news that Macquarie joins Synoptek is the beginning of a new chapter for one of Atlanta’s “OG” technology-focused service companies. But there are earlier chapters in the company’s history worth revisiting.
Because from its headquarters on Peachtree Road in Buckhead, the company actually helped shape the web and its media as we know it.
Macquarium’s home page says the company is an agency that “transforms customer experiences in the digital world.” Behind that slogan there is a story that it reads a bit like an unlikely epic tech story, one with several twists and turns touching on many of the tech services we all use today. It’s also a story that involved the birth of several new companies and products over three decades…and even has a bit of Hollywood flair thrown in.
But before the tech adventures, there was just founder Marc Adler in his Emory University dorm room working at a video production company.
In the early 1990s, the world wide web was nothing more than handouts that “were not of much use,” Adler told Hypepotamus. But there was a need for great graphics and content, something that Adler and Macquarie He was a pioneer from the beginning.
After moving into multimedia production (think creating CDs and creating early animations for clients), Adler bought a dozen Silicon Graphics supercomputers and moved his eight employees to a Midtown office in 1994.
“It was the genesis of the Internet. Everybody needed a website,” added Adler.
That was around the time Macquarie He landed his first two major website clients, The Weather Channel and Cox Communications, through connections made in an MBA class he audited while still a student. The company he would go on to build the website for the International Olympic Committee and many other high-profile clients over the course of the mid-1990s.
But Macquarium certainly didn’t stop there. To better serve customers in the rapidly evolving digital space, Macquarium created some of the first iterations of digital products that we take for granted today. And this is where we begin the epic technological story.
Adler and his team created the first content management system (CMS), known as Dynabot, in 1996. The goal was to create a self-service “dynamic bot” for clients looking to change web page content. That it was so important to the early days of the web that it was commemorated in a Smithsonian time capsule in 2000. It would ultimately become a product information management (PIM) tool.
Macquarium also created Antfarm, a proprietary site monitoring and analysis tool. Adler said that was Macquarium’s “secret sauce” and gave the company a huge competitive advantage as they were able to “keep track of what was going on with [customer’s] dollars” long before other digital marketing tools like Google Analytics hit the market.
In 2002, Macquarium entered the emerging world of online transactions (what we know today simply as e-commerce). After creating the necessary database, technology, and shipping capabilities, he launched misterart.com for consumer products in the arts and crafts space.
It was a concept that Adler began to play with while still a student at Emory when saw the unique business support of bringing such products to an online marketplace. The site eventually became what Adler described as a “consortium of art-related companies” in the early days of electronic commerce.
Over the years, Macquarium has also developed a browser-based point-of-sale (POS) system and helped dozens of household names, from Chick-fil-A to UPS, develop their interactive media needs.
While building customer-facing educational technology, the team made its mark in the digital media space. Launching their animation studio Fathom Studios, the team created the first independent CG film, Delgo, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt. (I told you there was a Hollywood twist built in.)
His short film Chroma Chameleon also garnered praise for its cinematographic and technical work.
While Macquarium has opened offices in Houston, San Francisco, DC and North Carolina over the years, Adler has always kept the company firmly established in Atlanta.
“You want a center of excellence where you can bring the most people together in the same area,” he told Hypepotamus. “Atlanta was great because it was so easy to hire people. It’s about talent. I don’t think there’s another city in the country that can compete with Atlanta on that level, and I think all the other businesses are understanding this as well because they’re seeing this mass migration of these businesses to Atlanta.”
There are additional chapters in the Macquarium’s history had to be left on the editing floor for this piece, but distilling 31 years of history for a fast-growing company is no small feat.
The next chapter, launched with the announcement this spring that Synoptek acquired the company, it is certainly an ian important milestone in the company’s history. It’s also a unique time in Atlanta’s overall business scene. It would be hard to find a digital customer experience agency that has had as big of an impact on Atlanta’s tech ecosystem or done more to put the city on the map for its tech and media talent.
And for that, it is a story worth sharing.
Photos provided by Marc Adler