Vistar Media cofounder Mark Chadwick (left) and developer Derek Mansen in the Vistar Media tech office in Rittenhouse Square. Photo courtesy of Vistar Media.
The beginning of a startup is “a huge software problem,” as the cofounders of venture-backed adtech startup Vistar Media put it.
That’s why Mark Chadwick and Michael Provenzano wanted to hire engineers in a city they were comfortable in. That city was Philadelphia. It was the place they learned the ropes of running a startup, while working at Invite Media, the Center City online advertising company that sold to Google in 2010 for $81 million.
Today, Vistar Media’s six-person engineering team is based in Rittenhouse Square, while the rest of their team (eight staffers) is based in New York City. They’re currently hiring in both cities. They’re one of a handful of companies that have their tech teams located in Philly, apart from their main headquarters, like Drama Fever and Traffic Safety Store.
Vistar Media specializes in helping ad agencies and large conglomerates get their ads on non-personal screens. Think: screens in taxi cabs or elevators. They also offer data for advertisers that measures who’s seeing those screens. It’s like “cookies for the physical world,” the cofounders said.
The Philadelphia engineering team is led by Chadwick, a Temple graduate who lives in Fishtown and was Invite Media’s Chief Architect. Chadwick, 33, stayed at Invite Media for a year after the acquisition, until he felt the itch to do another startup.
Provenzano, who leads Vistar’s New York office with fellow Penn grad and cofounder Jeremy Ozen, was an Invite Media cofounder who left as soon as the acquisition papers were signed, as he tells it. Provenzano, 28, said he felt like they had “won” so he was no longer motivated to work on the company.
The separation between the two cities works well for Vistar Media, the cofounders said. They like that the tech team can be undistracted by the “hustle and bustle” of the business development side. That was something they experienced at Invite Media. When things were moving really fast at Invite, the startup decided to build a second tech team in New York City and it was difficult, Provenzano said.
When Provenzano comes to Philly once a week, they get all the perks of having the engineering and business side together, Chadwick said.
Vistar has raised about $2.2 million in seed funding and has been profitable for the past two quarters, so it’s not planning any upcoming rounds just yet, Provenzano said.