Influencer marketing platform Influo has grown rapidly since its commercial launch in 2017. Co-founders Jan Kindt and Maarten Kesteloot have developed a unique offering that blends technology and service to provide everything brands and influencers need to connect and work together more efficiently.
With a goal to become cash-flow positive, and ultimately the European market leader in influencer marketing technology, Influo looked outside for support and discovered Pitchdrive.
We caught up with Maarten to find out more about Influo’s journey from start-up to scale-up, and how they’ve worked with Pitchdrive along the way.
Can you tell us more about how Influo started and how it works?
“We noticed that when brands start working with an increasing number of influencers, communications and reporting quickly become hard to manage. So we created a tech solution that would allow brands to manage their influencer relationships more easily, and also help social media influencers and creators to connect with brands.
“Influencers register for free, connect their social channels —Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and so on. This makes an API connection, so we receive their audience data and demographics and create a profile that tells brands things like who their audience is and what they care about.
“On the other side, we provide everything a brand needs to manage their influencer relationships. They can distribute campaign briefs, collect applications from those interested in taking part, manage reporting and communications. Even payment is included —the money is uploaded within the Influo platform.”
How has your start-up journey been so far and how has Influo evolved throughout the process?
“We founded the company in 2015 and launched commercially at the beginning of 2017. It’s been a rollercoaster!
“When we launched, we found that most brands are only just starting to understand the benefits of working with influencers. They’re still gradually increasing their annual budget, finding out what influencer marketing is, how to do it. They’re experimenting, and they have a lot of questions. That’s why, over the years, we’ve navigated towards a product/service system. We’ve broadened our focus so we can support our clients and help them understand what influencer marketing can do for them.
“Influencers can produce content that you can repurpose, they can be helpful for research and development, there’s so much they can do. They know the trends, and they know their audience. If you involve them early on in campaign planning it can really save you time.
“We were told to stay away from providing services, as it’s not scalable. But we listened to our clients, and we listened to the market, and we realised we needed to do it for a good market fit. So, my advice to any early-stage start-up is: don’t be afraid to be different. Not all advice is going to be right for you. It’s not always as simple as cut and paste.”
Why did you decide to work with Pitchdrive?
“Pitchdrive is unique in its offering. There aren’t many firms that focus on this early stage with their level of professionalism. Pitchdrive’s hybrid model of having a network of business angels and a fund of their own is really different, and they provide a lot of guidance too. I like that you feel part of a community with a start-up fund working alongside you, it’s fun. I would absolutely recommend them — I have several times!"
How have you found the process so far?
“Pitchdrive has been a great sounding board throughout, organising sessions where you can discuss your challenges. So far, we’ve done one on sales and two on product level and they’ve been really beneficial. They really challenge your perspective. It all helps you work out if your approach is the right one. We also found an investor through the Pitchdrive network.”
What would you say to someone considering working with Pitchdrive?
“There are two main reasons you should work with Pitchdrive. First, you get the combination of access to a network of business angels (which is what you want for seed funding) and a fund as well. This allows early-stage start-ups to learn how it feels to have the pressure of a fund and delivering results, just as you would with a VC.
“The second benefit is the guidance that they provide with their Powerboard sessions. Having somewhere to discuss your challenges and get support from people who have been through it before has been very helpful.”
And finally, what advice you would give to early-stage start-ups looking for funding?
“My number one tip is to estimate the money and time you think you need, then times it by three!
“We did too many small capital rounds, and that takes up so much time and focus. The less you need to worry about fundraising, the more attention your business can receive. It might be tempting to go for a lower amount – but don’t do it!”
If you’re seeking funding, guidance and support for your early-stage start-up, get in touch with the Pitchdrive team today to get started.