PALO ALTO, CA: Just months after its headline-making Wall Street debut, VA Linux has shifted its PR business from Palo Alto boutique SparkPR to San Francisco-based Access Communications. But here’s the catch: it was actually Spark who played matchmaker for the Linux/Access relationship.
PALO ALTO, CA: Just months after its headline-making Wall Street
debut, VA Linux has shifted its PR business from Palo Alto boutique
SparkPR to San Francisco-based Access Communications. But here’s the
catch: it was actually Spark who played matchmaker for the Linux/Access
Why would a year-old, nine-person PR firm intentionally unhitch its
wagon from one of the Valley’s hottest start-ups, whose stock price
soared 700% on its first day of trading and which looks to blossom into
a million-dollar-plus account within a year?
According to Spark principal Chris Holten-Hempel, the decision to help
VA Linux find a new home was simply the right thing to do for all
’In a year’s time, we took Linux from 16 people to 250, launched the
company, got them featured in Fortune’s ’12 Coolest Companies’ issue and
helped them through the biggest IPO of the decade,’ she said. ’Spark’s
mission is complete.’ She added that VA Linux had outgrown the agency,
and needed access to more people and a broader base of resources.
Spark client epinions.com is making a similar move to a new agency,
’Taking our account to another firm was really Spark’s idea,’ confirmed
epinions.com co-founder Nirav Tolia, who has already met with a few
prospective new agencies, including AlexanderOgilvy. ’Spark has been
incredible for us, but now that we have 80 employees and are no longer
such an unknown, we need an agency with a larger set of resources.’
While losing two clients of VA Linux’s and epinions.com’s stature could
sink many young agencies, Holten-Hempel explained that both had to move
on in order to allow Spark to maintain its desired business model:
working on short-term contracts to launch pre-IPO start-ups and then
graduating them to larger agencies within a year.
’Our hope is to hover around 10 people moving forward, to stay small and
focused,’ Holten-Hempel explained. ’In bigger agencies, the senior
people spend lots of time managing people, dealing with bookkeeping
issues, setting up 401Ks. For us, the fun is in pitching interesting and
unique stories about our clients and garnering the coverage.’
Of course, in passing clients to bigger firms, Spark is not being
entirely selfless. Since the agency receives equity in its pre-IPO
clients, its employees get a lasting piece of companies like VA Linux no
matter where they end up. And with VCs like Angel Investors and The
Barksdale Group on Spark’s client roster, there are likely to be a few
more hot prospects waiting in the wings.