-By Ben Sun, General Partner at Primary Venture Partners
Before starting Primary Venture Partners, I co-founded Community Connect, which ran some of the earliest social networking sites including BlackPlanet.com. When we first launched the company in 1997, there were only about 3 consumer digital cameras on the market. Imagine launching a social networking site where you had to ask your members to mail in their photos so you can scan them into your system! Oh, how things have changed.
Instagram alone has grown to over 800 million unique users, growing by 100 million uniques in just the last four months alone. The importance of one’s digital identity and brand is not only impacting people socially but also financially. The co-founders of SelfMade, Brian Schechter and Zach Lloyd had this same observation. I met Brian when he co-founded Howaboutwe, which was a highly innovative approach to online dating. I invested personally in the business and saw Brian evolve to become an excellent entrepreneur and operator. Brian saw firsthand how the quality of photos greatly impacted one’s experience at Howaboutwe. After he left IAC, which acquired Howaboutwe, he recognized how photos on social media platforms had the ability to dramatically impact one’s career. Whether you are a personal trainer, stylist, real estate agent or chef, your ability to master social media marketing and build your personal brand, especially on platforms like Instagram, can dictate your success.
The value of a website has diminished as consumers are engaging within these platforms. Being great at social media marketing is not easy. Companies are hiring dedicated teams to bolster their social media efforts. In early 2016, I met with Brian and Zach, and they explained their vision of SelfMade, and their plan to democratize social media. They intended to offer a combination of professional photo-editing services with social marketing capabilities to provide the support of a virtual creative director and social media marketing team to individuals building their brands. We were excited to lead the Seed round and embark on this journey.
We are proud to announce that FirstMark Capital has led the $8 million Series A round of SelfMade. FirstMark brings amazing insights given their success in social/images (Pinterest), creative tools (Invision, Sketchfab, Frame.io) and and the future or Work (MissionU, Upwork). We are also excited to be working with Matt Turck who has had a very successful career as an entrepreneur (TripleHop Technologies which was acquired by Oracle) and also as an investor as a Managing Director at FirstMark. Matt has been a thought leader in Big Data and AI/ML and we know his insights, especially as SelfMade continues to build out artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision technologies for automation, will be tremendously helpful. Please also read Matt’s excellent post on SelfMade on his blog. We’re thrilled to work with Matt and his team, as well as GGV, Founder Collective, BoxGroup, CrunchFund, and Marc Benioff.
Congratulations to Brian, Zach and the rest of the SelfMade team on this milestone. We look forward to this next stage of the journey.