news that macquarium joined Synoptek is the start 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 makes it helped shape the Web and its media as we know them.
Macquarium’s homepage says the company is an agency “transforming the customer experience in the digital world.” Behind this slogan hides a story that reads like an unlikely epic tech tale, with several twists touching many of the tech services we all use today. It’s also a story that has involved the birth of several new companies and products over three decades… and it even has a bit of Hollywood flair built into it.
But before the tech adventures, there was only founder Marc Adler in his Emory University dorm working at a video production company.
In the early 1990s, the World Wide Web was little more than a flyer that “didn’t have much use,” Adler told Hypepotamus. But there was a need for quality graphics and content, something that Adler and macquarium early pioneer.
After moving into multimedia production (think creating CDs and creating early animations for customers), Adler bought a dozen Silicon Graphics supercomputers and moved its eight employees into a Midtown office in 1994.
“It was the genesis of the Internet. Everyone needed a website,” Adler added.
It was around the time when macquarium 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 would go on to create the website for the International Olympic Committee and several other high-profile clients during the mid-1990s.
But Macquarium certainly didn’t stop there. To better serve customers in the rapidly changing digital space, Macquarium built some of the earliest iterations of digital products that we take for granted today. And this is where we begin the epic story of technology.
Adler and his team built the first content management system (CMS), known as Dynabot, in 1996. The goal was to create a self-service “dynamic bot” for customers looking to edit content of a webpage. This was so important in the early days of the Web that it was memorialized in a Smithsonian time capsule in 2000. It would eventually evolve into a product information management (PIM) tool.
Macquarium has also developed Antfarm, a proprietary site monitoring and analysis tool. Adler said it was Macquarium’s “secret sauce” and gave the company a huge competitive advantage as they were able to “track 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 database, technology and developing the necessary shipping capabilities, she launched misterart.com for arts and crafts consumer products.
It was a concept Adler started toying with while still a student at Emory when he saw the unique business advantage of bringing such products to an online marketplace. The site eventually became what Adler described as a “consortium of art-related businesses” in the early days of e-commerce.
Over the years, Macquarium has also implemented a browser-based point-of-sale (POS) system and helped dozens of household names – ranging from Chick-fil-A to UPS – grow their interactive media needs. .
Between building client-facing formative technology, the team has made its mark in the digital media space. With the launch of its 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 won awards for cinematic 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 based in Atlanta.
“You want a center of excellence where you can bring together the greatest number of people in the same area,” he told Hypepotamus. “Atlanta was so great because it was so easy to hire people. It’s all about talent. I don’t think there’s another city in the country that can compete with Atlanta on this level, and I think all the other companies understand that too because you see this massive migration of these companies to Atlanta.
There are additional chapters in the Macquarium history that was meant to be left to the editing for this piece, but distilling 31 years of history for a growing company is no small feat.
This next chapter, launched with the announcement this spring that Synoptek acquired the company, is certainly an imilestone for the legendary company. It’s also a unique moment on the overall Atlanta business scene. You’d be hard pressed to find one digital customer experience agency that has had such 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