As the name suggests, LaunchSquad devotes itself to helping growth stage technology companies build market momentum through strategic public relations. Founded in December 1999 by Schwartz Communications veterans Jason Mandell, Jesse Odell and Jason Throckmorton, LaunchSquad today is led by four principals (Brett Weiner, another Schwartz exec, joined in 2001) who between them have more than 50 years of experience working with more than 100 technology start-ups and upstarts across a wide range of industry categories and who share a philosophy that emphasizes hands-on partner involvement, account teams structured to the needs of each individual client, and a lack of hierarchy and bureaucracy to empower employees.
The firm calls its approach “handcrafted PR,” based on the idea “that every company we work with is as innovative and diverse in its communications needs as it is in their products and services.” So LaunchSquad likes to get to know a company by immersing itself in its business, challenges, team, technology, customers, market and competitors. Then the firm discusses, brainstorms, whiteboards and analyzes everything it learns and distills it into a story that makes people stand up and take notice.
In 2009, LaunchSquad added two new senior hires, in the shape of Todd Barish as New York MD and Mike Schwartz, who opened the agency’s Boston office. Barish, who previously headed Dukas’ PR practice, will help focus the firm’s efforts on New York’s growing technology scene. Schwartz’ hire, meanwhile, represents something of a reunion for the three founders with whom he previously worked at Schwartz, and as likely to prove an ideal fit for LaunchSquad.
Over the past 12 months, the agency emerged relatively unscathed from the economic collapse, making no layoffs or salary reductions. Revenues remained flat at approximately $4.3m, from a client roster that now includes Brightroll, SuccessFactors, Village Voice Media, NextNewNetworks, Evernote, InfusionSoft, Clairmail and ShareThis. The firm also added a video production capability, run by a professional filmmaker, an area where it sees a genuine expansion opportunity.
“I hired LaunchSquad to provide PR counsel to Daptiv,” says Daptiv VP of marketing Timothy Law. “ They are a uniquely talented team of people at LaunchSquad, and they provided not just operational PR but also sound advice on strategy and message development as well as really great work in social media. Jason personally was a reliable sounding board and great advisor on strategic communications. Hey, we got into the NYT and BusinessWeek, what more could I ask for?”
In terms of campaigns, perhaps the most high-profile was LaunchSquad’s work for EpixHD, a new cable network being funded by Paramount, Lions Gate and MGM. The firm successfully handled EpicHD’s online PR, social media and offline communication. In addition LaunchSquad continued to work with long-time client Evernote, which has become one of the most successful iPhone apps, and a poster child for a successful business model in this area - both outcomes driven by a marketing approach that is focused primarily on PR.
LaunchSquad has no formal network relationships, but does have informal alliances with a number of European-based independent agencies with which it has collaborated.—AS