Michael Schreck Back in Boston as New Zmags CEO; Digital Publishing Firm Shifts to Commerce
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on m-Qube, the three biggest changes in mobile marketing in the past decade are: consumers using their phones for data; device capabilities allowing for a rich experience; and carriers no longer dictating what can be done, “which allows for more scalable business models but also a lot more competition,” Glass says.
(Interestingly, Schreck is not so bullish about the future of mobile apps as a marketing strategy. “Trust me, I’ve downloaded 200 apps to my phone. I look at five every day, and the others are not part of my daily life,” he says.)
Schreck connected with Zmags through his VC friends, and was impressed by its potential. “Now that you’ve introduced the iPad, expectations have changed. Brands have to rise to meet that moment. Giving me a mobile Web page isn’t going to be good enough,” he says. Now it’s about providing rich media—engaging videos and interactive content—that can drive consumers to buy your brand. “Now, all those things you imagined—offline content, online, the best content—you can put into the Zmags digital experience,” he says.
Zmags is profitable and has more than 100 employees worldwide, with about 40 in Boston. The company has raised a modest amount of venture capital (around $7 million) from investors including Northcap Partners and OpenView Venture Partners. Its last financing round was a couple of years ago, so the obvious question is whether Schreck is coming in to raise a big round.
Schreck declined to comment on any specific fundraising plans, but he did say there has been a lot of interest from VCs. Yet he knows to be very careful taking money. Companies are “raising insane amounts of capital because they feel they need to deal with these trends,” he says.
Of course, Schreck knows all the VCs in town, so he probably won’t have much trouble if that’s the way Zmags goes. “He’s a magnet for talent,” says Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners, who worked with Schreck on Upromise around 2000. He adds that Schreck knows how to start, build, and scale companies—especially consumer- and brand-driven businesses—and is a “shrewd investor.”
It certainly sounds like Zmags is thinking big. “We’ve got to figure out how to be effective,” Schreck says. One of the company’s greatest challenges is to “cut across cultural and linguistic barriers to serve [global] customers,” he says. If the firm were to go the VC route, he adds, “You’ve got to align the vision really tightly with the venture capital principal. They have to believe it as much as you do, because there are going to be moments of doubt.”