Digital marketplace Clutch announced today that it has closed a $1.2 million seed round led by Precursor Ventures.
In the year Founded in 2020 by Madison Long and Simon May, the company touts itself as the first people-first creative economy platform to connect businesses looking to market and create content.
“We’re really excited to be able to raise the next generation of people like us,” May told TechCrunch. We prioritize democratizing access to information using technology.
Clutch charges businesses, not creators, to use the platform, and allows individuals to track the success of their projects and collaborations with brands. The app offers tools to help people edit videos, design graphics and manage their social media presence on other platforms like Tiki Talk and Instagram. Meanwhile, Clutch allows brands to find creators and open dialogue between the two parties.
The app comes at a good time. In the year A 2019 Morning Consult survey found that more than 85 percent of 13- to 38-year-olds want to become a social media influencer at some point.
The last decade has seen brands jump the influencer bandwagon in search of popular content creators to market their business. The downside of this is that brands gravitate heavily toward white influencers, contributing to wage and opportunity inequity while people of color, especially black creators, are often the source of popular trends.
The company says it has more than 200 creators on its platform and a 3,000-person workforce. May previously noted that at least 75% of active creators on the platform are people of color, and 60% of CEOs helping businesses on the platform, including Agua Bonita and Campfire, are minorities. Long added that making content creators more accessible and benefits marginalized communities can help make product marketing more diverse and equitable.
Along with the fundraising, Clutch today announced the launch of an open beta. It recently ended its beta, which was only working with students. The open beta startup sees Clutch still working with students, though the company says it plans to one day work with all creators.
The fundraising drive lasted eight months and opened in August last year. May said she met Charles Hudson, managing partner at Precursor Ventures, through another founder who had invested in a friend of Long’s.
That friend “made the first introduction,” Long said. “Then I was able to beat Charles and Precursor.”
“Madison and Simon are amazing founders who connect talented creators with businesses that need their services,” Hudson told TechCrunch. “Their platform is empowering the next generation of creators to succeed on their own terms and giving their customers the help they so desperately need in content creation.”
Working with Charles was a highlight as Long & May helped identify challenges and introduced them to mentors like Stacey Brown-Philpott, former CEO of TaskRabbit. Along the way, there were times when the two found themselves going above and beyond to make sure the clutch had a large-scale and profound impact on communities.
“I think by being so transparent in our community, it’s allowed us to build trust with investors who might be more skeptical,” Long said. “They didn’t see founders like us being able to do what we were able to do.”
Long and May have been best friends since they met as students at Purdue University. May majored in computer science, while Long majored in accounting. Still, the two men have always found a way to bond over their similarities, which include community service and youth advocacy.
Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, Long said she always wanted to be an entrepreneur. She spent her high school summers creating math programs for middle school students, and after graduation worked for the Sheryl Sandberg Leanne Foundation to report on the 2020 Women in the Workplace. May comes from a technology-focused family 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 promote content creators and brands. That idea became a clutch, and Long said she was “overwhelmed” when she first heard about it. With this investment, Clutch plans to focus on continuing the business and conducting product research. May plans to move out of beta mode next year and launch nationwide.
“Our vision is to build a world where real, engaging work supports happy, sustainable and just lifestyles,” said Long. “Clutch is the future ecosystem of the creative economy, providing individuals and businesses with all the tools to thrive in all areas of their lives and turn their personal interests into a source of income.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Long studied computer science and May studied accounting. May majored in computer science and Long majored in accounting.