Content producers and brands each produce their respective products. What if there was a platform that served as the Match.com of brands and creators on YouTube? Well, there is and that’s precisely how Reelio positions itself.
The New York-based startup just raised $1M plus round, led by e.ventures, with additional funding from KRW Schindler Private Ventures (with Philipp Schindler as cornerstone investor), Jason Glickman and Andrew Reis (Co-founders of Tremor Video), Thomas Hesse (former President and Executive Board Member at Bertelsmann, and former President and Co-founder of VEVO at Sony Music), and existing angel investors.
That’s a lot of fire power.
“Our goal is nothing short of connecting every brand, publisher, studio, and nonprofit to its ideal video content partners, and, in the process, connecting video content creators to the resources and relationships they need to unlock their full creative potential,” said Pete Borum, Reelio Co-founder and CEO. He and his brother and co-founder, Mark, along with third co-founder, CTO and tech genius, Ben Williams, are here to tell us more about the funding and next steps for the company.
Tell us about your product or service.
Reelio analyzes social data to match brands to their ideal content partners, enabling branded content partnerships at scale.
How is it different?
In three words: efficiency, independence, and scale.
Efficiency: Our matching algorithm identifies the right content creators significantly faster than other approaches. (According to one user at Forbes, “We can do in two hours with Reelio what used to take us three days, and the results are better.”)
Independence: Because we are a technology platform rather than a service provider, we enable brands to partner directly with the creators whom they want without going through a middleman, enabling not just the brands complete freedom to work with whomever they want, but also the content creators. We believe this independence and control is central to YouTube’s past and present success, and it is a key tenet of our philosophy of working with brands and creators.
Scale: Reelio searches across tens of millions of content creators to find the best content partners, independent of size or even language spoken. Brands can work with any number of creators, from one to one million (although we have yet to see one work with one million channels…that would take a while), and they have granular control over the types of channels they want to work with.
What market are you targeting and how big is it?
Mum’s the word on market size! J But if you’re an advertiser, publisher or non-profit organization, and you would like to improve your visibility and engagement on YouTube, you’re our target market. Let’s talk.
You went through a pivot, as do many startups. What was your original intention and what led you to pivot?
In early 2012, we set out to build a “General Assembly for YouTube creators.” There were several reasons for the pivot, but chief among them was that we were holding classes in which some attendees had never created a YouTube video before, while other attendees had just wrapped their seventh feature film (and everything in between). We realized that it would be impossible for us to provide an equally meaningful experience to all of these participants, and so in mid-2012 we began toying with the idea of using social data to group students together by the similarity of their audiences and how successful they had been. We realized that we had stumbled onto a much bigger idea than a real estate play, and one with implications for both brands and content creators. We spent all of 2013 building the platform, so we’re probably a lot further along on the product than your average seed-funded startup.
What’s your business model?
We find that users tend to fall into one of two camps: they are either looking for a small number of creators to cast in very specific productions, or they are looking to advertise a product or service across a large number of channels. For the former, we give them unlimited access to the platform for a monthly subscription fee. For the latter, we provide a full-service model on a cost-per-view basis.
What was the funding process like?
I’d be lying if I said it was anything less than brutal. I used my student loan money from business school to get started, and my account was overdrawn when we got our first angel investment. Over the past two years, and prior to this round, we had raised nearly a million bucks – and we did it in mostly $5-25k increments. That requires a LOT of pitches, and a lot of votes of confidence from our friends and family (very few of whom had ever invested in a startup before), but it kept the lights on until we could get this round done.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
It’s cliché at this point, but narrowing down all of the moving parts of our business to a very simple, concise value proposition was our biggest challenge. When you see a million ways that your idea can make the world a better place, it’s hard to know which one to focus on – and to know which one will open the checkbook. Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to talk to a LOT of people and continuously whittle away at your business and how you talk about it. It’s painful. No other way to describe it.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
I don’t want to give away any confidential information, but the way our matching algorithm uses data to find channels is pretty unique. It also helped that we flat out refused to quit. If you’re willing to ask – and are able to convince – all of your closest friends to dip into their hard-earned savings to support your vision, investors know that you’re pretty serious. They believe that you’ll do whatever it takes to succeed. Because the alternative is that you’ve just lost all your friends.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
I can’t go into too much detail, but I can say that if you’re not amazed by what we’ve achieved six months from now, we haven’t hit our milestones.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Get creative. Talk to everyone who will listen. Listen to everyone who will talk. Don’t have any sacred cows when it comes to improving your product. And never quit.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our new investors represent some of the best media strategy and ad-tech minds in the world. Until today, we’ve been focused on survival. We have a unique opportunity to take a step back and see the world through their eyes for a change. I have no idea what we’ll learn, but I suspect it will pretty dramatically change how we think about things (although it would also be pretty sweet if it validated the way we think about things). So the truthful answer to your question is, I don’t know, and that excites me.
With all of the cat videos out there, would you say that cats the new dogs?
Mark’s allergic to cats. So I hope not. Because he will die. And then I’d be out a cofounder AND a brother.