Posse raises $1.2 million and performs a pivot

Sydney start-up Posse has completely overhauled its offering, relaunching as a retail-focused app, after raising a further $1.2 million from a host of US and Australian investors.


The business, which launched in 2010, was previously based around the music industry, giving bands a platform to reward dedicated fans who promoted their shows via social media.


This model has been completely changed, however, and a new iteration of Posse will be officially unveiled next week.


A total of 11 investors have backed the 180 degree turn in business model, led by Silicon Valley angel investor Bill Tai. Other investors include Bill Lee, CEO and co-founder of Remarq, eBay Motors founder Simon Rothman and Australian fund Elevation Capital.


The new version of the business will be aimed at retailers, with a Sim City-style gaming function “rewarding” customers who promote their favourite cafes, hairdressers, hotels and other businesses.


So far, around 50 shops in the Surry Hills area of Sydney have trialled the new service, with a further 300 retailers across Australia, New Zealand and the US signing up for the app, which will initially be free.


Rebekah Campbell, founder and CEO of Posse, tells StartupSmart that the music platform experienced difficulties with ticketing partners, despite helping sell more than $2 million in concert tickets since launching.


“We were thinking about retail since last year as we were talking to shops about their experiences,” says Campbell. “They’d had bad experiences with daily deals sites and they wanted something that ensured they could spread the word about their business and ensure customers come back.”


“The previous Posse platform empowered customers to tell their friends about their favourite retail places, but it’s hard to get someone to download an app and share it.”


“We went back to the drawing board and realised we needed to solve the customer problem. We held 14 focus groups with retailers and found that people find it hard to get recommendations from friends without directly contacting them.”


“We thought we could spend the next year cutting deals with all the small ticketing players for the music platform or we could solve this retail problem. I’ve never been more sure that something will work than this, to be honest.”


Campbell, a former band manager, has already previously pulled in significant funding, as well as big-name mentors, including Google Maps founder Lars Rasmussen.


“We’ve been lucky in that we have been evolving the idea with a talented sales and technical team,” she says.


“It’s better to innovate than just stand still. It may be an unproven idea, but we showed we could innovate and solve a new problem. Plus, we’ve already been through this process, so we knew what to expect.”


In a statement, Tai adds: “It’s been exciting to watch Posse evolve their model over the past few months.”


“They’ve created a highly original and fun solution to the consumer recommendation problem – which is a hot space right now. I’m looking forward to seeing it take off.”


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