The gig economy already lets you order a taxi ride, dog sitting or rented baby gear. Now you can add press releases and company blog posts to the list of goods and services available by app and delivered by an army of freelancers.
Seattle-based startup Spry is a marketing company billing itself as the “first mobile PR network.” The company, which started last year, is officially launching its service today after operating in beta mode.
There are other sites that offer the services of various professionals — web designers, illustrators, accountants and marketers among them — but Spry founder and CEO Angie Schneider said its approach is different. Spry has a team of PR experts and journalists that have undergone “stringent vetting,” she said, and Spry uses an algorithm to pair customers and marketers. The matches are based on a freelancer’s work experience as well as personal interests.
“We’re really first out of the gate for this type of model,” said Schneider, 41, who has been in marketing for 20 years.
The company has five employees. It got its start within Omnicom PR Group, a PR holding company. While Spry is an independent company, Omnicom remains the majority investor.
Through an iPhone app (Android is in the works), a customer orders marketing materials and then is matched with a freelancer who anonymously fills the order. Turnaround time is a couple of days, Schneider said, but she’s hoping to bring that down to 24 hours for straightforward orders. Customers and freelancers are not able to request repeat assignments with each other.
“We want to make sure the freelancers are not tethered or obligated to work on a project for the same client,” she said. On the flip side, she doesn’t want clients wedded to certain freelancers. “That takes away from the idea of leveraging the gig economy,” she said. The idea is “consistency in quality, not in people.”
Schneider pitches Spry as an affordable, on-demand service to businesses and nonprofits of all sizes.
“Everyone needs to promote themselves,” she said, “and until now, there wasn’t an easy way to do that.”
We caught up with Schneider for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “In today’s world it is expensive and complex for a business to promote itself. PR agencies were created to help navigate those choppy waters for a price. Now technology can connect companies to impactful marketing and communications products in the same way consumers can order a sandwich or a ride. Thanks to Spry, businesses of any size can have access to agency-quality blog posts, ‘influencer lists’ (influential users of social media), press releases and more, without the hassle of a marketplace or the expense of an agency, from the convenience of their iPhone.”
Inspiration hit us when: “I was leading Porter Novelli’s Asia Pacific practice and on a flight to India to speak at a PR conference. My topic was around talent retention strategies and how to overcome the turnover problems that are well-known in the industry. Looking at the data that’s out there about the mobile workforce and future generations of workers, the realities of job turnover among millennials and Generation Z and beyond is expected to increase. Then adding to that, the numbers on the gig economy growth and how most of us will dabble in it within a few years just had me thinking: Can we embrace this reality instead of trying to fight against it?”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Spry was incubated within Omnicom PR Group, which as a holding company for three of the largest global PR agencies, is a huge vote of confidence in our model.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “What really sets us apart from other platforms is the algorithm that matches the right talent to clients based on professional and personal experience and interests, saving everyone the time-intensive vetting/hiring process that other professional service platforms require. Additionally, we are priced at a fixed amount for each product, so there’s no rate negotiations. And we are the first platform for PR services that is entirely app-based.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Using Spry ourselves! We trust the system and our workforce to have Spry take care of our PR needs like press releases, thought leadership pieces and blog posts. We are a team of PR pros so we know how to do all these things in our sleep, but using Spry for these basics not only set us up to easily execute our launch on a startup budget, but it freed us up to do more networking and business development, which is important in this early stage, and time consuming!”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Probably trying to offer too many things too early. We’ve had so many ideas for what Spry can do, so many industries to expand into, so many products we can offer. And in the early days, we spent a lot of time researching and exploring those. But in the end, we tried to follow the advice of most entrepreneurs to ‘keep it simple and nail it before we scale it.'”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Definitely tacos and margaritas, does that count as an activity? We are a virtual team with people in New York, Seattle and Singapore, so we haven’t had a lot of activity time together yet. Probably the true favorite activities are giving each other a hard time on Slack.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Currently we are focused on adding to our Spry workforce, and so much of that right now is about writing talent. People must have experience working in the PR or journalism field, but writing skills are the top qualifier. Coming from the PR agency world, I know that clients are frequently complaining about their teams’ writing quality. So that’s one of the voids we’ve designed Spry to fill. As a result, the feedback about Spry’s writing has been great.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Make sure you have a partner or someone senior on your team whose strengths compliment you. Hiring Jesse Soleil as chief innovation officer was the best decision I’ve made so far.”