By Scott Meacham
It is exciting when Oklahoma startups set out to change industries. That’s the story of Cage, an Oklahoma City company with customers from around the world.
Cage provides a web-based tool that helps creative professionals—from freelancers to branding agencies to in-house creative departments—collaborate on projects and share ideas in one place in real time, no matter who is working on what.
“We are on a mission to transform the way creative professionals work on a massive scale,” said Sandip Patel, Cage founder and CEO. “Design is no longer a nice to have; it is now a prerequisite for most successful companies and brands.”
That demand has led to an explosive growth in the number of new creative professionals, the gig economy to corporate and agency teams. Today, more than ever, talented creatives who may be separated by an aisle, several states, or the world’s great oceans—need to work together in real time on cross-functional teams to deliver on time and on target.
Imagine a room filled with graphic designers, copywriters, videographers, web designers, photographers, and project managers, all sharing feedback and working on creative iterations of projects with deadlines.
Now take away the room.
Cage provides a unique tool set that makes the time-consuming process of gathering, discussing, and acting on feedback faster by allowing creatives to view that feedback simultaneously, whether on a web page, a print ad, or pages in a new brochure in context and in real time.
Customers include Best Buy, Fujifilm, Unilever, Loreal, SXSW, Leo Burnett, and more. “These teams may have used other products before switching to Cage,” Patel said, “but most always, it’s a hodgepodge of email, spreadsheets, in-person meetings, and home brew tools that get replaced by using Cage.”
The Cage toolkit, which began as a basic work-sharing tool, is now in it’s third version. The team has remained small and is deeply focused on building a world class product and remarkable customer support. Cage has the industry’s attention, for sure.
Cage has achieved many startup milestones—more than 5,000 accounts, nearly 70,000 individuals, and more than a million files that have been collaborated on, with very little marketing, but Patel says that the milestone he is most proud of is that Cage’s core team has remained together for almost seven years.
Recently, Adobe named Cage as a recipient of the Adobe Fund for Design, a $10 million fund to support teams building products and services that will help shape the future of creativity and design. The selection comes with a host of benefits beyond the financial terms.
“It’s a massive win for our tiny team,” Patel said. “We are the only company to have received this support in the Midwest.
Sandip Patel is the first in his family to be born in Oklahoma and in the U.S. He went to school in Oklahoma. His family is full of Oklahoma entrepreneurs, from his parents, to his brother, to his wife.
“When I was younger, I wanted to leave as soon as I graduated college and am so thankful I didn’t,” said Patel.
“We’ve gotten accepted into accelerators that asked us to move and have talked with venture capital firms that said it would be easier for us if we were based in San Francisco,” he said. “But I always come back to this idea of “doing what you can, with what you have, where you are. For me, that’s what it’s all about. My family was able to grow and thrive here in Oklahoma, and my wife and I plan to do the same with our family.”
As Cage helps customers all over the world make the most of their time and do their best creative work, it is a reminder to us all. Great products are built by great teams. Constraints lend themselves to creativity and intentionality—and Oklahoma entrepreneurs are second to none.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org