Former McCann CEO Nick Brien Invests in Social-Commerce Startup Chirpify
A Portland, Ore.-based startup called Chirpify that enables in-stream purchases on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has raised $6 million from an eclectic group of investors that includes Nick Brien, McCann Worldgroup's former chairman and CEO.
Founded last year, Chirpify has 13 employees and found an early sweet spot among musicians and record labels looking to spur fans to buy an artist's single straight off of a social channel, with customers including Green Day and Snoop Dogg. Its systems lets consumers make a purchase by commenting on a post that's been set up as a Chirpify commerce listing, which opens a window asking for their credit card information if they haven't used the platform before.
Chirpify makes money by charging a monthly licensing fee, as well as a 2.9% fee plus 30 cents on transactions for commerce listings. It can also be used to drive actions like newsletter signups and contest entries.
The company has Adidas and MasterCard -- which recently used it to collect charitable donations for cancer research -- as customers, but it's looking to get more traction among agencies. Its CEO Chris Teso is hopeful that Mr. Brien's connections will help.
"We've done a little bit [of outreach]," he said, "but of course it's one of our focuses, so we're going to concentrate more effort on it."
Mr. Teso said that the new funding will largely go toward hiring business-development executives charged with creating media partnerships with the likes of TV networks and sports franchises. The goal would be to spur purchases for advertisers by showing hashtags as overlays on TV or on the Jumbotron at sporting events. People in the audience could then tweet them or post them to Facebook or Instagram to make purchases on the spot.
Part of the new funding will also go toward marketing designed to acquire new users, Mr. Teso said. He declined to comment on how many users Chirpify currently has, other than to say it's adding 300 to 400 a day.
Since Mr. Brien was ousted from McCann in November, he's invested in five startups, and while he declined to say how much he's put into Chirpify, he called it his "biggest bet" to date. His other investments include a Seattle-based e-commerce play called BevyUp and an online gift-carding startup that he's in final stages of negotiations with.
Mr. Brien said his interest in Chirpify extends beyond its social-commerce technology to its potential for brand marketers, many of whom are still lagging in their digital capabilities. A tool like Chirpify could become compelling to big brands by making their investment in social measurable in terms of sales that are directly generated, he said.
"The issue is, how can a technology help marketers work cross-channel to close the gap between consideration and purchase?" he said. "I saw an innovation here that was going to help large-scale marketers use social media in a very dynamic way."
Chirpify's other new investors include Saturn Partners; Provenance Ventures; Idan Ravin, a personal trainer to NBA stars including Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard; and former Interscope Geffen A&M vice chairman David Cohen. The Series A round brings its total funding to $7.3 million. Existing investor Voyager Capital pitched in $2 million of the Series A, which was announced in April.