The influencer economy is one of the hottest segments of the digital marketing landscape and this new “economy” has plenty of untapped potential. influence.co is the professional networking platform that helps influencers or aspiring influencers develop their careers and network with like-minded professionals within a vetted, community-based setting. Influence.co also helps businesses, digital marketers, and PR firms find and discover influencers on the centralized resource. There are millions of content creators across the world, with 200K already on influence.co and the community is growing fast.
LA TechWatch sat down with CEO and Cofounder Neil Robertson to learn more influence.co, the company’s expansion plans, and latest funding round, which brings the company’s total funding to $4.4M across four rounds.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a $3M seed funding round – Bonfire Ventures led the round with participation from ACT Capital Partners, Alumni Ventures Group, Next 10 Ventures, and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Ventures.
Tell us about the product or service influence.co offers.
influence.co empowers the influencer generation. By providing a platform that enables influencers, creators and the businesses who work with them to have a professional presence online, we help everyone in the influencer economy pursue their passion and grow their business through inspiring content, supportive community and collaborative commerce.
What inspired the start of influence.co?
I spent the last ten years helping bloggers monetize their content through affiliate links via a company I cofounded called VigLink. During VigLink (which sold in 2018), I started to realize content creators on all platforms would need a way to monetize their own audiences and became interested in influencer marketing. It became clear that influencers were quickly becoming something much bigger than a marketing channel. I decided to enlist the help of my cofounder Jeff (an SEO expert) and Ryan (a product expert) to create influence.co. Since the company’s inception, we’ve worked together to make influence.co a central resource where any influencer or creator who is intent on making a profession out of the craft can go to professionally develop.
How is influence.co different?
Most companies in the influencer marketing industry have adopted a managed service plus a software model or, more recently, a pure enterprise software model. influence.co is neither of those. Our business is designed very similarly to LinkedIn – we grow organically, we have multiple revenue streams, and our focus is getting all members of the influencer economy on our platform and keeping them engaged. We don’t offer services or sit between businesses and influencers as others do.
What’s your business model?
We are targeting the whole influencer and creator economy which includes all influencers, creators, businesses and the professionals that work with them. We currently estimate there are 15M influencers and creators worldwide across all platforms from blogging to video to podcasting (e.g. YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, WeChat, etc.).
Who do you consider to be your primary competitors?
We do not have any direct competitors as we don’t offer services and we are not an enterprise software company. In addition, we have always focused on influencers and creators (as opposed to businesses that strictly do influencer marketing) which makes us unique.
What was the funding process like?
The influencer and creator markets are growing in scale and attention every day. When we started this fundraising, many VCs were unfamiliar with the market and assumed all companies in it were managed services companies (which is a hard business model to fund). Once we helped some firms understand the bigger picture of the influencer and creator economy and that our business model was different than other players, we were able to pull together the round we wanted.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The main factors are that we put our creators and influencers first and that our executive team is one that is seasoned with a proven track record.
As noted by one of our investors, “When we met with the influence.co team, we were presented with a future-looking proposition: a central destination for the Creator economy. Not solely a place for brands and influencers to broker deals, but a community platform for all members of the Creator community to represent themselves, build relationships, and advance. A platform that grows as the Creator economy grows. Executing on this vision was a team with 6 exits between them and a long history of scaling and exiting venture-backed businesses.”
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Over the next six months, we intend to continue to grow our platform and launch a media division.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Keep tuning and testing your financing story. If it’s not getting an emotional response (you’ll know when you’re getting it), write your deck again. Rinse and repeat. I wrote three different decks until I found the right way to present who we are to an audience that was generally skeptical and unfamiliar with the space.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We believe influencers and creators will be a sizable and powerful professional industry on a global basis and we aspire to be a foundational company and brand in an industry that is well known and respected.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
My current swoon is Olivetta.
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