HearMyPitch, The Brand-Startup Matchmaker

By Erin Griffith , written on February 17, 2012

From The News Desk

Advertising is the monetization plan for many of the hottest consumer Internet startups. But for brand new companies, nailing down that first brand partnership is a daunting task. It's an experience Jeffrey Cutler, now Director of Digital Strategy at Team Epic, knows well. He spent a chunk of time "literally running up and down Madison Avenue," he says, as Director of Marketing at before it sold to AOL in 2009. The time sink required to court brands and agencies is frustrating and full of dead ends. It's even difficult for the biggest, arguably most successful consumer Internet startups: Twitter's New York headquarters are on none other than Madison Avenue and Facebook has invested serious money and manpower into courting the ad world. Smaller startups are competing with them for attention--you can imagine who gets the meeting and in, turn, the ad dollars.

On the flip side, brands and agencies want to be associated with cutting edge startups, but they can get overwhelmed with the volume of options and information out there, Cutler says. At Team Epic he works with brands like Mars Chocolate, Hasbro, Chase and Pepsi. He's seen brand managers tune out the noise and revert back to Facebook and Twitter ads. "They read the tech blogs and their inboxes are full of pitches from startups, but it's too much information to filter," he said. Their time, like the time of the startups, is in short supply.

Brands are not afraid to throw money at a promising new startup. See Foursquare for an example. The company's focus is on merchant services, but it also offers branded badges and pages, as used by companies like Bravo, The New York Times and Red Bull. Being the first brand on the next Foursquare, or any new, potentially huge platform is an enticing opportunity for a brand, Cutler said.

It's catching on--more brands we know are partnering with startups we don't--but those deals are not easily won.

The inefficiencies keeping brands from connecting with new consumer Internet startups motivated Cutler and his friend Michael Cohen, a private equity investor at Torque Capital Group, to launch a brand-startup matchmaking site as a side project. HearMyPitch is purposely simple--"innovators," or startups and entrepreneurs, submit their pitch to the site. Cutler and his team filter and curate the pitches and connect with the companies they find most attractive to their growing community of "explorers" or advertisers. Then, in a biweekly email blast, HearMyPitch highlights two promising startups which may appeal to his advertiser audience. The first blast went out this week, featuring Privy and SocMetrics. Cutler believes the emails resonate with his agency and advertiser contacts because he simplifies the company's pitches in a way his audience can understand. The hope is that his unique position as a former startup guy and current agency person gives him a strong perspective on what both sides care about.

It's incredibly, stupidly simple experiment that, if successful, could save time for everyone involved and maybe help a startup score its first brand partner. The next step for HearMyPitch is to launch brand pages where startups vetted by Cutler and friends can pitch a brand directly in the hopes of nabbing a meeting. The only goal is to create efficiencies. Cutler and Cohen want startups to stop pitching brands that aren't a good match, and brands to open their doors to more startups, knowing the meetings they take will be more productive thanks to his team's qualifying each one.

HearMyPitch isn't the only one trying to solve this problem. Agencies like Joseph Jaffe's Evol8tion have the brand-startup connection in their sights, too. But HearMyPitch is the only one not capitalizing on the situation--it's a side project that Cutler and Cohen launched simply because they wanted to help. To check it out, sign up here.