First-to-market has been a priority for inMotionNow since it launched the first online proofing tool for creatives in 1999.
Now, that positioning for its software that manages the creative production process for marketing and creative departments has helped the Morrisville startup win its first institutional capital, $3.1 million from Eastside Partners, a fund focused on software investments in the Southeast.
It’s the latest in a series of multi-million dollar investments into Triangle-area startups in recent weeks, a positive sign after venture capital funding lagged in the first quarter of 2016. Deals include Windsor Circle’s $4.25 million series B, Practichem’s $5 million round, Organic Transit’s $2.5 million and $1 million plus rounds by Camras Vision and SEAL Innovation.
Zaloni and TransLoc raised the largest sums: $7.5 million and $8 million apiece.
Leading in a niche
Click on almost any list of project management tools for marketers and inMotion is listed. The problem it solves for clients like the LA Dodgers, NASDAQ, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Habitat for Humanity and Pep Boys is communication and coordination between marketing teams and the people creating brand images or marketing collateral and producing video and multimedia.
inMotion’s offering is three-fold: providing online proofing, tracking the process of changes and approvals and giving clients the ability to request new work. It’s all in the cloud and mobile-friendly. It’s also integrated with complimentary platforms like Canto, which helps brands manage their digital images and assets.
It’s a big and growing opportunity. Just half the marketing teams inMotionNow meets at conferences or on sales calls have software other than Sharepoint, Dropbox or Google Docs for managing creative production. And Gartner predicts by next year, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO in high-tech companies.
The growth is already represented in inMotionNow’s ascent since Ben Hartmere took over as president and CEO in mid-2013. Revenue is 14 times that year’s total, with an 84 percent spike since the second quarter of 2015. The company now employs 40, up from seven.
Plans are to hire up to 30 more employees, many in sales and marketing roles, by the end of 2016.
“We’re increasing our investment so folks looking for a solution like ours know where to find us,” Hartmere says. “There’s no fundamental shift in product strategy or go-to-market. It’s just scale.”
Targeting the enterprise
inMotionNow isn’t a traditional startup. Founder Rob Munz launched the industry’s first online proofing tool in 1999 (under the name Proof-it-Online) but began to evolve the company in 2009 with inMotion, a product that let clients also manage video and animation review. In 2012, the company transitioned from being a single product to a full creative production management platform for marketing and creative departments. And in the years since, it has hired a professional management team to join Munz, who now serves as chief product officer.
Phil Vanderwoude, who’s also an early investor in the company through his family’s fund Madison River Ventures, is CFO and COO. CTO Chris Trauzzi, who joined the company in early 2015, has more than a decade of experience in CIO and chief product officer roles. After four years at the company, Shanna Oskin, an experienced marketer in the entertainment industry, became director of marketing in 2014.
The newest executive hire is Vice President of Sales Todd Chalfin, who oversaw business development for Durham startup CloudFactory until earlier this year.
But the biggest bet was on Hartmere, a seasoned sales leader and strategic hire made by the board to secure inMotionNow an enterprise customer base and build a strong team. He’s been one of the biggest wins for inMotionNow, says Steve Vanderwoude, managing partner at Madison River Ventures and a board member.
“He’s very tenacious and an excellent leader. He’s been able to bring home important deals—he just doesn’t give up. And he’s been able to recruit a really strong team and lead them,” Vanderwoude says. “He’s done exactly what we hoped he would do.”
He’s since proved capable in the one skill he lacked too—fundraising.
Finding the right funding partner at the right valuation
The fundraising process began in 2014 at the CED Tech Venture Conference, Hartmere says, but the company won some large multi-year contracts and backed off until last fall when the team saw more opportunity to ramp up sales and marketing.
During the fundraising process, inMotionNow secured more big deals with the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Starz Entertainment and Nationwide Insurance, providing capital that both drove up valuation and let the company be picky in its investor choice.
Ramsay Battin from Eastside, a connection made through Dhruv Patel at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, was following the company during that time and his firm became one of three to submit term sheets to inMotionNow this year. For Hartmere, the decision came down not just to money but to culture.
“What I didn’t want to do is ignore what got us here,” he says. “We spent an awful lot of time building a great culture.”
For Hartmere, that means spending time finding the right people to fill jobs versus scrambling to get people into roles as quickly as possible. And it means making product improvements and adding features with concern for ease of use rather than adding everything at once. Eastside was on board with both strategies.
It also has a fund size Hartmere calls “more than sufficient” to meet inMotionNow’s needs moving forward.
Growing the team and refining the product
Job descriptions have already begun to hit the inMotionNow website. There are many senior roles covering business analysis, sales, mobile development, customer success and office management. Many will fall into the category of sales and marketing. Hartmere says one big focus will be on growing strategic partnerships with companies that align with inMotionNow and can add value to its customers.
There will be focus on new product features and function too. Next month, inMotion releases the newest version of its review + approval product with a fresh user interface and some innovation around collaboration. Hartmere calls it “a Slack for creative teams”. Existing clients have been in beta and have provided good feedback on the product.
The key will be continuing to stay ahead of competition, while convincing more creative teams they need a better solution than email, file storage and Microsoft Office.
“Most competitors are doing project management, but we stayed ahead by adding components to creative production management,” Hartmere says. “We are all about getting creative content out to market faster.”