July 25, 2016
This month PIDC is proud to showcase Zivtech, a design, development, and digital marketing agency, headquartered in downtown Philadelphia. This full service operation is powered by a team of 32, who each help to deliver Zivtech services.
We interviewed Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg, the Co-Founder and CEO, about how his company was introduced to our Contract Line of Credit and how it furthered Zivtech’s mission.
Q: If you could, please describe Zivtech for our readers.
A: Founded in 2008, Zivtech is a full service agency offering digital design, development, and marketing with an emphasis on open source platforms such as Drupal and node.js. Our markets are healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education, publishing, government, startups, and nonprofits. We create high quality digital properties that stand the test of time.
Q: So, how did you become interested in digital marketing and digital design?
A: I got involved with web technology through political activism around the 2004 US Presidential Election. I worked with a nonprofit called Music for America (MfA) that did youth political outreach at music venues across the country. MfA was one of the earliest adopters of an Open Source Software system called Drupal, and I became enamored of it after I realized it would allow me to take over most search terms on Google (this was before the widespread adoption of solid SEO techniques).
After the election, I started building political blogs, including one called Young Philly Politics, and soon after, people started asking me if they could pay me to build Drupal websites.
Q: We know running a small business can be difficult, especially in a new market with Drupal, what do you think was the most challenging part about starting and operating a small business?
A: Without a doubt, the number one challenge is cash flow. As a small business it can be especially difficult to project the inflows and outflows of cash that is the lifeblood of a business.
Q: So with cash flow being the number one challenge, what prompted you to contact PIDC for help?
A: Growth. It gets harder and harder to deal with cash flow as you get bigger as a company, especially as you take on more complex projects. Bigger clients offer a good measure of stability to a business and drive growth in your company, but they can also dictate payment terms that are challenging for small businesses to deal with on their own. PIDC really provided that flexibly we needed to take on larger projects and more clients.
Q: Did you know anything about PIDC before you became a client?
A: I first interacted with PIDC when Zivtech won a StartupPHL Call for Ideas Grant that helped us put on a free web development bootcamp called “Philly Dev Camp”. At that point, I didn’t really think PIDC could be helpful to my business, as I perceived it to be mostly about buying and developing buildings, or assisting with physical manufacturing. After the bootcamp, I met Ivy Olesh and David Langlieb. They introduced me to the different ways PIDC could help a services business like Zivtech.
Q: So with Ivy and David’s guidance, how did PIDC’s Contract Line of Credit impact your business?
A: I couldn’t thank Ivy, and David enough; PIDC’s Contract Line of Credit directly saved at least 5 positions here at Zivtech in Q1 of 2016. 2015 was, by most measures, a very successful year for us, but the end of the year was very challenging from a sales perspective. By early Q1 of 2016 we had lined up enough gigs that we knew we’d be able to support our staff size and continue to grow, but without the Contract Line of Credit we would not have been able to carry that staff during the period between when we invoiced for the work and when we got paid for it.
Now, I work closely with Tish and Heather from PIDC, both of which help Zivtech grow and develop. In Q2, Zivtech has had its most successful sales period to date, and thanks to PIDC we have the talented staff we need to service those contracts.
Q: That is so great to hear Alex, so where do you see Zivtech in 5 years?
In 5 years, I’d like to be close to employing 100 people, which would mean maintaining our previous 18 months of growth so about one new position per month. On the revenue side, I’d like to maintain our growth rate of between 20-40% per year.
Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for other small business owners?
A: The best advice I’ve ever been given is: it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. So just do it! I know survival is the name of the game and if you survive long enough, with a halfway decent business model, you will succeed.
Thank you Alex, we wish you the all best, make sure to keep us up-to-date with all you successes.
You can read more about Zivtech at their website!