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Ten creative start-ups and apps every agency should know about

By Emi Gal |

April 11, 2014 | 8 min read

From setting up dedicated investment funds and mentoring programmes to simply working with or trialing new technology across disciplines, agencies are increasingly interested in start-ups as a way of accessing innovation.

Although that might sound like good news for my business, which makes digital video campaigns more interactive and effective, I’ve realised not all agencies know where to turn when it comes to picking new technology and ventures to work with – and there’s an awful lot of hype to cut through.

Paper: A modern day sketchpad

At Brainient we have been very lucky. We were lucky enough to be accepted into Europe’s most famous start-up accelerator programme Seedcamp, went on to raise $4M from some of the world’s foremost technology investors and venture capitalists and worked with some of the UK biggest publishers, brands and agencies including ITV, Channel4, Channel5, Disney, EA Games, Warner Brothers, Canon, Coca Cola, Mediacom, Mindshare, M4C, Maxus, Starcom, Zenith and PHD.

However, when we started Brainient back in 2009, we were one of a handful of companies (and one of the very few ad-tech start-ups) trying to get on our feet out in Shoreditch alongside some already notable names like and Mind Candy. In just five years, this number has exploded to thousands of companies.

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Then again, it was only three years before in 2006 that a little company in California called YouTube was founded and look how that has fundamentally changed the way agencies create content and campaigns. But that also means I’ve been able to view the start-up world from the view point of both start-up and agency or brand.

So when The Drum approached me about writing a monthly column for agencies on start-ups to watch, I completely understood how hard it can be for agencies to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Every month, I will be bringing you a top 10 round-up of start-up companies I think are worth knowing about for agencies, regardless of disciplines. Each month we will look at a different agency business sector, starting this month with creative start-ups (for those agencies with, and without, in-house creative teams).

I’ve selected my ten start-ups and apps (one of which is from Google which is definitely not a start-up anymore but is worth keeping an eye on) that could make your work easier, more cost effective and most importantly, better.

Typecast (fonts made easy for the web)

You don’t need to be a typography enthusiast to make your text on a webpage look beautiful on any platform. Typecast lets you easily experiment with layouts and fonts for type, while keeping them responsive across browsers and devices. This is a quick and easy way to show clients and/or developers what the final project should look like. Typecast even automatically provides a stylesheet from what you have created.

Haiku Deck (Powerpoint on steroids)

Create great looking presentations on your iPad (or your web browser) in minutes. Select themes and hand-picked decks which are regularly updated by the Haiku Deck team, all designed to make sure you follow presentation best-practice. You can even submit your work to be featured in their weekly ‘featured decks’ section if you feel like showing off.

Paper by Fiftythree (maybe a little bit too obvious but, hey, amazing sketching app!)

It’s 2014, who needs a sketchpad? Paper by Fifthythree is about as close as you can get to replicating the old school creative process on your iPad. Paper comes with the Draw tool free; but the Sketch, Write, Outline and Colour tools can be purchased from the in-app store. The only limit is your imagination. That, and the £1.49 for each extra tool.

Skitch (provide feedback on designs and wireframes, on any platform)

Use this tool to quickly provide feedback on designs and wireframes across platforms, allowing for speedier workflow. Skitch by Evernote provides a cross device platform for you to visually communicate ideas and feedback with colleagues by annotating the images. Perfect for creatives working remotely.


Don’t have an in-house design team? You may not need one. Canva offers a search, drag and drop simplicity that democratises design. Quickly turn your ideas into stunning posters, presentations, business cards and much more. Used by over 150,000 creatives, this is one to consider for designers and non-designers alike.

Real Colors App (creates colour palette from any photo)

The idea is simple. Take a photo - or upload from your gallery - and Makan Studio’s Real Colors (sic) app will generate a colour palette for a selection of five different colour theory rules. You can now use these to inspire designs. Great for designing presentation themes around your client’s brands.

Aviary (photo editing on your mobile)

Make any photo beautiful in seconds. Aviary’s Photo Editor provides loads of filters, frames and effects with the ability to share across social media platforms so you can pretend you used Photoshop. It’s free and better than many paid applications.

Magisto (video editing in the browser)

Turn your everyday videos into something more visually appealing, memorable and perfect for sharing on social media. With their artificial intelligence ‘Emotion Sense Technology’, Magisto will create something impressive from those videos lying around on your phone and computer. Just upload the video to their platform, select a theme, add music, and voila!

Google’s Project Tango

For the boundary-pushing creatives out there, there’s Project Tango. The ambitious new project is built on technology by Movidius, a result of seven years’ worth of effort. Simply put, Google has built a prototype Android smartphone that can learn and map the world around it. They are ready to get the phone into developers’ hands to see what possibilities the technology holds... are you up for it?

And last but not least, a bit of shameless self-promotion, of course…


I’m hoping you’ll forgive me for mentioning my own company here, but I wanted to get this one out of the way in my first column! We provide an online platform to make your video campaigns more interactive and engaging. Our interactive ads work across any device and even better, the interactivity can be created by any marketing professional (or wannabe) using our web-based Studio. This creates endless possibilities to showcase more content in an engaging way without interrupting the video experience. With tons of different ad formats, case studies and an in-house creative team, I like to think that our platform is leading the way in digital video advertising.

You can follow Emi on Twitter @emigal


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