One more point for “startup-team Canada” as Calgary-based Communo announced early this morning that it raised $3.3 million (Canadian, which is $2.5M in American paper) for its marketers-as-a-service platform.
Communo co-founder and CEO Ryan Gill said the platform connected over 40,000 users with marketers, creative talent, and consultants to hit the $25 million deal mark in 2019. If Communo sounds like “Upwork for marketers” or Craigslist-for-marketers-with-less-chaos” — that’s exactly what it is.
Launched in 2016, Gill went upstream of his own marketing film, Cult, as he saw potential clients struggle with a myriad of marketing options and few good avenues to identify or select the right marketers at the right budget. Anecdotally, Grit Daily’s sleuths see “requests for proposals” on Facebook and LinkedIn all the time — as if whoever is the fastest to recommend “their friend” is a good way to pick your next designer, developer, or public relations rep.
Communo puts daylight into an otherwise muddy, fragmented freelance marketing market.
Communo caught the attention of Panache Ventures in 2018 when the company raised its first million. The current round of funding came from Brett Wilson, a former CBC “The Dragon’s Den” panelist (Canada’s “Shark Tank equivalent”), Frank Palmer — founder of advertising firm Palmer Jarvis — and serial investors Andrew Kortina (Venmo) and Rich Antoniello (Complex).
The company says that the latest round will fund Communo’s growth in the US and UK markets.
What’s the move?
The company plays into a broader trend that favors gig workers, specialization, and nimbleness in marketing contracts, with even bigger enterprises shedding multi-year agency agreements (or what we call “annuities” here at Grit Daily).
In what looks like an efficiency play, Gill predicts “[i]n the not-to-distant future, many advertising, creative and marketing services firms will be deselected because they are too big. Clients will stop paying inflated hourly rates resulting from staff overhead and will refuse to fund resources not directly engaged on their business,” said Gill (emphasis added).
“Marketing firms must get smaller, employ liquid talent models, but still retain the ability to scale with speed in order to accommodate dynamic client demands,” he added. Serving the “gig marketer” economy further, Communo partnered with co-working company, Spaces, with shared workspaces for Communo members in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and New York. Notably for an early stage start up, in 2019, Communo bought out one competitor, Localsolo.
Coincidentally Gill also co-founded “The Gathering,” a lead-generation event held in the depths of Winter (to make sure you really want to go) squarely focused on connecting marketers in person. Originally intended to be a one-time event, The Gathering is in its 8th year and has grown from 300 to 1200 attendees. A cocktail of agency, in-person events, and a broader platform play through Communo will be worth watching as Communo execs already hinted at more acquisitions over the next year.