50 Smartest Companies Of The Year 2018

Driving User Acquisition at Scale for the World’s Top App Brands: Motive Interactive


“To survive in a fast-paced industry like mobile growth marketing, a company has to be smart,” says Brendan Smith, CEO, Founder, and President of Motive Interactive.

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in San Diego, CA, Motive Interactive is a leading global mobile app marketing and retargeting platform that drives user acquisition at scale for the world’s top app brands

Over the years, Motive has received recognition from leading publications including Entrepreneur of the Year, Inc. Magazine, San Diego Business Journal, Silicon Valley United States (SVUS) and the American Business Awards. In 2017, Motive was recognized as part of Inc. 5000’s exclusive Hall of Fame list for its five-year consecutive rating as one of the fastest-growing private firms in America. Furthermore, it has been named a top mobile media source by respected industry rankings including Singular’s Mobile ROI Index and AppsFlyer’s Performance Index. Motive is a top-performing advertising partner of TUNE.

The Making of a Leader

Motive Interactive ’s embrace of change and innovation has been exhibited throughout its history. The company was originally founded to provide online marketing solutions. However, soon after launching its operations, Brendan and his team came up with an idea to build an enterprise and web search company that clustered display results to make the search function more dynamic called Yonder.com.

Founded and launched with the help of an engineering firm in Silicon Valley, the initial business venture proved to be a major challenge and life lesson for Brendon and his team; the engineering team contracted to build Yonder stole the IP, changed the name and sold the business to a larger search company. Despite this financial setback, Motive emerged a more focused and resilient online marketing company, providing its lead generation services to universities, and companies in the automotive and financial segments.

Motive experienced exponential success, reaching profitability and scale by 2006. But, after the 2008 global financial crisis, and the loss of several clients. Motive had to reinvent itself again. Seeing the hurdle, Brendan made a decision to cut Motive’s staff by 50% and refocus its offerings to providing marketing services to online gaming companies such as Zynga and by 2010, Motive was able to re-establish its profitability and revenues. In 2014, Motive noticed that more and more clients were moving to mobile platforms and to meet this trend, the company decided to pivot its focus from online to mobile marketing. Despite these peaks and valleys in Motive’s history, the company has maintained its leadership in the performance marketing space.

“At Motive, we talk often about the importance of not only embracing but driving change. Having to adapt and innovate during these transitions were not challenges but opportunities for us to get stronger and gain more experience in the performance marketing space,” says Brendan.

The Factors behind Motive’s Success

Motive’s distinction as one of the smartest companies in America is evident in its recent investment in building out a proprietary programmatic platform that optimizes campaigns in real time, dynamically, through machine learning. Leveraging a comprehensive bidding model, Motive Programmatic varies bid prices along an evolving data set of over 100 unique characteristics to engage mobile users and optimize towards certain in-app actions, such as a user making a purchase or subscribing to a service.

According to Smith, Motive’s success lies in its ability to achieve three essential aspects: abundant data, strong technology, and an experienced team. Every day Motive’s team of data science professionals process over 50 terabytes of data and incorporate billions of ad impressions from around the world to enhance the accuracy and performance of its bidding. Collecting trillions of first-party data points on a monthly basis, the programmatic bidding platform is custom built to be the most efficient driver of high-quality users at scale in the industry.

Powered by a technology team of doctoral degree holders who continually refine the platform to optimize towards clients’ post-install goals, Motive Programmatic has the ability to engage high-quality users at scale for the world’s top app brands making Motive one of the smartest companies in America.

Along with its technical capabilities and capacity for innovation, Motive maintains a commitment to delivering the highest quality of service to its clients. Each client receives calls and custom reports on campaign performance from their team of dedicated specialists each week. With over a decade of experience in performance marketing, Motive’s in-house team of experts gives insights and recommendations into campaign opportunities so that clients are able to more efficiently scale their campaigns.

“Most of our competitors have been in this industry for 5 years or less. The fact that we’ve been around for over a decade is a novelty,” says Brendan. “When you’re a start-up, it’s easy to ride the wave of focus and urgency that are inherent to a new company looking to prove itself and stay alive. The trick is translating those qualities into cultural values that will sustain a long-term presence.”

Motive’s Culture

Motive Interactive provides an open-minded and collaborative work environment in which Motive’s employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking creative risks. To provide open channels of communication from the top level-down, Brendan does not have a private office at Motive’s headquarters but works alongside his team at different desks throughout the week. Also, to foster a culture of transparency and feedback, team members have access to the company’s financial performance and long-term strategic goals at all times. Televisions around the office broadcast specific teams’ weekly goals and public acknowledgments of their achievements.

Brendan has sought to create a corporate culture that seeks to acknowledge and appreciate every individual employee’s unique needs and personality. The company’s mission, vision and core values, seating charts, peer interaction, meeting formats, sales approach and operational processes are all determined collectively by the team.

Going forward, Brendan plans to continue building out Motive’s data science and programmatic capabilities, improving its platform and enhancing its ability to deliver the highest ROI at scale to app marketers.

The Man with Grit

Brendan Smith, CEO, Founder, and President:  As an avid entrepreneur since the outset of his career, Brendan has worked to incorporate a similar sense of entrepreneurial drive and tenacity into Motive’s culture.

Whie studying at the University of Hartford, he suffered a violent crime that resulted in multiple stab wounds to his chest and hands and left him in critical condition. Brendan continues to combat the mental wounds of this attack, battling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder to this day. Despite the lasting negative effects of this experience, Smith believes the attack enhanced his critical thinking skills, adaptability, and drive to succeed, subsequently leading him down the path of entrepreneurship.

His combination of independent thinking and calculated risk-taking is demonstrated in his history of founding multiple online and mobile start-ups, starting during his senior year at West Virginia University and culminating in the founding of Motive Interactive.