The secrets behind Akcelo's rapid growth

By Ruby Derrick | 11 May 2023
Aden Hepburn.

Akcelo, brand experience and innovation company, has gone from a start up 150 employees in Australia since being established in 2020.

From CEO and co-founder Aden Hepburn’s perspective, he feels the major holding companies typically do not place the clients' business goals at the heart of what they do.  

For Akcelo, as an independent agency, it’s a different approach.  

“We sought out to remove all of the red tape and all the blockers that stopped us from becoming our clients' most important partner and doing the very best work we could,” said Hepburn. 

“We've been able to strip all of that away and I think that's very refreshing for talent.” 

“As people exit those big holding companies they're looking for something that they can create impact in, influence and help shape and grow with. I think they look at us because of our culture and our processes and entrepreneurial spirit.” 

On whether the agency is looking to continue expanding the team, Hepburn noted that growth is not the primary focus, instead it’s creating and achieving the company’s ambitious aspirations. 

“If we had five to ten offices around the world of about 100 people in office, we would be enough to deliver global mandates for incredibly great global clients,” said Hepburn. 

“To give them that personal independent agency love, wherever they are in the world, which gives our people access to great global brands, moving to different offices and taking their capabilities to  transport and build the culture in all of those locations.” 

Akcelo's goal is to deliver creative and innovative communications, technology and experience, with a focus on the end-to-end brand experience. 

“We don't come at it just from an advertising agency perspective or digital agency perspective. We are investing ahead of the curve into everything that's going to help us become our clients most important partner,” Hepburn said. 

Akcelo has grown by more than 100 employees in the past year. For Hepburn and Jason Carnew, managing partner of Akcelo, this has meant securing the right type of talent for the company and knowing how to seek it. 

“At the very core of Akcelo, we just hire really great humans. There's almost nothing else to it,” said Hepburn. 

“We don't allow egos into the building; the business has an incredible flat structure. We attract people and good people attract other good people.  

“All of our business leaders and partners and key shareholders in the company have an incredible black book of people who they always want to work with.” 

Carnew said something that’s been powerful for him to see was the entrepreneurship spirit that has opened upas a result of senior leaders removing the roadblocks that have traditionally stopped people from having it.  Jason Carnew.

“Here, it's about; what do you want your career to be? What do you want to be involved in? Where do you want to grow?,” said Carnew. 

“Senior leaders have culturally focused on how can we get those people to have those experiences, and it creates a very different agency vibe and a culture which is all about how people can lean and have their next big growth model mode as an employee – which is quite unique.” 

Akcelo’s energy is currently invested in growing its Melbourne office, alongside Canada and North America. The team are also looking at what they might do in London, Singapore, and the Middle East in the near future. 

Carnew said that having worked in ‘satellite’ offices from the big networks, Akcelo plans to contrast that environment and build what its calling a ‘borderless model’.  

“The location and the growth is a very different framework in the sense that; our teams in any country get to work on any brand, wherever it is,” said Carnew. 

“We've got people in Europe already. We've got people across Canada, because at the end of the day, all we have to do is find the best people and then pair them with the clients that they're best to service and support.  

“The growth feels much more organic - it's more around where are the people, where are the opportunities, and if we can find the best of those two worlds, that's where we should be. That's a refreshing change." 

The company is in a ‘build, not buy and merge’ model, says Hepburn. 

Akcelo have implemented various incentives for its expanding team.

“We offer 20 weeks maternity leave, which is one of the highest in the industry,” said Hepburn. 

“We also have an ESOP share scheme, so all of our highest performers sharing 5% of the entire company. As you work your way up through the ranks, you unlock thresholds and opportunities to be incentivised with shares. 

It's not just any of the founders making money into the future. It's all the people that created the company with us as well.” 

Akcelo attract a wide range of talent, with most coming about through word of mouth from existing clients, says Hepburn 

“We work across sports, QSR, deep into the entertainment world with the likes of Netflix, with people like the AFL and sporting leagues in Melbourne,” he said. 

For Carnew, getting to tell Akcelo’s story often has to be in a much more intimate setting.  

“I think it’s good - it keeps everything focused about the work and the client and less about a projection, which obviously we know is huge in our industry,” said Carnew. 

“It keeps it much more organic and about what we're doing. I think we're very humble in that regard.” 

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