Digital Marketplace Clutch Closes $1.2M Pre-Round Led by Precursor Ventures

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digital marketplace Grab announced today it has closed a $1.2 million seed round led by Predecessors.

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Company founded in 2020 Madison Long as well as Simone Maypositions itself as one of the first people-centric creative economy platforms that connects people with businesses committed to marketing and content creation.

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“We’re very interested in uplifting the next generation of people like us,” May told TechCrunch. “We prioritize the democratization of 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 brand collaborations. The app also provides tools to help people edit videos, create graphics, and manage their social media presence on other platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Meanwhile, Clutch allows brands to find creators and allows for an open dialogue between two organizations.

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The app arrives on time. Morning Consult Research 2019 found that over 85% of people between the ages of 13 and 38 want to become social media influencers at some point.

In the past decade, brands have joined the powerhouse community looking for popular content creators to help them market their business. The flip side of this is that brands overwhelmingly gravitate towards white influencers, which contributes to inequality in pay and opportunities for people of color, especially black creators who often source popular destinations.

The company says it has over 200 creators on the platform and 3,000 people on the waiting list. May said at least 75% of active content creators on Clutch are people of color, and 60% of executives running businesses on the platform are also from minorities, including Agua Bonita and Campfire. Long added that making content creators more accessible and less exploited to marginalized communities could help make brand marketing more diverse and equitable.

Along with the fundraiser, Clutch also announced the launch of the open beta today. A closed beta was recently completed, in which only students worked. The open beta launch shows that Clutch is still working with students, although there are plans to work with all creators one day, the company said.

The fundraising journey lasted eight months and began last August. Mei said they were dating Charles Hudsonmanaging partner of Precursor Ventures, through another founder he invested in, who turned out to be a friend of Long.

This friend “introduced this dedication,” Long said. “Then I was able to introduce Charles and Precursor.”

“Madison and Simone are amazing founders who connect talented creators with businesses in need of their services,” Hudson told TechCrunch. “Their platform enables the next generation of creators to succeed on their own terms and provides their clients with much-needed content creation assistance.”

Working with Charles was a highlight because he helped Long and May sort through issues and introduced them to mentors such as Stacy Brown-Philpot, former CEO of TaskRabbit. There were also moments along the way when the duo went above and beyond to prove that Clutch could scale and make a huge impact on communities.

“I think because we are so transparent in our community, it has allowed us to gain the trust of investors who may have been more skeptical,” Long said. “They didn’t see that founders like us could do what we could do.”

Long and May have been best friends since they met as students at Purdue University. He studied computer science for a long time, and May specialized in accounting. However, the duo have always found a way to bond due to their similarities, including community service and youth advocacy.

Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Long said she always wanted to be an entrepreneur. During her summers in high school, she created math programs for high school students, and after graduating she worked for Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation to help 2020 Women in the workplace report. Mei was born into a technology-focused family in Atlanta, Georgia and after graduation found a job as a consultant at Accenture.

One day, she called Long with an idea—a simplified way to introduce content creators and new brands. The idea became Clutch, and Long said she was “thrilled” when she first heard about it. With this investment, Clutch plans to focus on further business expansion and product research. May said the plan is to exit beta testing next year and launch it nationally.

“Our vision is to build a world where authentic, engaging work supports a joyful, sustainable and fair lifestyle,” Long said. “Clutch is an ecosystem of the future creative economy that will provide individuals and businesses with all the tools they need to thrive in all areas of life and turn self-interest into a source of income.”

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