Bogusky Hopes to Capitalize on Ad Tech Boom with New Accelerator

1/30/14Follow @MichaelXBD

A new startup accelerator co-founded by advertising legend Alex Bogusky is launching in Boulder, CO, with big plans to disrupt the advertising and marketing industries.

The accelerator, named Boomtown, plans to support startups that are changing how consumers and brands use technology to interact with each other. It was unveiled Thursday, and is accepting applications ahead of a launch in March.

Boomtown will consider working with a wide range of tech startups, but plans to leverage its core expertise in marketing and advertising, co-founder and co-director Toby Krout said.

“Our focus is to identify the interesting ideas and teams in the ad-tech space,” Krout said. Boomtown will have an expansive definition of that field, which will include “how ad-tech spreads out into media, and social, and design,” he said.

Bogusky said the accelerator will capitalize on some of Boulder’s strengths: its well-known startup culture, depth of entrepreneurial knowledge, and the nucleus of innovative marketing companies.

“There’s a lot of expertise in tech and a lot of expertise in marketing,” Bogusky said, calling Boulder “the Madison Avenue of the West” for its number of advertising agencies, including Crispin Porter + Bogusky, his former firm.

Bogusky was the co-founder and long-time creative force at CP+B, which opened a large office in Boulder during his tenure. The firm rose to prominence in the 1990s and 2000s because of quirky and award-winning ads for brands like Volkswagen and Burger King. It also was an early pioneer in viral marketing.

Boomtown’s co-founders believe the ad industry is going through dramatic changes that are remaking media and advertising—changes that could allow tech-savvy startups to flourish.

“That movement toward a more democratic media system is making it really hard to support mega-agencies and mega-media companies, and that fracturing is basically an opportunity,” Bogusky said.

“When you combine that with new things like big data and social, there are some really interesting things happening at the nexus there,” Krout said.

Just like with tech startups, talented people are leaving (or in some cases losing) jobs with incumbent companies and starting their own firms, Bogusky said. Tapping into the knowledge of Boomtown’s mentors and their networks could help them develop their companies.

Boomtown initially will take the now-standard form for seed-stage accelerators, taking a 3 to 7 percent stake in a company in exchange for a $20,000 investment and services like legal help and branding advice. Companies will get access to a network of mentors as they develop products and their business strategy. The program will last 12 weeks.

That format could change, Krout said.

“Even though we’re learning from accelerators that have led the way, we’re also exploring unique ways accelerators could pivot and change,” Krout said.

The evolution likely would depend on changes in the ad industry.

“We’re really curious about creating relationships with agencies to help them accelerate business units,” Bogusky said. “Agencies are more and more involved in innovation … but it’s a difficult process sometimes within their structure. I think there are interesting ways we could be partners.”

Boomtown is not the first Boulder-based accelerator. The biggest name is Techstars, which pioneered the model and has now spread nationwide. There’s also the Unreasonable Institute, an accelerator focused on mentoring startups that tackle social and environmental problems.

Bogusky doesn’t think Boomtown will have trouble differentiating itself, given the digital marketing expertise of its mentors and its focus on firms that combine tech and marketing.

Farmore Capital Group, an Atlanta-based investment company, is the lead investor in Boomtown.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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