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How to Spot the Next Big Company

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Megan KesslerChief of Integrated Marketing & Strategy

Image by Nicholas Erwin used under CC license.

Whether you’re a PR pro in pursuit of your next client or an in-house marketer assessing potential partners for your brand, there are a few ‘tried and true’ indicators of company growth potential that we all look for. Funding is a great example.

In the PR agency world, we often assess a company’s readiness for primetime by their latest funding round.  While Series A is typically the entry point, a Series C may indicate that a company is positioning for acquisition.  Each scenario indicates a business opportunity, but the approach we take in engaging the prospect is unique, as is each company’s perspective on PR. A company that recently raised its first round may be looking for broad exposure, while a Series C recipient may be interested in raising its profile exclusively in the business and financial press, where it can get in front of potential suitors. Seems simple, right?  Not always.

One of the best times to engage with a high-growth company is before funding is even a factor.  That’s how we scored our newest PAN client, Drizly. Long before the company landed its recent $13M Series A round, PAN was sitting across the table from its founders – recent Boston College graduates with a penchant for business and a taste for Bud Light (shout out to my Alma Mater’s drink of choice) – discussing the company’s vision and go-to-market strategy. So how did we know that Drizly was going to be Boston’s ‘Next Big Company?’  Here are three less obvious indicators of impending success that we look for:

Dead Simple Ideas – As one TechCrunch reporter put it, Drizly’s business model is “dead simple.” Drizly’s CEO and co-founder, Nick Rellas, has likened its technology to a fax machine –the app simply relays consumer orders to the local retailers who are set up to serve them, enabling ecommerce without disrupting the liquor industry’s long-standing three tier system.  In an industry as highly regulated as liquor, Drizly’s brilliance is its simplicity.  The best ideas just make sense.  If you come across a company that has cracked the code on a long-standing challenge with a ‘no-brainer’ solution, chances are they will be big – especially if they’re the first to do it.

Moonlighting Potential – Consumer app by day, B2B advertising agent by night – Drizly is also a great example of a company that wears many hats.  When a company is thoughtful enough to recognize and enable its full potential – in Drizly’s case across the entire liquor industry’s commerce landscape – it will probably be big. Consider Salesforce. The company set out to end software, but it succeeded in doing much more. Today, Salesforce has mobilized an army of third-party developers to feed its innovation machine, to say nothing of the countless sales pros it has enabled across the globe.  Apple has done the same, leveraging its API to add evergreen relevance and intrigue to a parade of leading consumer electronics. These companies wouldn’t be satisfied to serve one purpose. Instead, they moonlight in many different roles and serve many masters, using each one to strengthen and improve the other.

Media Intrigue – We’ll be the first to admit it: the chicken often comes before the egg in PR. If a company is worth its salt, chances are our friends in the media are writing or talking about it long before we ever receive a call. The world looks to the media to break big ideas and highlight next generation innovation, and so do we.  In fact, certain publications are known for this. Here in Boston, our team diligently tunes in to the Boston Business Journal and The Boston Globe to stay up-to-date on the latest local players, while we look to Fast Company for the scoop on national innovators across all industries.  We also look to Wall Street Journal’s “CMO Today” to stay up to speed the latest adtech players and, like most, subscribe to the Silicon Valley blogs – TechCrunch, PandoDaily and Mashable – for insights into the enterprise tech scene.  When we see a local company make cameos across these publications, we get in front of them – fast.  Drizly was no exception to this rule, scoring headlines in BusinessWeek, Bloomberg West, PandoDaily, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and more over the past year.

By the time that Drizly officially joined the PAN portfolio last month, they were already a runaway success that had their pick of local and national agency partners. The PAN team’s early instinct and commitment to the company went a long way in helping us to stand out from the pack.

In the final minutes of our pitch meeting, Drizly’s SVP of Marketing, Michael DiLorenzo, posed a vital question:  What would winning Drizly mean to your agency?  We had a ready answer: It’s not every day the ‘Next Big Company’ knocks on your door.  When they do, you answer.


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In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.