The startup world has invested a lot of time and effort into trying to quantify the impact of so-called social media influencers, and package it up on behalf of marketers – but it would be fair to say that nobody has quite hit the jackpot. Yet.
Supestar bloggers and vloggers at the very top of the social media tree command huge fees from advertisers, but brands searching for better value for money and more engagement between performer and audience would do well to take a closer look at the network of “influencer agencies” that have sprung up in the past couple of years.
Takumi is one such agency. Founded in 2015 by Mats Stigzelius, Solberg Audunsson and Gummi Eggertsson, Takumi claims to be the most active influencer platform in Europe, with 1,000 postings per month requesting influencers to participate in brand campaigns.
It’s a classic ‘gig economy’ play; approved Instagram users with as few as 1,000 followers are able to browse a selection of ‘gigs’ posted by brands; they can then make their own unique contribution to the campaign, choosing their own creative approach, and signposting the work with a hashtag indicating that it is paid for content.
Takumi handles payment processing, making sure influencers are paid in under 48 hours, and ensures the influencers are complying with the Advertising Standards Authority. Takumi says that the average influencers earns “hundreds of pounds per month”. The firm even handles influencers’ tax requirements for them, distributing a PDF document which can submitted directly to the tax authorities.
This week Takumi announced that they have completed a $4 million Series A funding round, from a network of family offices and high net worth (HNW) angel investors that, following a seed round raise of $3.1 million, brings the total number of backers to over 50, including “prominent UK, European and US investors with extensive networks within high profile consumer brands and agency groups”, according to a press release.
The latest funding will be used to develop Takumi’s offering, and enable the company to expand further into the US, having recently launched there, as well as in Ireland, and Germany at the end of 2016.
Takumi says that it will expand the product offering to offer a wider range of campaign options as well as more in-depth campaign reporting, allowing brands to “understand and capitalise on the potential of influential social media users further”.
Investors must be banking on Takumi’s “clearly differentiated model”; the startup says that it is an “influencer first” managed service platform with a strong focus on “micro-influencers”, who, they say, generate higher engagement levels, 2.9%, thanks to their more active and responsive audiences – who perhaps feel closer to a micro-influencer than they do to a superstar vlogger.
Takumi says that its “turnkey” solution, as opposed to its competitors Software as a Service (SaaS) based models can make the difference. The agency is already working with more than 300 brands, they say, across Europe and the US, and have handled more than 10,000 influencer posts for 600+ campaigns, including for Dominos, Havas, Hilton and Sony Music.
The founding team boast a “varied range of experience in both marketing and finance”.
“Marketers are being burned by their negative experiences with influencer engagement campaigns. Transparency is critical to us at Takumi and this is why we’ll be using this funding to improve our product even further to enable more insightful and analytical campaign reporting”, commented Solberg Audunsson.
Mats Stigzelius says that “Influencer marketing is still in its early stages but will grow into a major marketing channel over the next five years”, whilst Gummi Eggertsson concludes that:
“With the new funding in place, we can now execute on our growth strategy and enable a much wider community of influencers and clients to benefit from having access to our platform.”
Takumi’s backers don’t disagree. Dominic Perks, CEO at Hambro Perks, an early Takumi backer, commented:
“You can’t fail to be impressed by how far Takumi has come in under two years. Based on the progress they have achieved to date, the team they have in place and their current growth rate, we would expect Takumi to establish itself as a best in class, global influencer marketing platform.”
They will have some competition, but funding in the sector has been hard to come by, and being able to scale at the same speed as a small army of young, ambitious millennial influencers, might put Takumi in pole position.