The 'Indie agency matchmaker' that aims to disrupt marketing
“There was just this insatiable desire to start a business again and to really change things,” says Pete Sayburn, co-founder and CEO of Studiospace. Sayburn is back in the news with the launch of Studiospace, a platform which allows companies to communicate requirements to marketing agencies and choose from the best pitches. A sort of dating agency for the marketing industry.
The serial entrepreneur sold his previous company, an innovation business called Market Gravity, to Deloitte in 2017
The business had aided its blue-chip client base to launch new products and innovations, as well as expand into fresh markets. It grew to a headcount of 100 staff with a list of major clients and international offices.
After the sale, Sayburn, along with his business partner Gideon Hyde spent three years integrating the team and building a global footprint within Deloitte. By June 2020 they’d completed a successful ‘earn-out’ and both knew it was time to move on, however, ‘retirement’ just didn’t feel like an option.
“There was this insatiable desire to do it again. But it took us almost a decade to build Market Gravity. This time, we wanted to do it faster.”
Sayburn and his team were fascinated by whether the most creative entrepreneurial businesses can work effectively with major corporations - a chasm that is often hard to cross.
“Throughout my career, I’ve worked with small businesses and I’ve run them myself. So I know first hand how hard it is for a small company to win a contract with a large one.
“Corporate companies often have long-winded procurement processes, preferred supplier lists, paperwork and compliance which excludes smaller companies. It’s just too time-consuming and expensive for SMEs to jump through all of these hoops.”
Sayburn sensed the direction but wanted the right sector to disrupt. One where there was a mass of untapped agency talent, plus some bigger players for them to disrupt.
“Marketing agencies were the perfect target. Despite everything that’s happened with digital, the industry has barely changed in 50 years.
“It’s still very Don Draper and Mad Men. There are these agency beauty parades which the smaller companies can’t cope with and so all the best briefs go to the big guys like WPP, IPG and Accenture.”
Taking inspiration from Silicon Valley success stories such as Uber, Airbnb and eBay, they created a tech platform which brings together senior marketing leaders and indie marketing agencies.
The CMOs at major brands are able to use Studiospace to put a shout out for new work. The platform matches their brief with relevant suppliers and arranges ‘chemistry meetings’, effectively working as a matchmaker.
Crucially, it also handles contracting on standard terms and conditions, as well as payments - chopping away the bureaucratic hoops which prevent the two working together. Studiospace also ensures the agencies are paid on time, addressing the huge cash flow problem resulting from late payments.
“We are kind of like a dating service for marketers, with wedding planning and a bit of pre-nup thrown in,” says Sayburn.
Since going live in January this year, Studiospace has pulled in some major brands including Aviva, Jaguar Land Rover, Gala Games and AXA. It also has over 100 indie agencies on its books.
“The combined workforce of our indie agencies amounts to over 2000 people. So we are, in effect, one of the biggest marketing companies in the world, even though we don’t own any agencies.”
In September this year the business gained £1.5m of funding from Fuel Ventures, a fund set up by serial entrepreneur Mark Pearson. For Sayburn, the future direction of the business is clear.
“We want to give the likes of WPP and Accenture a run for their money. The marketing industry is ripe for disruption, and we’ve got the platform to do it. It also feels great to be helping some of the hottest indie talent get access to the best briefs."