Fivegrid co-founder Suryabala Shenbagamurthy was inspired to build the digital business during the early stages of the pandemic, when many businesses were shifting digital first
“Restaurants were leveraging apps like Menulog and Deliveroo. And my father who is a small business owner in India decided to launch an e-commerce site. But he couldn’t find the right digital marketing experts to start selling online,” Suryabala says.
Surya’s father was not alone. According to a recent study by CPA Australia, Australian small businesses were the least likely to begin or increase online sales during COVID-19 or use social media for business.
“So my partner and I took a big-picture approach and built Fivegrid. One login to create, manage and report on digital ads across all channels. This includes, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Yahoo Mail, MSN, Apple News, and many more,” Suryabala says.
“In a fraction of a second, there are many platforms working together, to reach the right customers on the right platform at the right time. Despite the outstanding innovation in ad tech over the years, the digital marketing landscape is still fragmented.”
“And some of these platforms come with a high price point. One that not many small and medium businesses can afford or have the right expertise to onboard and manage.”
“Our goal is to address this gap using automation. In Fivegrid, businesses can access key digital marketing features such as premium digital media channels, unlimited campaign activations, real-time reporting dashboard, multi-channel digital ad rendering and more for just $150 per month.”
Surya says another industry trend is that businesses directly associate digital ads to Google or Facebook.
“Which is probably where customers spend most of their time. But according to a recent study by ACMA, Australians are also spending time on emails, general web browsing, news, watching videos and banking/paying bills. At Fivegrid, we are integrated with customer touchpoints beyond social media channels. And the best part, you can use our platforms with little to no knowledge on digital marketing.”
Suryabala was driven to be an entrepreneur due to the need to drive change.
“Online channels like social media, news, and emails are easily accessible to customers. But the means to reach online customers through cross-channels is still a challenge for SMBs. It’s time to challenge that status quo.”
“I was also driven by personal growth. I have over seven years of experience in the digital ad industry. I have worked with some of the most talented people and a diverse portfolio of clients. There was a time when I was building marketing strategies for clients in both the luxury automobile and security software industry. It was truly a great exposure.”
“But running my own business fast-tracked my personal development. I am discovering new skills that I enjoy every day. One, in particular, business is designing. I am now in Figma and Adobe XD designing user experiences, product mockups and graphics. It’s a fun world!”
The biggest success so far for Fivegrid came after their first outreach program in the Sydney startup community.
“It was a dream come true. We had over 40 businesses registered interest to trial our product in the first week! And after the initial beta phase, I leveraged my professional network for referrals,” Suryabala says.
“The very first business that we engaged with turned out to become a paid customer and a partner. UnLtd is a not-for-profit organization in Australia connecting the media, marketing and creative industry with charities working with at-risk children and young people.”
Kate Holland, Account Director for UnLtd: “Many of our charity partners have lean marketing teams, so it is great to have a platform that frees up time through automating the digital marketing process. Our Fivegrid partnership makes campaign set up and management possible internally for our charity partners, no matter their level of digital marketing knowledge.”
Fivegrid is currently integrated with Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Verizon Media and Taboola. Surya says they’re in the process of supporting more marketing objectives including social media engagement, e-commerce sales and integrating with new channels such as LinkedIn.
“As part of our partnership with UnLtd, we’re supporting a very exciting marketing campaign called Be a Hero for HeartKids. Hero for HeartKids Day is a fun initiative whereby workplaces, schools, childcare centres and the broader community dress as a superhero on Friday 18 June to raise funds to support children with heart disease and their families.”
“Previously, HeartKids primarily leveraged Facebook ads to raise awareness online. But with Fivegrid, we have launched an omni-channel strategy to target users in both Facebook and native display through Verizon Media and Taboola. Initial results are incredible. We are seeing a strong performance at $0.60 cost per ad click (80% more cost efficient) and 0.43% click rate (vs 0.05% display click rate, industry benchmark)”
More exciting news for Fivegrid is their partnership with Verizon Media.
“Over the next few weeks, we will work with the native display experts at Verizon Media and automate best practices to drive more digital ad cost efficiencies for SMBs. We also hope to collaborate, build online forums and webinars to support SMBs launch and explore digital marketing. Watch this space!” Suryabala says.
Paul Sigaloff, Managing Director ANZ INSEA at Verizon Media: “Small businesses are the foundation of what moves the world forward. Verizon Media is proud to support the SMB community in a variety of different ways including as a partner of Fivegrid. By providing access to our Native product suite, Australian SMBs are empowered with market-leading technology to take their businesses to the next level. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved as we progress Australia’s tech scene forward and foster digital inclusion for all.”
Suryabala says being part of the Fishburners community has greatly helped Fivegrid with their entrepreneurial journey.
“I was introduced to Fishburners two years ago when I was pitching another startup idea which unfortunately did not go to market. But when networking during the pitch event, I got a sense of community, support, a space to be authentic, and most importantly, positive reinforcement. It was exactly what I was looking for when I started working on Fivegrid,” Suryabala says.
“The mentor and expert-in residence program in particular has been very valuable. Before I joined Fishburners, I thought I had the startup world all figured out. Oh boy, was I wrong! Thanks to the mentors who guided us through every step of the way, whether it’s defining a pricing model, accounting, or feedback on UX.”
Suryabala has some great advice for other startups:
– Celebrate the small wins. When you are leading a startup, you are doing a million things at once. And at times, you overlook the moments that matter the most. The moments that define your startup journey.
– This includes your first paid customer. First positive customer feedback. First social mention. First customer email. These are the moments to cherish. Pause when you can to appreciate the path you have taken and your accomplishments so far. As they say, it’s all about the journey, not the destination.
– Be prepared to take risks. As a startup member, you are probably dealing with a lot of unknowns. You probably don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from or if your startup will be around in six months. This can be a bit daunting, but don’t let that hold you back. Be brave, seize every opportunity and make the best out of it.
– It’s also great being part of other founder’s journey. Celebrating their wins and product releases. A great network to meet brilliant minds and learn from their experiences.
“Working from home has been challenging. And the Fishburners startup hub is a great space to brainstorm, visualize product roadmaps on whiteboards, do customer research and just the right change of scenery that we needed to keep us going.”