This Agency’s Origin Story Starts With a Long Bus Ride to South by Southwest

Swarm founders focus on mobile engagement

Swarm partners (l. to r.) Valerie Lisyansky, Somya Jain and Jacek Grebski
Sasha Maslov

Few agencies (if any) can say they started with a road trip. For Swarm, it all began in 2013 when several busloads of entrepreneurs and developers drove from locations around the U.S. to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, competing to build a product to pitch to investors by the time they arrived.

A traveler (partner Valerie Lisyansky) on one of those buses ended up winning the competition with an app, and soon after, she and two others teamed up to launch Swarm.

While it all began with an app, the New York-based agency hasn’t stopped there. In fact, in addition to mobile apps, the company has seen more business lately related to OTT and mobile video, working with publishers including National Geographic and People as well as tech companies like EmojiFace and Quidd.

“Mobile is going to stay,” said Swarm partner Somya Jain. “But it’s getting more and more difficult to make apps that really engage. That’s why people come to us.”

This story first appeared in the May 22, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.