I founded Curb in a basement in W1, London in 2008. We wanted to be an agency that had a real niche on how brands could connect and communicate with media. One of our high-profile early works was in February 2009, when London experienced its worst snow storm in almost a century and we saw the opportunity to try out snowtagging for the sports brand Extreme, placing hundreds of snow tags across the West End. Our ethos has always been about being clever about new opportunities for brands.
Two years on from that, we had £1m in revenue, a team of eight and remained focused on green media and novel ways of communicating brand messages. But for many clients, it was too much of a niche. So in 2011 we switched our focus to innovation and that was the pivotal point for us as an agency. By the following year we were really building our own IP and creating new opportunities in the marketplace offering longer-term enterprises and so Visualise was born in late 2012. It is now an agency in its own right with a team of 22. Dooh.com was founded in 2013 and so on the one hand, Curb had become a really robust agency enabling brands to do extraordinary things, and on the other we were building new agencies, almost with an incubator effect. This year has seen us create a huge VR headset for Sony Playstation and sail a 100-metre digital running track down the Thames for Virgin Media.
Chime conversations begin
We started talking to Chime on a non-acquisition basis about two years ago. The conversation started to gather momentum first on a supply basis and we did a few projects together. Then last year we started to discuss our digital offering and the conversation really scaled up.
CSM’s business, Icon, received a brief from England Rugby 2015 to create a digital experience for fans. We worked alongside them with dooh.com to create the Twickenham Towers, two huge screens projecting fans social media messages on to the stadium itself. We asked Twitter to team up with us and delivered one of the biggest social media campaigns at Twickenham.
Following the success of the campaign, the conversations between Curb and Chime moved from agency and supplier relationships to working together to deliver for clients. The talks became more formal but really focused around the opportunity to deliver together. We had already soft launched Meshh with Icon back in March and so the synergies were there.
The formal acquisition
We signed the papers two working days before the announcement (15 November). Everyone at Curb has worked with the Icon team so the announcement was so straight-forward as the chemistry is already there. The team at Curb is excited to be able to scale our proposition all over the world with a team that we have already worked with.
Every agency has a natural path of progression and a founder can take it to a certain place with help. That may come in the form of mentors, investment or other channels. Or it can come in the form of a new company coming to you to build a bigger better business.
I had to ask myself what the next step was in terms of fulfilling my ambitions for Curb. Some founders will feel their agencies need to remain independent, it can be difficult when you have effectively birthed a company and helped it grow. There are a lot of emotions around that, but for me, the question was about what was the practical, commercial step for scale.
We will enter 2017 in the same office, with the same team and the same name. We’ve been acquired for our innovation and CSM has also bought us for our brand, so Curb stays. Together we can now deliver more of a full-service offering and global campaigns for brands that want to do extraordinary things.
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