Dan Cummins is the first to concede the past couple of years haven’t been kind to his website and app development company.
“The pandemic hit us really hard,” the well-known Ottawa entrepreneur says of the havoc the COVID-19 crisis wreaked on Atomic Motion, the firm he launched more than two decades ago.
At its peak, Atomic Motion was a thriving enterprise with two dozen employees and a customer list that included global giants like Toyota and Google.
But the pandemic took its toll. Cummins says a “major aviation contract” was slashed in half as air travel ground to a halt, while another client cancelled a deal worth more than $400,000.
There was, Cummins adds, “a lot of uncertainty” surrounding the future of the web development industry, which had already been upended by the emergence of software such as Squarespace and Wix that allowed virtually anyone to build their own sites.
But things appear to be looking up for Atomic Motion.
Earlier this month, the firm was acquired by WebMarketers, one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing digital marketing agencies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Cummins, who was Atomic Motion’s sole shareholder, will retain an ownership stake in the combined organization. Atomic Motion, which had seven employees at the time of the deal, will remain a standalone entity under the WebMarketers umbrella and will continue serving enterprise-level and public-sector clients that include Canadian Blood Services, Global Affairs Canada and NASA.
“The timing just seemed great,” says Cummins, who will take on the role of chief strategy officer.
Founded in 2013 by Kyle Smendziuk and Dave Kachaniwsky, WebMarketers has grown its headcount to nearly 30 employees while serving mainly small and medium-sized clients. It continued to expand during the pandemic, augmenting its offerings by acquiring social media agency Media Launch and launching Phantom Productions, a division focused on photo, video and animation services.
The company recently began courting larger customers in a bid to steepen its growth trajectory. Smendziuk said bringing Atomic Motion into the fold will accelerate that process by adding blue-chip enterprise-level clients to its roster.
“We’re excited to be joining forces with Atomic Motion,” he said in a statement. “They’re one of the longest-standing web shops in the region and have some of most notable brands in the world amongst their client list.“
Cummins, who met Smendziuk a couple of years ago, says he’s been impressed with the Carleton University aerospace engineering grad’s “energy and ambition” as well as his ability to deliver a demonstrable return on investment to his customers.
"There are so many agencies out there that it’s all about just branding and social media for the sake of social media. But these guys are all about quantifying, ‘Okay – you spent a thousand dollars. Here’s how you made three thousand.’"
“There are so many agencies out there that it’s all about just branding and social media for the sake of social media,” he says. “But these guys are all about quantifying, ‘Okay – you spent a thousand dollars. Here’s how you made three thousand.’
“(Acquiring Atomic Motion) is an opportunity for them to absorb a lot of experience and know-how and insight to the field that they really want to start going after.”
At 35 employees, WebMarketers is now one of the largest players in Ottawa’s digital marketing space. Cummins says the firm plans to keep hiring in anticipation of adding more enterprise-level clients and is currently expanding its office at the World Exchange Plaza to accommodate more staff.
In addition, WebMarketers is already eyeing other acquisition targets, including one south of the border, as it looks to expand its footprint across the country and beyond.
While the threat of a looming recession might scare some businesses into pressing pause on such ambitious plans, Cummins says he believes the industry is poised for a new wave of growth.
“I feel that the economy is definitely going to go into a downturn,” he says. “But at the same time, I feel we’re actually going to see an increase in spending – certainly from small business clients. As business becomes potentially more scarce, all of the smart companies spend more on advertising and marketing.”