Popular Pays is on a roll after last year’s pivot.
The Chicago-based startup, which connects brands with social media influencers who create content about their products, announced on Monday it has raised a $5.2 million Series A.
Co-founder and CEO Corbett Drummey said the funding will be used to boost Popular Pays’ technology suite and further grow the business.
“Part of our mission is to automate as many of our processes as possible instead of doing things manually,” said Drummey. “We expect our new hires to be distributed almost equally between engineers, sales and operations.”
Founded in 2013, Popular Pays operates on a marketplace model where content creators apply to run marketing campaigns for brands. The startup’s solutions integrate with Instagram, providing brands with advanced metrics on how campaigns are performing. These metrics are also available to brands deciding between different creators for their campaigns.
In recent years, Popular Pays has also expanded its focus beyond digital ads. Content from the platform has been used for website graphics, menus and even Times Square billboards. That’s a big change from the company’s beginnings as an app for getting free coffee in exchange for Instagram posts.
“In 2015 and 2016, we realized that brands came for impressions but that they stayed for the content because they liked the creativity,” said Drummey. “Brands can easily buy ads on social media, but it’s hard to create enough good content to fill those ad buys. Now we’re re-crafting our products to be more suited for the content creators.”
Popular Pays currently has 24 full-time employees and the company will hire another dozen or so over the next six to nine months. Drummey said all but three of the company’s employees are based in Chicago, and that he expects most of the new growth to come in Chicago as well.
“I have a lot of friends from Y Combinator who talk about the bloodbath of recruiting in Silicon Valley,” said Drummey. “I don’t think we could have built the same company if we were in a different city… At least not without raising a lot more money.”
Drummey said the company broke even in 2016.
Popular Pays announced a $2 million Series A in July 2015, not long after it graduated from Y Combinator. Monday’s announcement marks the official close of that round with an additional $3.2 million.
GoAhead ventures led the round, in which Hyde Park Angels and Pallasite Ventures participated.
Image via Popular Pays.