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Rochester Top 100: Honed focus ignites its explosive growth

Henrietta-based ClickSpark LLC is among a new generation of technology companies in the Rochester area.

Company officials are out to prove that high-tech companies can be located in Monroe County. Silicon Valley is not the only place such a company can thrive, officials say.

“We’re kind of an enigma or a contradiction because we’re a company in Rochester with Silicon Valley technology and principles and growth expectations but with no outside funding,” said Brian Einhaus, CEO and founder.

The firm’s San Francisco office was closed in 2013 so it could expand in Monroe County: a 15,000-square-foot space on Summit Point Drive.

“Companies like us are here and can be here,” Einhaus said. “There’s a lot of fantastic companies in Rochester—some of it is traditionally skewed to the old school brick and mortar (firms), but you can do a tech company here, you can do an online marketing company here.”

“I think the irony … is Rochester won for a tech company’s (headquarters) directly against downtown San Francisco,” he added.

The Internet marketing firm specializes in lead generation to help clients find their audience. It was started in 2006 as performance-based marketing was gaining ground. Einhaus—along with Thomas Tortora, ClickSpark chief operating officer—merged firms under the ClickSpark name to focus their ideas.

“We (said) let’s decide who we want to be when we grow up and pick one of these businesses and go all in and get rid of some of the good ideas we have and only keep the great ones,” Einhaus said.

The company employs 176 people and expects to add 50 to 150 staff next year depending on client needs. Revenue growth is targeted at $24 million this year and $35 million in 2016.

When the company found its focus, it self-funded its operations from the businesses its leaders previously had.

“It’s strange after four or five years in business to then treat it like a hardcore startup and that’s what we did,” Einhaus said. “Luckily a lot of these other businesses had been lucrative and they still had revenues coming in so we used that to fund treating this as a true startup.”

Tortora believes a need for options was stalling the company’s potential.

“I think it was a little bit out of fear that we did all of those other things,” he said.  “We didn’t really want to commit to one thing, but by doing that it had us too scattered. So we learned over the years that we just had to pick a direction. We had enough good ideas and a good business model to just go down a path.”

The majority of the company’s clients are outside of Rochester and in the education and solar markets. Next the firm plans to expand its products and marketing to homeowners, working on a package that would cover multiple homeowner needs.

In education, with its DegreeMatch product, ClickSpark helps generally older people interested in earning a degree to find the right school using data analytics and targeted marketing. The company works with colleges and universities to find the right candidate in a cost-effective way. By the time potential students interact with ClickSpark, they are ready to take the next step.

“When we started this we knew we wanted to be a lead generation company,” Einhaus said. “Through online marketing, we get the consumer all the way to tee up to take an action.”

The challenge today is handling the company’s growing pains, its leaders said.

“We want to be an aggressive growth company within reason,” Einhaus said. “We’ve been growing for five years in a row now at consistently exponential rates. We don’t want to stop that, but it’s also completely tied to how much cash comes in; with online marketing everything you try at first is going to lose money.”

The explosive growth is due in part to the marketing industry’s swift changes. A lead generation marketing firm operating in 2015 makes sense thanks to a strong push for business intelligence today, leaders said.

“Marketing 30 years ago—the idea that you’d be able to track the success rate or be able to put out $10,000 and ever know what you made back was farfetched,” Einhaus said. “Now to not only exist in our niche space but to be an industry leader you have to crunch every number, everything has to work, you have to look at analytics down to the most sub-granular degree possible.

“Analytics efficiency is now requisite; it used to be a nice bonus,” he added.

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

ClickSpark LLC
A performance-based lead generation firm.
Year founded: 2006
2015 ranking: 9
Top executive: Brian Einhaus, CEO
Current employment: 176
Headquarters: Henrietta
Website: clickspark.com

11/27/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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