Editor’s Note: In honor of 10 years of the IDS program at the iSchool, Alexandra Archambault will be leading you through a 10-episode podcast series. Each episode highlights a different successful startup company from the program.
Meeting with Digital Hyve and Jacob Tanner
Alexandra: This week I traveled to downtown Syracuse to visit the awesome headquarters of the digital marketing agency, Digital Hyve. I spoke with their founder Jacob Tanner.
Recently Digital Hyve was named the 52nd fastest growing company in the nation on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list. On top of that, it is the 5th fastest growing advertising and marketing company in the country.
Jacob: Digital Hyve is the first full service digital marketing agency. We like to say anything you advertise online we can do. But for the most part we’re focusing on getting results for the client. It’s much more of a direct response type of advertising. We want our clients to be able to put money in and get money out from the advertising that they’re doing. A lot of what we do is going to be Facebook advertising and Google advertising.
How Digital Hyve Helps Their Clients
Alexandra: Often the companies that come to Digital Hyve aren’t exactly sure where they should be focusing their digital efforts. This gives Digital Hyve a lot of flexibility.
Jacob: For the most part, someone will come to us and say, ‘I really need this digital thing but I’m not sure what to do. Here’s my budget.’ We will talk to them and have a discovery meeting first and get to know them as a company and figure out what they need to accomplish.
Then we’ll go back to our team and build a proposal around that. What are the best mediums that we use? That could be Facebook or Instagram, that’s really for advertising. We might use LinkedIn if they’re a B2B company.
Digital Hyve is Nationwide
Alexandra: As they’re on the Inc. 5000 list that it is no surprise, despite being headquartered in Central New York, Digital Hyve has a presence all over the country.
Jacob: Most of our clients are locally based, but they could be regional or nationwide companies that we’re working on. There’s a bunch of that may be nationwide companies but have headquarters here. For example Holistic Blends is a nationwide e-commerce store that sells probiotics and vitamins. They’re local here ,but they sell all around the country so we do their advertising. We also do all the advertising for KwikFill, a gas station and convenience store chain, all across the Northeast.
Starting Out Small
Alexandra: Despite being quite successful now, Digital Hyve, like all the companies we’ve spoken to on this podcast series, started out small.
Jacob: I originally started consulting small businesses in college. My very first company I started, when I was probably 18 or 19 years old. It was a social networking site for video gamers. Video gamers could come on there, type in their zip code and find other gamers to play games with on Xbox, Playstation or whatever console they used. From there I thought I would just build it and it would become super successful overnight because this thing didn’t exist before. So I built it and I maybe had a couple hundred people join. Then no one else joined after that for the first few months. I realized that I had to learn how to drive people to the website.
I built this around 2009 and from there I taught myself digital marketing. A lot of it was SEO (Search Engine Optimization) at the time. I started getting a lot sign-ups from that and testing different strategies like Facebook. I started driving thousands of users to the website from the stuff I was doing. But I realized I wasn’t making any money from it.
It just so happen that I had a friend of a friend that was like ‘hey, why don’t you try this out on one of our buddies’ limo company and see if that works’. I think he paid me like $300-$350 a month to do some advertising for him on Google.
Within eight months, he probably grew from two or three limos out of his house, to a warehouse with a 9 limo fleet. When I started helping him and realized it was really working for him, I realized that I had something here and I could make more money from this and I actually really enjoy doing this for businesses.
I saw a lot of businesses were hiring people that weren’t doing anything for them. These businesses would be paying $350-$500 a month and then that company would take the money and basically run or just not know what to do for their business. So I decided that I was going to do consulting for small businesses and actually help them out.
The Sandbox Doesn’t Equal Syracuse University
Alexandra: Despite spending time in the Sandbox, Jacob was not actually a Syracuse student but instead attended SUNY Oswego. After leaving the Sandbox, he gave a talk at the Tech Garden where he attracted the attention of his now partner and co-founder, Jeff, who has really propelled their sales. As the two look into 2019, they want to hire more and build up their newly opened Rochester office.
Jacob: We started Digital Hyve about four and a half years ago (July 2014). From that point we’ve gone from $100,000 in revenue, and that second year (2015) we hired our first employee and we did about $780,000 in revenue. In our third year (2016) we had about 7 employees and we did $3 million in revenue. In 2017 ended at $5.2 million with about 20 employees. This year we’ll end at 35 full time employees (we just took our company photo) and end around $7 million in revenue this year (2018).
Jacob’s Advice For Young Entrepreneurs
Alexandra: And of course I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask Jacob what his advice for entrepreneurs was.
Jacob: A lot of times it’s not super easy to start. I want people to realize it does take a lot of work. I think people just need to take more action, that’s the biggest advice I could give to anyone. A lot of people get stuck in that learning phase and they don’t actually do something. It’s ok if it fails because you’re going to learn way more from that instead of continuously trying to just learn, read, or watch other things happen.
Are you interested in Digital Hyve? Check them out here! I’ll be back next week with another IDS start-up.