The Bay Area start-up and tech markets are getting healthier. LaunchSquad, a San Francisco b-to-b tech PR firm, is benefiting from and facilitating that recovery.
And all it takes is one look at Jason Mandell's favorite sport to understand how the principal of the firm operates his business.
A native New Englander and life-long hockey fan, Mandell says on-ice game strategy inspires him.
"If one player is out of position, it can cause a whole system breakdown," he explains. "It's an entirely team-based game."
So too, he says, is the agency he opened in January 2000 with Jesse Odell and Jason Throckmorton, colleagues of his at Schwartz Communications. His South-of-Market office reveals no shut-off offices, no social hierarchy, and a staff of 15 working together.
"We focus on culture, internal processes, and working elbow-to-elbow," he says. "Everyone celebrates successes together."
Since its inception, LaunchSquad has worked with more than 40 companies across industries, such as enterprise software, wireless, network security, e-business, biotech, and even a few pro bono charities and foundations.
Mandell also reports that his agency has enjoyed its most fruitful run over the past 12 months, having grown from eight to 15 people during that period.
"We went through a huge bubble, and it burst," admits Mandell. "We've been through the best and worst. Now this market is doing well, and we're taking advantage.
I think our service and approach is fine-tuned [now]."
Moreover, he adds, much of LaunchSquad's business is gained by word-of-mouth referrals.
And some recent account wins - such as leading RSS platform company NewsGator Technologies of Denver, and TurnHere of Emeryville, CA, a new Internet video site that chronicles neighborhoods and places across the country via online short films - bear that point out.
Nabbing accounts is one thing, but service is the main thing with Mandell. It's a philosophy his clients have come to appreciate.
"They got what our challenges were," explains Todd Berkowitz, marketing director for NewsGator Technologies. "They asked the right questions. They didn't only want to win the business, but they wanted to make [us] succeed."
A major source of pride for Mandell is the work his firm did for TurnHere, which included gaining coverage in outlets ranging from mainstream titles to a niche barbequing blog.
"With TurnHere," he notes, "we've had to think long and hard about how to get the word out."
Another recent coup is the coverage he - a self-described "media hound" who interned with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) before entering PR - got for new client Jingle Networks, a free-to-consumers 411 information service and new ad medium. The company received mainstream coverage mainly from the consumer angle, but Mandell snagged a lengthy story in The Wall Street Journal about the b-to-b element.
"We're very excited about the success we had there," he says.
Looking back to the beginning, Odell is not surprised with LaunchSquad's success.
"We had common beliefs about service quality, how to operate, and how to give a level of service that was really solid," recalls Odell, who stresses how the founding trio's vision was always to put together a team of smart PR people who thrived on working with fledgling businesses. "And I felt a connection with Jason."
And with new staff and clients continually joining the LaunchSquad team, that would appear to be a widespread sentiment.
Principal and cofounder, LaunchSquad, San Francisco
Director, Schwartz Comms., Waltham, MA, then Bay Area
Account coordinator, Cunningham Communications, Cambridge, MA