Street Culture: inMarket Retains a ‘Startup Mentality’ as It Scales Up

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Todd Dipaola is a scientist, but right now, he’s making money in ad tech.

Dipaola is the CEO and founder of mobile proximity advertising platform inMarket, and his left-brain “test everything” mentality is helping push the company toward success. Advertising is inherently creative, says Dave Heinzinger, inMarket’s vice president of communications. In the data-driven mobile and digital world, old techniques such as print ads or “spray and pray” marketing don’t work anymore. Now, analytics are king.

“Everything is measurable,” Heinzinger says. “Everything goes through A/B testing to help us understand what works and what doesn’t. If it’s not working, move on. If it’s working, do more tests.”

inMarket does measure the company’s culture, holding frequent feedback sessions with employees about what it needs to improve. Heinzinger has been with inMarket since the beginning, helping the company launch in 2010. Since then, its growth has accelerated and inMarket now employs about 60 people, a 100% increase over this time last year.

Heinzinger thinks the culture is working for everyone when he sees signs that employees are growing within their positions.

“I would be a good example,” he says. “I’m more of a writer, artistic, I’m a musician. To me, to come into that kind of culture was something I learned from quickly, especially from working with Todd in the early days. He challenged me in ways maybe I hadn’t applied before. When you measure things like that, A/B testing culturally, those are valuable insights.”

inMarket started with ten or so employees in the Venice, Calif. headquarters, Heinzinger in New York City and one employee in Chicago. The whole team began meeting quarterly on the West Coast, but in the last year, that option needed to change. It became cost-prohibitive to fly the whole team to Los Angeles four times a year.

Instead, inMarket implemented a “study abroad” program, where employees can take a week or two – or whatever, Heinzinger says – to fly to Los Angeles and work out of the Venice office, just blocks from the beach. Between that, an annual company retreat in Sonoma, Calif., and near-constant video chat, emails and messaging, the team stays well-connected.

“I think when you have a small-ish team, like in the first five years, you have a lot of people wearing different hats,” Heinzinger says. “Startup culture doesn’t just mean a stocked kitchen with burritos in the freezer and tons of snacks in the kitchen, or jeans in the office. It means everyone has the ability, from the CEO on down, to roll up their sleeves and really go to work on whatever needs to be done.”

That’s the “startup mentality” that Heinzinger says still permeates the culture at inMarket, though the company is no longer considered a startup and the different job hats have progressed into more structured roles. Dipaola, Heinzinger says, is one of those people who can be found in a conference room running a major partnership meeting, or making a fresh pot of coffee in the office kitchen.

“There’s not a job too small for him, and I think that’s a great testament to his personality and ability to lead three cities with a fast growth strategy,” Heinzinger says. “I also think it’s nice that we have a flexible open door policy with Todd. When he’s in New York, he could be in a meeting with the sales folks, he’s just generally available. I think everyone feels comfortable approaching him.”

Dipaola and his brother, Mark Dipaola, previously owned Vantage Media, one of the first pay-per-click advertising platforms. They sold the company for more than $100 million in 2007 – the year the iPhone came out.

“At the time I think they thought mobile looked like the early days of search,” Heinzinger said. “In 2010 we were still convincing people that the smartphone would be a thing, that phones without keyboards would last. It was a pretty amazing time to be in the industry. Now, if you look at where we are now with proximity marketing, it’s no longer in companies’ innovative budgets. It’s a core part of mobile and digital advertising programs.”

April Nowicki is a Street Fight contributor.