets to express and develop their curiosity.

There has been so much progress in this area in recent years. Top talent means extraordinary people. People who are interesting because they are interested. They need interesting places to visit, cultural variety, a vast array of experiences, and diverse people to connect with. Detroit hands that to them day after day, and as we continue to feed off this entrepreneurial spirit, we expect that the business scene will be fed with unique expressions of creativity.

Employees at ePrize participate in a pie eating competition.

Social media is often confusing for new companies. What are immediate things startups and small companies can do to harness social media for promotion? There are so many different platforms to engage on -- is there a go to platform or campaign style?
Social media is a great way to kick-start the conversation with customers. It first starts with understanding your audience and where they are looking for you. Second, the social platform of choice depends on your message or offering.

If you're a thought leader, a blog may be the best place to express your forward-thinking ideas. If you're a visual brand, your audience will look for you on Instagram.

Many companies automatically turn to Facebook and Twitter for their mass followings, but it is beneficial to consider strategy variation and cross-pollinate your message across appropriate channels.

Who are the brains behind the creation?
We were founded in 1999 by Josh Linkner, who is now the managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners. In March 2010, Matt Wise joined as CEO. Prior to ePrize, Matt was President/CEO of Q Interactive, a company in Chicago that became one of the largest performance-driven ad networks on the web under his leadership.

StartUp The Conversation is an occasional series on Deadline Detroit that features local startups and small businesses. Deadline Detroit submits questions and businesses respond in writing.If you’re associated with a business, contact to be featured in StartUp The Conversation.

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