Aussie micro-influencer startup Tribe has raised $10.5 million in funding, to fuel its expansion into the US market.
Founded in 2015 by TV and radio host Jules Lund, Tribe is a self-serve marketplace connecting brands with micro-influencers, be they university students, mothers, or anyone else who is game.
Brands can upload a brief, and prospective influencers curate their content. If it’s approved, they’re free to share away.
In April 2017, Tribe raised $5.35 million in a round led by Exto partners. Now, it has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Manilla and London, and the UK arm is now outpacing the original Aussie business.
In the latest round, Exto is a repeat investor, while UK fund Gresham House and Burch Creative Capital in New York New have come on board as new investors.
“This round is about having Australia, UK and North American representation, so we can use them as strategic investors,” Lund tells StartupSmart.
While raising funds can be a tricky process, Lund says he and chief executive Anthony Svirskis actually found it “incredibly valuable”.
“In one breath it feels like a distraction, but in the other, it sharpens your vision and it sharpens your offering,” he explains.
“Every part of your business is naturally scrutinised, and it just enables you to understand fully why you make the decisions that you do.”
Through a capital raise, the leaders of a startup get to hear opinions from outside the business, getting a rare opportunity to view it from another perspective.
But it can also help pinpoint what they’re doing, and why.
There are a lot of opportunities other there, Lund says. People often come to him with ideas of new things to do with Tribe.
“The discipline is really knowing exactly what our USP is, and having the discipline to stick to it.”
In Tribe’s case, right from the beginning, Lund believed the future of the influencer market did not lie with celebrities.
Only a “pure tech marketplace” would be able to manage everyday micro-influencers, he says.
“As it turns out, last year we started to notice that it was definitely moving towards that, and so we wanted to capitalise on that, having the head start,” Lund explains.
“We’re capitalising on the fact that our technology is lightyears ahead,” he says.
Ahead of the trend
Since the 2017 raise, Tribe has increased its revenues by 500%, and it continues to grow at a rate of 100% to 150% year-on-year.
It now has some 54,000 influencers on board — up from 5,300 in 2016 — generating more than 20,000 pieces of content every month.
Over the past 12 months, the startup has seen increasing demand from North America, with 20% of its brand clients and 25% of influencers coming from the US.
“We spent a lot of time on the round there early last year, to see if our tech platform is a viable solution for their pain point, and it turns out it very much is,” he says.
Tribe will open an office in New York, which Lund calls “the epicentre of marketing globally”.
The product is already live in the market “with a number of great brands”, he adds.
“The traction has just been extraordinary.”
However, the funding will also be used to continue to invest in the technology product and the development team, Lund says.
“We’ve got such exciting features on the roadmap that are well ahead of the trend,” he explains.
“Being able to have this capital means that we can refine those and be ready when the opportunity strikes.”
You can’t know everything
When it comes to founding and running a startup, Lund advises others, “don’t be afraid that you don’t know everything”.
When he first started Tribe, in some ways Lund felt he “had no right to be building a marketing tech company”, having no marketing or tech experience, or any experience running a business.
“But never be embarrassed about something you don’t know, provided you’re honest, and you’re comfortable starting the journey not knowing how it’s going to end,” he advises.
Founders should be willing to use the available resources and to ask for advice, Lund says.
He surrounds himself with people who “supplement my weaknesses and complement my strengths”, he says.
“The point is, no successful person on the planet knew that they were going to achieve it, they started full of doubt,” Lund says.
“They didn’t know any more than I do right now, and yet they made it anyway because they took courageous steps.”