Digital marketplace Clutch announced today the closing of a $1.2 million seed round led by Precursor Ventures.
The company, founded in 2020 by Madison Long and Simone May, hails itself as one of the earliest people-first creator economy platforms to connect individuals to businesses looking for marketing and content creation.
“We’re very passionate about being able to elevate the next generation of people that look like us,” May told TechCrunch. “We prioritize democratizing access to information, using technology.”
Clutch charges businesses, rather than creators, to use the platform, and it lets individuals track the success of their projects and collaborations with brands. The app also provides tools to help people edit videos, design graphics and manage social media presences on other platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram. Meanwhile, Clutch lets brands find creators and allows for open conversation between the two entities.
The app comes at a good time. A 2019 study by Morning Consult found that more than 85% of those between the ages of 13 and 38 want to be social media influencers at some point.
The past decade has seen brands jump on the influencing bandwagon, seeking popular content creators to help market their business. A downside of this is that brands overwhelmingly gravitated toward white influencers, contributing to a pay and opportunity inequity for people of color, especially Black creators, who are often the source of popular trends.
The company says it has more than 200 creators on the platform, with a 3,000-person waitlist. May said at least 75% of the active creators already on Clutch are people of color, and 60% of the CEOs helming businesses on the platform are also minorities, including Agua Bonita and Campfire. Long added that making content creators more accessible and less exploitative for marginalized communities can help make brand marketing more diverse and equitable.
Along with the fundraising, Clutch also announced its open beta launch today. It recently ended its closed beta, where it worked with only students. The open beta launch sees Clutch still working with students, though there are plans to one day work with all creators, the company said.
The fundraising journey lasted eight months and opened in August last year. May said they met Charles Hudson, a managing partner at Precursor Ventures, through another founder in whom he’d invested who happened to be friends with Long.
That friend “made that initiation introduction,” Long said. “I was able to then pitch Charles and Precursor.”
“Madison and Simone are amazing founders who are connecting talented creators with businesses in need of their services,” Hudson told TechCrunch. “Their platform is enabling the next generation of creators to succeed on their own terms and giving their customers much-needed help with content creation.”
Working with Charles was a highlight because he helped Long and May sort through challenges and introduced them to mentors like Stacy Brown-Philpot, the former CEO of TaskRabbit. Throughout the journey, there were also moments when the duo found themselves going above and beyond to prove that Clutch could scale and have a massive impact on communities.
“I think because of the way that we’re so transparent in our community, that it allowed us to build up that trust with investors who might have been more skeptical,” Long said. “They haven’t seen founders like us be able to do what we’ve been able to do.”
Long and May have been best friends since meeting as students at Purdue University. May studied computer science, while Long majored in accounting. Still, the duo always found a way to bond over their similarities, which included community service and youth advocacy.
Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, Long said she has always wanted to be an entrepreneur. She spent her high school summers creating math programs for middle school students and, after graduation, worked for Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation to help make the 2020 Women in the Workplace report. May stems from a technology-focused household based in Atlanta, Georgia, and after graduation found herself working as a consultant at Accenture.
One day, she called Long with an idea — a streamlined way to introduce content creators and emerging brands. That idea became Clutch, and Long said she was “enthralled” when she first heard about it. With this investment, Clutch plans to focus on continuing scaling the business and performing product research. May said the plan is to exit beta mode next year and launch nationally.
“Our vision is to build a world where authentic, engaging work supports a joyful, sustainable and equitable lifestyle,” Long said. “Clutch is the ecosystem of the future of the creator economy that will provide individuals and businesses with all of the tools they need to thrive in all areas of their lives and make their personal interests their source of income.”
Correction: a previous version of this story stated that Long studied computer science and May studied accounting. May studied computer science and Long studied accounting.
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