By Tom Sharman, Social Media Strategist at Ogilvy Labs

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) is a California-based venture capital firm, founded in 2009 by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. Thier incredible portfolio includes Facebook, Airbnb, BuzzFeed and Slack.

On 28th June, my very first day at Ogilvy & Mather Group UK, I found myself in a conference room in Covent Garden Hotel with staff from across the WPP Group, including Ogilvy & Mather, to meet with Andreessen Horowitz. We were invited to discuss future technologies with some of their portfolio companies including Instart Logic, Optimizely, Mix Panel, Medium, NationBuilder and Pinterest.

After a warm welcome from Nicole Yershon, our Director of Innovative Solutions, and Amy Kalokerinos, a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Instart Logic took to the stage and opened with the fact that for every 3.5 seconds a site takes to load, 25% of users will click out. Their emphasis on the importance of optimising web pages is a core value for the company, which provides cloud services to speed up loading times by optimising and compressing websites. The process is unique in a way that it doesn’t touch any of the websites code but instead inserts a small javascript file into a user’s browser.

Up next was Optimizely, an A/B testing and personalisation platform offering a simplistic way of testing functions on a website. Optimizely plan to make testing easier and change the way a site interacts with you. We were given the example of a Nike employee visiting their page causing the site to become personalised with a unique header image, greeting message and map of the office.

Mixpanel followed with their “Dead Simple UI”. They are a mobile analytics company with the aim of allowing anyone within an organisation, from the Marketing Intern to Chief Marketing Officer, to have access to the wealth of data such as their customer database. Using initiative methods, users ask questions and queries to find out data in an easy and effective manner.

Joe Purzycki, Head of Partnerships at Medium, led us through their ideas on working with brands through promoted stories and publications. The blogging platform’s demographic of 30 million highly educated monthly users with interests in tech, arts and politics are attractive to many brands. Publications are a great way to engage with an existing community whilst attracting a larger, wider following. (You can read our Ogilvy Labs Medium blog here.)

NationBuilder’s VP of Business Development in Europe, Toni Cowan-Brown, describes NationBuilder as software built for leadership. Their platform connects data on customers in order to build profiles and map customer journeys. Originally built for political campaigns and nonprofits, they are expanding to work with brands.

Finally, Pinterest’s UK Partner Manager, Carin Lee, explained their efforts to increasingly work with brands through the use of Rich Pins which pull metadata from websites to encourage click throughs to company websites. The typically young, female demographic (40% millennial, 70% Female) pin over 3 million images in the UK every day with over 75 billion in their catalogue. The huge data collected of their 100 million users is a huge selling point for brands wanting to target a niche demographic with niche interests in arts and crafts and food.

I believe that meeting with companies like these is invaluable to the learning and growth of Ogilvy employees. The wealth of ideas exchanged, in just a few hours, was vast. Discussions of new technologies not only inspired talent from across the WPP Group but helped to build relationships and networks.

Innovation was an underlying factor of the morning, with companies trying to disrupt the market and better their competitors. Overall, I feel I speak for everyone present in that it was hugely valuable and inspiring being with great creative minds.