Startups

These two technologists launched a digital agency to meet the intersection of marketing and product development

After starting Moxie Labs, Justin Mathews and Mike O'Malley are looking to add to their C-suite in the coming months.

Plus: find out which Philly company that was tapped for the Techstars-powered program, which kicks off today.

A final group of 10 companies — including one from Philly — has been selected out of the hundreds of startups from 38 countries that applied to join the inaugural cohort of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Kicking off today at a dedicated location at Three Logan Square, the 13-week accelerator will provide access to mentorship, office space and an undisclosed amount of seed funding to companies hailing from countries like South Korea, Germany, Singapore, and U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York and Austin, Texas. "We are excited to mentor and collaborate with these innovative companies who are experimenting in interesting areas related to our business," said Comcast Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz. Though initially the program was supposed to take place at the Comcast Technology Center, the 1.5-million-square-feet tower wasn't ready in time for the first cohort kickoff. "We are excited to offer our 10 selected companies this one-of-a-kind program, which pairs up Techstars' proven mentorship-driven accelerator with Comcast NBCUniversal's deep industry expertise," Techstars Managing Director Maya Baratz said in a statement. "This is going to be an amazing year for our program and the Philadelphia startup community." Here's the list of media, entertainment, and connectivity companies selected for the program:

  • Alive5, Austin, Texas: Makers of a chat software that allows them to connect and accept payments from customers via website, social media and text messages.
  • eyecandylab, Munich, Germany: Creators of a platform of immersive, augmented reality for linear TV.
  • Orai, Philadelphia: An AI speech coach that helps people improve their public speaking skills with personalized coaching.
  • Pium, New York and Seoul, South Korea: Makers of an IoT-powered smart home fragrance device.
  • Polycade, Los Angeles: A modern arcade gaming console powered by a platform through which developers can build and sell games.
  • Portl Media, Toronto, Canada: A network of personalized media and entertainment for rideshare vehicles.
  • Tally Interactive, Toronto, Canada: A mobile platform for live interactive game shows.
  • Thinker Tinker, Los Angeles: A platform that blends traditional hands-on tactile play and digital interaction for children.
  • Trapica Labs, New York: An artificial intelligence platform to optimize online ad targeting.
  • WiARframe, Singapore: Creators of a prototyping tool for interactive augmented reality content, without coding, 3D knowledge or equipment.
"There were so many great applications, but Orai's team and product are what set them apart," said Danielle Cohn, Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Engagement at Comcast NBCUniversal. "We saw a wonderful opportunity," Cohn said of the Philly-based startup selected for the cohort. Ebony Lee, Senior VP of Strategic Development at Comcast, said the company will rely on its staff of specialists to add value to the companies as they undergo Techstars' accelerator programming. But in connecting with the nascent startups, it's also the 55-year-old corporation which benefits by having an early look at technologies, investing in them at the seed stage and connecting them with its investing arm, Comcast Ventures. "We can't be satisfied with slowing down," Lee said. "This is one way to tap into what other people are doing and how they're innovating. Having our people work with these startups is meaningful to us." There's also a community-building (and talent pipeline) angle to it, said Cohn, who led a Comcast effort to get feedback from some 1,500 entrepreneurs on the best ways the company could help foster entrepreneurship. "There are about 30 people who'll be moving to Philadelphia," said Cohn. "They'll be hiring from the local community and we're equally excited about how this can impact the tech community here." The program will come to an end Oct. 11, with a pitch session from the entrepreneurs before a lineup of investors.

Nearly two decades after starting their first company together, Justin Mathews and Mike O’Malley are launching a new venture.

The two longtime Philly technologists, who’ve worked most of their careers at the intersection of tech and marketing, recently started digital marketing and product development agency Moxie Labs, .

The duo officially launched the all-remote agency April 1, although plans to have a distributed team came before the coronavirus pandemic forced most businesses to operate this way. Mathews left his role as chief operating officer at 03 World in March, and kickstarted the launch by acquiring O’Malley’s agency Elevation, which made the pair partners.

“We noticed a niche there, especially in Philly. There’s a ton of dev-only shops, or SEO shops, but we don’t really see dev shops that also include marketing,” Mathews told Technical.ly.

The agency isn’t Mathews and O’Malley’s first rodeo together. They started Karizma Media Solutions as Drexel University students back in 2001. With the acquisition of Elevation, the pair brought over some team members and have since grown to about 25 on and offshore employees. Mathews holds the CEO role for the company, while O’Malley is its chief innovation officer.

The distributed team allows for 24-hour access for clients, Mathews said, and the ability to really take on a client from anywhere in the world. Moxie is currently working with eight clients, and is hoping to land a large project that would mean more hiring.

The startup’s specialties include digital marketing, user experience design, web and app product development and data analytics. Moxie Labs doesn’t center on aspects like media buying or copywriting in order to keep its digital focus, Mathews said, and it primarily works with industries like health tech, auto tech and fintech. 

The agency consists of about half and half services and products, Mathews said, and they’re working with a mix of clients from newly-funded startups to $6 billion corporations. The team is also looking to round out its C-suite, with three more partners who will likely be announced in the next few months.

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“We know what good tech is, what good marketing is, what good design is,” Mathews said. “It’s helpful that we’re building the products and it’s probably why marketing can fail at other agencies.”

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