Halifax-based visual intelligence platform Dash Hudson has made the transition since its founding in October 2014 from a men’s style app to a platform that brands can use to turn their Instagram accounts and social media presences into quantifiable instruments for measuring and increasing engagement with consumers.
Last week, Dash Hudson CEO Thomas Rankin found himself on a stage in New York City at the Glossy Forum with Ali Weiss, Director Marketing for beauty industry start-up Glossier, explaining to a room full of the fashion industry’s best and brightest how a savvy use of technology is becoming essential to surviving the same kind of transformation that is changing industries across every vertical.
Glossy is a Digiday Media publication that covers the ways that technology is changing the fashion and luxury industries.
During the moments when he wasn’t silently wondering to himself how beautiful NYC looks form the top of One WTC while standing on a stage talking to a room full of fashion executives, Rankin was demonstrating the value proposition offered by his company, Dash Hudson, which now counts among its client base brands and publishers across the luxury, apparel, beauty, publishing, food, and travel sectors, including Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham, Glossier, Vanity Fair, and Hyatt.
For several years prior to Dash Hudson, Rankin was Nova Scotia early stage venture capital fund Innovacorp’s investment director, presiding over the successes of Maritime companies like LeadSift and GoInstant, which was acquired by Salesforce.com in 2012 for $70 million.
Dash Hudson’s initial $400,000 fundraise came via former Groupon CTO Paul Gauthier and DHX Media co-founder Charles Bishop in June 2014, with a $1 million fundraise following in March 2015, from Innovacorp.
Other than that, Dash Hudson has been in the fortunate position of growing organically through revenue, although as Rankin makes clear in an email interview with Cantech Letter, he’s “always interested in chatting with new partners about working together to scale Dash Hudson.”
Cantech Letter talked to Dash Hudson CEO Thomas Rankin via email.
Can you describe in a nutshell what Dash Hudson does?
Dash Hudson is a visual intelligence platform, working with the world’s best brands and publishers to share more photos and videos that people care about. Our software enables brands to source, create, measure, and enhance the engagement of their media, bringing more certainty to the marketing process and increasing ROI.
How big is the market? I get the sense that leveraging “user generated content” or social media for marketing purposes is still a very nascent way of operating for most brands.
Brands and publishers communicate almost exclusively with their customers through photo and video. They need a way to better predict which photos and videos will perform, and to measure the impact of those photos and videos, wherever they are shared (on social, their website, on product pages). User-generated content is now one of they key sources of content for brands, and also an input to most brands’ creative process. This is a massive market, as every consumer brand and publisher needs ways to ensure performance of their photos and videos, across billions of touchpoints.
Ad agencies think very differently. Their business is based on generating value through the creative process, and charging brands for that. User-generated content is very low cost, and so doesn’t necessarily fit with the ad agency model.
You’re based in Halifax. Do you have other offices, or are you regularly making trips to the United States to communicate with clients?
We are based in Halifax and New York. We also regularly travel to meet with customers, be it New York, Los Angeles, London or Paris.
The only fundraising we know about is $1 million from Innovacorp in 2015 and $400,000 from former Groupon CTO Paul Gauthier and DHX Media co-founder Charles Bishop in 2014. Is there more fundraising on the cards, or is Dash Hudson primarily focused on organic growth through revenue?
We’ve been lucky in that we were able to get the company to a state of profitability very quickly. Growth has been organic and rapid. We are always interested in chatting with new partners about working together to scale Dash Hudson.
On a macro note, you’re a Maritime success story. The Canadian technology and start-up scene is very much focused on Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, with Montreal and Vancouver regarded as second cities and not much energy devoted to the Maritimes. How did you do it, and what’s your feeling about the scene out there?
Great question! Halifax is definitely a nascent scene, but maturing quickly. Volta Labs, started by Jevon MacDonald and Patrick Keefe, has become a key focal point for the community. It’s like a mini-Communitech. Iain Klugman is even on the board 🙂 Halifax is a great place to start a business because it is a university town and generates tons of young, smart talented people who want to do something interesting. There’s also some culture of B2B software success (through Radian6, GoInstant, and others) which means founders here are surrounded by other founders and executive teams who have done it before. We did it because we found smart people who wanted to be involved in something challenging and interesting, and giving them the opportunity to learn and make mistakes. We also tried to ‘feel’ like a New York company, which meant being brash, confident yet humble, and moving very fast through the company’s development cycles. This is perhaps a different approach than other Canadian companies who can be more self-referential.
You’ve recently rolled out support for Snapchat, in addition to Instagram, as a way for companies to build their brands with consumers. What’s the potential market there?
Snapchat still has massive upside. We got in early with our Snapchat marketing platform, and we’re excited to see Snapchat roll out even more capabilities and ways for brands to be successful on the platform. Facebook is still one of the three most important technology companies in the world. It continues to grow at astounding rates. Facebook as a social network feels ‘old’ but is still used by billions around the world. Instagram as a social network (owned by FB, of course) is just getting started and stands to take Facebook through the next age of social. Instagram is a very high value platform because of its high engagement and visual nature. For brands, it drives significant results because people are there to shop and discover brands. We focus our energy on emerging channels, and also work to determine what will happen next in the market, be it on a social platform, or independent of those. Stay tuned 🙂