Needls: What It Is and Why Ad Agencies Should Be Afraid

For the second instalment of our Startup Spotlight Series, I reached out to Justin Hartzman of needls –the world’s first “RoboAgency.” Needls’ mission is one that we share here at The Incubator, which is what made this interview so interesting. Needls’ mission is to democratize access to intelligent advertising – cutting out efficiencies and false starts in between. No longer will small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have to rely on marketing “middle men” to manage their social media ad spend for them.

Hartzman expects the needls platform to have 26,000 customers and over $80 million in revenue in three years’ time, but I believe this is a conservative projection. In terms of consumer usage, social media and the Internet will increasingly become one and the same. This is why needls is so optimally positioned to bridge the gap between businesses and consumers.


1. Tell us a bit about you and your company.

I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of needls – the first ever “RoboAgency” and the easiest and most effective way to advertise online. With more than 18 years of startup experience, I previously founded the first brokerage for online businesses, brokering more than $300 million in transactions to Fortune 500 companies, private equity firms, family offices, and venture funds.

Needls is my latest focus. Alongside my two co-founders, we have built a platform that allows businesses to automatically create, target and optimize digital ads on both Facebook and Instagram.

Using our proprietary intent engine, needls identifies buying signals within posts, tweets and status updates through Data Science and AI, ultimately determining the perfect target audience for these ads by monitoring social media conversations in real time. Needls then delivers advertisements directly to these individuals, resulting in high-quality traffic and impressive ROI for advertisers.

2. What problem are you solving?

There are more than 65 million small businesses using Facebook to engage with potential new customers, but only 4 million of them are using Facebook's ad platform. That's a huge gap of 56 million SMBs that need to be served with a solution or platform that suits their knowledge and needs.

This is what needls is. The status quo options are simply not working and, when presented with our solution, it is a no-brainer: needls is the solution. We provide a solution to a desperate need to a market that is severely underserved. The numbers speak for themselves in our growth, in our method of customer acquisition, and in our impressive conversion rates –which are triple the industry average for SaaS platforms.

3. Why is now the time for your company to exist?

Facebook is increasingly becoming the number one avenue for businesses to advertise – and for good reason. There are 1.9 billion users who log into Facebook each month, over one billion that go on Facebook on their mobile devices per day in addition to the 1 billion people go online per day. It’s booming. By the end of this year, television’s advertising spend of $71.29 billion will be surpassed by an advertising spend of $72.09 billion for digital, and over 95% of marketers say that Facebook gets them the highest ROI with the lowest cost.

The evidence is right there. People want to tap into the Facebook Advertising market because they can now clearly see that it’s where their customers are and it’s a worthy avenue to advertise. The problem is, they don’t know how to do it because it’s so complicated.

"There are more than 65 million small businesses using Facebook to engage with potential new customers, but only 4 million of them are using Facebook's ad platform."

4. What do you offer and to whom?

We offer a platform that completely automates social media advertising. All a user needs to do is tell us their industry, give us a few keywords, set their budget and we’ll help them come up with creative. We create, target, and optimize, 24/7 –which means we test the ads against each other and the user’s demographic; we provide cross-platform optimization, A/B testing, day parting, etc., and we scour public social media posts to identify buying signals to push ads to people who mention a need for a user’s product or service. Basically, we do it all.

Our market is small to mid-sized businesses. Our users tend to have little to no experience, or have tried to advertise on the Facebook advertising platform themselves and have failed. That said, we have tons of users on our platform who do know what they’re doing, but simply want to automate the entire process and “set it and forget it.”

5. Why are you the ones to solve this problem?

We understand that business owners are busy and don’t have the 40+ hours a week to run an effective campaign on Facebook. So, we’ve found a way to simplify the ad creation process to four steps. On the Facebook platform directly it takes hundreds of clicks just to create one ad – and that doesn’t even account for the testing and optimization.

Right now the other options that are out there, aside from doing it yourself, are dashboards that set rules based on a user’s pre-existing knowledge, or the traditional ad agency. We’re the only ones who are solving this problem in this way. You don’t need to know anything about digital marketing to run a successful campaign and you don’t need to spend 5k plus 25% of your advertising dollars.

6. How do you define success?

Time and freedom. Success is the ability to decide what each day looks like for me. It’s a sense of freedom. Likewise, the ability to invest in the success of others – to see opportunity in others and help them grow. But, more than anything, I would define success using our mantra at needls: “Be useful.”

7. What is one piece of advice you would offer to someone who is considering taking the leap into entrepreneurship?

Jump in head first! Take risks! It may be scary and daunting because failure is a frightening thing, but remember that the best things in life come on the other side of fear. It’s important to embrace failure. The most profound ideas and valuable lessons are often those that come from mistakes. I always say, if you’re comfortable with failing, you’ll make an exceptional entrepreneur.