Inside Project Skyway: HypeSpark

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HypeSparkBy Nick Nelson

They call themselves “The Three H’s.” That would be Pete Kostka (The Hustler), Matt Lea (The Hacker) and Andre Gagnon (The Hipster).

Together, they are the backbone of HypeSpark, a new Minnesota startup by way of Wisconsin that seeks to take social media promotion to the next level, rewarding both brands and customers for their participation.

The concept itself isn’t necessarily revolutionary. Content sharing and digital word-of-mouth are already buzzing keywords for business in the social space. The difference for HypeSpark is creating targeted, non-intrusive ads that accompany shared links on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

“What we provide is meaningful online marketing that gets people through your doors,” says Kostka, whose enthusiasm befits his aforementioned nickname.

Here’s an example of how it works. Johnny wants to share a link with his Facebook friends. The link can be anything that he would have normally sent out to his network – a magazine article, an ESPN.com story, a recipe, etc. Johnny then travels to HypeSpark’s home page, browses through a series of coupons and promotions offered by local businesses, picks one out and then shares his link, which will feature an ad for the company he selected when people click to view it.

This creates a mutually beneficial advertising dynamic. Johnny shares the content he would have shared anyway, endorses a brand he likes and gets access to a special deal the next time he goes in. Meanwhile, the company advertises organically in a highly targeted network, while needing only to offer up the kind of enticing promotion they might have otherwise used on Groupon or a similar service.

Kostka refers to HypeSpark’s system as “a marketplace for endorsements,” wherein businesses can compete for advocates by offering up better deals, and users are able to essentially personalize the banner ads appearing on content they share.

With the proliferation of social media and the proven effectiveness of WOM advertising, industries are rearranging around the individual, and these three are looking to strike while the iron is hot.
OMG Agency

Will it catch on? That’s the tricky part. Social media marketing is already a crowded space and HypeSpark isn’t the first service to come along with a new spin on optimizing the process for sharing links (see: Bre.ad). Their revenue model is pay-per-performance, so the startup will only go as far as adopters take it.

For his part, Kostka feels confident that companies will embrace HypeSpark’s value proposition. The service is already live in his hometown of Madison, WI, where he says he’s had great success demonstrating the technology for prospective clients. With help from Project Skyway, he and his colleagues hope to launch in the Twin Cities sometime in May, with an ultimate vision of expanding their scope beyond bars and restaurants and into the realm of larger brands.

At this point, the Hacker, Hustler and Hipster trio are optimistic that their complementary skills and novel business proposition can spark something big.

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