Founded nearly 20 years ago, local and independently owned digital studio Metajive is making some noise on a national scale.
The San Diego Business Journal’s sixth fastest-growing private companies (medium size) has grown more than 230% from 2020-22, with earnings of $11.7 million last year, up from $3.5 million in 2020 and $4.3 million in 2021.
Metajive focuses on growing businesses and building brands by creating websites and spearheading iOS and Android design and development with an eye on high-end design, technology and modern marketing. The company doesn’t specialize in any specific type of content, vertical or medium but champions technology-forward projects that solve problems and create top consumer experiences.
Founded by Dave Benton in 2004, Metajive has worked on more than 300 projects with clients that include ESPN, HP, Heineken, Gap, Lyft, Nike, Porsche, Quicksilver and NASA. Benton says many of their partners are such major public companies, including financial institutions, that they stipulate that Metajive keep their details private.
Benton said Metajive knows “the difference between a good project and a great project,” and that it is not usually about finding one specific thing.
“It’s about driving everything to a different level of optimization,” he said. “Whether we’re talking about aesthetically — and just making sure it looks really good, we can hire an illustrator instead of doing it at house. Or whether it’s technologically — to make sure that page load speed is a whole second faster, and that the SEO scores are that much better, or about UX and optimizing for 2% more conversion. it’s not one thing. It’s about everything.”
Growing on Reinvestment
Metajive has been bootstrapped since Day 1, Benton said.
“There’s never been a single amount of funding in the company,” he added. “In fact, there was one time we looked for it… but we were unable to raise any money even at a really low valuation. Everything’s been self-funded since the very beginning. Our growth has always been gradual growth, and then as we’ve gone through the rapid growth (in the past two years), we’ve self financed and funded everything through and used the profits to reinvest in the company and get where we’re going so it’s really good when it’s good.”
He said what makes the company a success includes innovation and attention to its working relationships, including many return customers.
“Our partnerships mean so much,” he said. “We need to be really aligned and know what the ultimate goal is… and sometimes the last 10% of a project takes about 50% of the time to get it where it needs to go. We’re very innovative. We’re very strong in our work and always driving toward our business goals. It’s what makes us successful.
“And we partner really, really closely with our clients. We set up our relationships for long-term success, and we have long lasting relationships. We tend to work with brands for two, three, four, five years. Our average project is pretty big. It’s six to nine months to do a project but our relationships are for years and years.”
‘Doubled Down’ on Management Team
Metajive has weathered a few storms, including the COVID pandemic, when it lost all its clients but two, Benton said. Since then, the growth has come. Metajive has also more than doubled its employees in the last three years, from 16 in 2021 to 38 this year.
“Thank God we had a movie theater that stuck with us through a project,” he said. “After that, we just got some really great opportunities like taking New York Fashion Week online. We’ve doubled down on our corporate clients… and we’ve also doubled down in building our management team.”
Earlier this year, Metajive brought in Mike Chamberlin. Chamberlin had been in the San Francisco Bay area for the last 20 years running large global agencies including Razorfish and Huge. He said he and Benton had been talking about working together for three or four years.
“Before I arrived I’d been very impressed with the way (Benton) sees the industry, his business, and the tremendous opportunity to grow,” Chamberlin said. “He just gets it. I loved their independence, their deep client relationships, the amazing work they’ve done for their clients, and the impact it’s had on their business. Dave and I worked out a way for me to come aboard last Spring and partner to continue to scale and grow Metajive.”
Chamberlin said he has learned the importance of creating a sustainable growth strategy along with building a world-class employee experience.
“Now, more than ever, in this post-COVID world, it is essential to create a vision, plan for both organic and net new growth, and continue to focus on employee growth,” he said. “Scaling an agency business is extremely difficult, but if you take a strategic approach to every aspect of the business, create the road map for the future, and maintain accountability toward that road map, great things can happen.”