Brands are set to spend $15B on influencer marketing by 2022. But at the end of the day, these creators that are powering the sales for the brands are beholden to third-parties in terms of platform and partners. In response, creator commerce is a growing subset of e-commerce where influencers, celebs, and content creators are directly transacting with their followers and fans, on owned channels. Pietra is an end-to-end platform that gives creators the infrastructure and tools to build and launch brands or product lines. Similar to a Shopify that’s built specifically for creators that haven’t explored commerce, the platform connects creators to vendors to source products, establishes warehousing and fulfillment, and builds owned web presences. Pietra even provides inventory financing options. The company is launching out of beta with over 20,000 users on the platform and this round comes at a $75M valuation.
AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Cofounder Ronak Trivedi to learn more about supporting the creator economy, the company’s future plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $20M, and much, much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
$15M Series A from Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Abstract Ventures, TQ Ventures, and Michael Ovitz.
Tell us about the product or service that Pietra offers.
Pietra is a platform for Creators, of all sizes, who have an idea for a product line or lifestyle brand but don’t know where to start. Pietra’s step-by-step platform allows Creators to connect with some of the world’s top vendors, set up warehouses and fulfillment, and create their own website all from the comfort of their homes. Pietra is making it their mission to put the power back into the hands of the Creator by handing them the tools they need to express their creative vision without the complications most brand builders face. The platform aims to lower the barriers of entry for Creators seeking to delve into entrepreneurship and offer shoppers a dynamic marketplace to explore up and coming brands.
What inspired the start of Pietra?
Pietra is inspired by one simple idea: democratizing access and infrastructure for the creative class. For far too long, access blocked out Creators from starting their own businesses. Instead, big brands would “rent” the audiences of Creators and benefit off them. Not anymore. Pietra aims to empower every Creator who has a vision for a product line or brand and doesn’t know where to begin. Pietra builds the tools so that Creators can launch businesses and have the same creative and financial control over their business, as they do over their content.
Pietra is built on the principle that Creators don’t need to give up a large portion of their profits for setting up and operating their online business. Instead, we believe that Creators are capable and can build mega brands if given the right tools and opportunities. Pietra doesn’t try to pick winners and finance and support the top 1% of Creators, instead, we build an equal opportunity platform that allows Creators of all sizes to dream big and execute on that idea. Pietra is not trying to outshine Creators, it’s aiming to help the Creators themselves shine brighter through its technology.
What market does Pietra target and how big is it?
The Creator Economy has surpassed 50 million income earners worldwide. What’s even more surprising is that there are now more than 650 million Creators on social media who have an audience greater than 10,000 followers — or as we like to say a Pietra, potential first customers.
The market for Pietra cannot be overstated. Pietra sits at the intersection of two of the largest shifts in recent history: the rise of e-commerce and the passion economy. Both of which show no signs of slowing down. Pietra’s ambitious goal is to power 1M businesses around the world with its Creator platform.
What’s your business model?
Pietra makes money by charging Creators for different services that they use to set up and operate their brand. Creators only pay for the things that they use and never have to give up ownership in their company.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business??
Covid has significantly accelerated two shifts in the world: e-commerce and online retail, and the Creator economy. It used to be that in order to start a business you had to travel around the world: meet suppliers, set up warehouses, find a fulfillment center — now all of this can be done through Pietra in a few clicks. Your business can round “in the cloud” from your home. This used to be something people dreamed about. COVID has now made this a necessity.
What was the funding process like?
The funding process was really fun! Keith [Rabois] at Founders Fund is one of the world’s best operators and leaders and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Keith not only deeply understands what it takes to build a company from the ground up but he also has incredible amounts of foresight and wisdom from his experiences that I can’t wait to tap into. To have such a world-class entrepreneur and investor on our side, helping steer the company, is a “pinch me” moment.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
The biggest challenge when raising capital is having to continue running a company while simultaneously fundraising for several weeks in a row, nonstop. It ends up being a marathon where you’re constantly context switching and making sure that one thing doesn’t bleed over to another. One thing that I learned is that no matter how much you read, no matter how many tech Twitterheads you follow, you won’t be prepared by the intensity of rigor of the fundraising process. It’s long, it’s brutal, and you have to learn to enjoy it as much as you can because after all, getting to fundraise is in itself, a privilege. I’m thankful to my team, my support system, and I’m just happy to be alive on the other side of it!
One thing that I learned is that no matter how much you read, no matter how many tech Twitterheads you follow, you won’t be prepared by the intensity of rigor of the fundraising process. It’s long, it’s brutal, and you have to learn to enjoy it as much as you can because after all, getting to fundraise is in itself, a privilege.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
[Smart] Investors are always looking at where the puck is going. If a trend is already obvious, it’s probably too late. Another thing that great investors are really good at is understanding huge shifts in technology that can dramatically reduce cost, increase efficiency, and provide access to a whole new class of people. I feel like Pietra’s approach to Creator Commerce is uniquely ambitious and our stellar team has proven to be incredibly capable of solving the hard problems. To think we built this company in the middle of covid is a real testament to our team’s ability to ruthlessly execute on our goals.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re hoping to significantly increase our global footprint and bring on many hundreds of supplier-partners to Pietra’s marketplace. On the Creator side, we’re hoping to cement ourselves as the most affordable and efficient way for a Creator, of all sizes, to launch and scale their own product line.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Don’t give up. It’s as simple as that. Be smart with your money and stay alive long enough to test everything you want to test. Sometimes, staying alive long enough is the break you need. Finally, reach out to other entrepreneurs — we want to help. We want to share ideas, thoughts, and help other entrepreneurs avoid potholes. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. The ecosystem gets stronger, talent starts migrating from SF, and each and every startup gets a better chance at success because of it. The entire world is going to tell you that there are other places on Earth you should go to start a company. They are wrong. New York is one of those amazing places where you get to test things — especially consumer products — very quickly and efficiently due to the density of people. It also has a vibrant community of entrepreneurs who are looking to help. We all want NYC to win. We all want the creative people in NYC to be successful and build world-changing companies.
The entire world is going to tell you that there are other places on Earth you should go to start a company. They are wrong. New York is one of those amazing places where you get to test things — especially consumer products — very quickly and efficiently due to the density of people. It also has a vibrant community of entrepreneurs who are looking to help. We all want NYC to win. We all want the creative people in NYC to be successful and build world-changing companies.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
I believe that Pietra will start as a set of tools Creators can use to launch product lines and monetize their audience. Over the medium term, I think Pietra will prove to be the platform for fast-growing brands who want to scale their commerce business without needing to hire large teams or focus on the parts of the business that aren’t a key differentiating factor. Over the long term, I believe Pietra will become the world’s largest business creation platform where if you have an idea: the best way to bring that to life is to use Pietra’s Creator Hub. Whether you’re an A-list movie star or an emerging creator (both of which are Pietra users), Pietra will be the platform of choice.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC
I could give you a predictable answer and pick one of the many obviously great restaurants in NYC but instead, I’m going to give a shoutout to my main spot in East Village called C&B on E 7th St. Their eclectic cafe menu hits the spot. For an off-menu showstopper, try the burger and fries. Oh and also, their coffee is amazing.