Why the potential for “really upset” customers kicked Gaby Howard’s US expansion into gear

Flaunter

Flaunter founder and chief Gaby Howard. Source: supplied.

After four years finding its footing in the Australian market, PR tech startup Flaunter is graduating into the international scene, as founder Gaby Howard takes her home-grown business Stateside.

Founded in late-2015, Flaunter is a tech platform designed to help those working in the PR industry share brand images and products with the media, retailers and influencers.

Speaking to SmartCompany, founder and chief Gaby Howard says for the past few years, the team has been “really focused on getting the product right for market”.

As a relatively small market, Australia served as a good testing ground, she says.

It allowed the founder to get a feel for the product and its value, “making sure it’s super powerful before moving into the bigger markets”.

Now, Howard is taking the first steps towards taking the product to the US market. Then, she plans to turn her attention to the UK.

“The time is right for the product,” she explains.

“In terms of customer feedback, if we turned the plug off tomorrow, we would have customers who are really upset,” she adds.

“For us, that’s a key indicator of having something that’s of real value.”

But, this is also a period of change in the PR industry, Howard says. While there is a lot of marketing and ad tech available for agencies, there’s not much available for PR agencies, she observes.

At the same time, the function of PR — messaging, storytelling and building a brand’s presence — is becoming more and more important.

“PR has in the past often been looked at as a frivolous component of a business,” Howard explains.

“I think it’s actually now stepping up into a bigger role … To accompany that, it needs to be more data-led, and it needs to be more efficient.”

“It’s time”

While Howard doesn’t share any revenue figures, she does say Flaunter is seeing “huge traction” in the Australian market.

“We see the increase in the time spent by all of our users on the platform and the increased adoption of users … that tells a really good story,” she says.

In 2019, Flaunter saw a 150% uptick in user engagement, and a 20% increase in active users, month-on-month. During that time, the startup’s user base grew by 110%.

Now, according to Howard, some users are reporting that they handle 75% of their content requests through Flaunter.

While Howard started out serving the fashion sector, she’s now expanded the product to work in interiors, books, travel and lifestyle, “all by organic demand”.

And, another reason behind the move to the US is additional demand from customers with American offices, who want to pass the tech onto their international colleagues.

“It’s time,” Howard says.

A grand vision

Over the next 12 months or so, Howard will be focused on the US rollout, but is also considering taking on the UK too, and also expanding to cover even more industries and sectors.

“We want to be growing both the categories we’re in, and in different regions,” she explains.

The team will also continue to work on product development and iterating the technology, she adds.

And, while Flaunter has been backed by investors before, at the moment, it’s in a position to grow under its own steam, without the need for external capital.

“We’re in a position where we make our own money, which is a really good position to be in,” Howard says.

But, that’s not to say she’s dead set against raising capital again.

“If we see it’s the right time to help accelerate that growth, we will absolutely do it,” she explains.

“But it’s not something we absolutely have to do for survival.”

Ultimately, Howard sees Flaunter being on the desktop of every PR person, all over the world.

“The vision is to be the central platform for all PR functions,” she says.

It’s a big goal, but it’s an achievable one, she adds.

“The tools are needed, and there’s definitely the opportunity to be the person who has created the tool people want to use.”

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