Is Monetate’s Move to NYC a Blow to Philly Tech?
Say it ain’t so: Monetate will no longer be headquartered in the Philadelphia region. By the end of the first quarter this year, the leading e-commerce marketing platform expects to relocate its corporate headquarters to New York City.
The move is strategic, the company says, and is only the first in a series of upcoming changes that will bring the company into its next stage of growth. As Monetate invests in its 1-to-1 personalization platform, the company says it only makes sense to move closer to its customer base.
“[New York City] is where our clients and partners are. It’s where the marketing ecosystem is. That’s where retail and fashion are. That’s where the agencies are. It’s where’s it’s at,” Monetate CEO Lucinda Duncalfe told Philadelphia magazine.
Monetate is just shy of nine years old, and in the last few years it’s gobbled up more clients than anyone else in the Internet Retailer 500. Moving forward, the company sees a key opportunity to help its big-time brands like The North Face, Best Buy, and QVC give customers a shopping experience that’s even more personal. If you’re 6’1″ like Duncalfe is, for example, the brands you’re loyal to should show you the products that will fit.
“If we are successful, when you go online, the sites you visit will be speaking directly to you. We are pushing the envelope and might be ahead of the market,” David Bookspan, one of Monetate’s founders and board members, told Philadelphia magazine.
By the end of the first quarter, along with the move, the company will launch new products to help companies meet the its marketing goals. It will also announce new clients, personnel changes, and even executive shifts, all in the name of company growth and alignment.
But with Monetate being one of the region’s flagship companies, it’s impossible to not question whether its good news is in fact bad news for Philadelphia, a blow to our burgeoning tech ecosystem.
I asked Duncalfe whether she felt the following association had been established over the years: When you think Philly tech, you think Monetate. When you think Monetate, you think Philly tech. (Duncalfe was the face of Philly Mag’s November “Revolutionary Bosses” issue, which showcased 42 of the region’s big-thinking leaders and their big ideas.)
“That must be true to some degree,” Duncalfe said. “I’ve done a lot of companies here, and [Monetate] is clearly one of a small cadre of companies that’s reached our scale,” though she feels that Monetate’s location in the suburbs has kept it from being as “ingrained in the texture of the tech community” as she thinks it should be.
But the move is certainly not an abandonment of the city, she said. Philly will continue to be home to more than 60 percent of Monetate’s team and the company has specifically chosen to conduct hiring that is “geographically agnostic” to maintain its Philly base. “Our executive team is spread out all around the globe — Palo Alto, Michigan, Boston, Montreal. That will continue,” Duncalfe said.
The Conshohocken office will be Monetate’s development center, and most of the company’s core services will continue to come out of there. The New York City office, which might end up in SoHo, will initially house the executive, sales, and services staff. It’ll also allow Duncalfe, who’s already been splitting her time between the two cities, the chance hold client meetings and interviews outside of coffee shops.
“We’re trying to get the best out of both worlds,” she said. “Philly has a more grounded, reasonable culture, and we want to keep that, but we want to wrap [Monetate] around with a little more excitement and dynamism that you get in NYC.”
Duncalfe also stressed the need for Philly to accept and be proud of the nature of the ecosystem that it has. “Philly is not the center of the ad world. It’s not likely that Philly will produce the next Instagram,” she said. Philly is much more real and conservative — a place that has built and will continue to build things that people value and will pay for. Building and maintaining the tech ecosystem is a challenge the city faces, but with the share of big companies that are now dabbling in the tech community, Duncalfe says, more companies in the future will be able to scale and keep 100 percent of the company here.
To Bookspan, Monetate’s relocation validates Philly’s tech ecosystem, proving that it’s fertile soil for building world-class companies. “With Monetate, Philly has done something that many people thought couldn’t be done — built a global tech company,” he said, adding, “We hope that Monetate’s growth has fueled, and will continue to fuel, Philly’s growth.”
Looking ahead, Duncalfe said the move, which has been a topic from before she even became CEO, feels really good and really natural. “This is just the beginning of an exciting year for us, our clients and ultimately the consumer.”
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