Fourstarzz Media, a Lincoln-based influencer marketing startup, has had a busy year. Among other things, the company has closed a $750,000 round of pre-seed capital investment, been accepted into the Forbes Agency Council (invitation only), and been named as one of ten influencer marketing firms worldwide in the Gartner Marketing Technology Vendor Guide for 2018.
“Being mentioned by Gartner as a young company is a big deal,” said Co-Founder and CEO Dennis Doerfl. “They listed ten innovative influencer marketing companies globally, and we’re one of them.”
Doerfl was also name a Pipeline Entrepreneur for 2018, and just completed the fourth module in the program.
“Pipeline helped us establish a great network in the Midwest,” he said. “It’s a great institution for young businesses to get connected, especially since we weren’t born in this country.”
Fourstarzz Media has aggressive plans to build a global footprint. They are currently active in eight countries and have provided service to companies like BMW, Expedia, Hotels.com, Groupon and Philips. Doerfl and his Co-Founder Daniel Troesch have international business experience through their work with Groupon.
“A lot of bigger brands operate globally and we want to build a global network quickly,” Doerfl said “Our backgrounds equip us to run a company on a global scale. We know how to build a global presence.”
The Fourstarzz platform allows brands to engage with influential social media personalities for endorsing products and services. The company offers a variety of influencer marketing tools, such as the influencer meta-search engine and the campaign design tool.
“The art is finding just the right social media personality, the right fit,” Doerfl said. “It could be you or me or a celebrity. The key is if their followership matches the brand’s target.”
Other social media platforms are taking notice. Hootsuite integrated with the Fourstarzz platform in September.
“Hootsuite is the biggest social media management platform in the world with 16 million users across the globe,” Doerfl said. “Every one of them can use our tool to add influencer marketing with their social media campaign.”
Fourstarzz is leveraging the Forbes and Gartner opportunities for business development, but also for thought leadership about influencer marketing.
“We estimate that it’s a $10 billion market, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that influencer marketing produces 11 times the ROI compared to any other type of digital marketing,” Doerfl said. “If more marketers consider such research focused on outputs, they would distribute more budget into that sector.”
Doerfl sees significant differences between influencer marketing and other, more traditional approaches.
“Old marketing models push messages out to consumers for them to recognize,” he said. “This model will not work in a digital world. On channels like Spotify or Apple Music, people pay for not being disturbed. We are part of social media conversations that cannot be cut out.”
The recent Fourstarzz investment round was led by Invest Nebraska, with participation from others including M25 out of Chicago, Nelnet, Nebraska Angels and a number of independent investors. Don’t Panic Labs (a software development partner) also raised their stakes in the company.
“Our customer base is impressive and we have confirmed that our business model works,” Doerfl said. “That’s what the investors bought into.”
Fourstarzz has definite plans for how to use the investment for continuing their growth trajectory.
“The investment will go into three buckets,” Doerfl said. “First is tech integration. We want to be part of other marketing platforms. Second is operations, staff for managing client relationship-building. Third is digital marketing.”
Fourstarzz has leveraged internships to supplement growth in full-time staff. One current intern is Johnny Keeley, a senior journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who serves as the company’s Editorial and Digital Content Intern.
“It’s definitely been interesting as a millennial coming into an influencer marketing company,” he said. “I love how I can be creative and try different things. The company culture is great. They show me what I need to do, allow me to fail and praise me when I do a good job.”
Access to talent is one reason Fourstarzz has chosen to maintain its headquarters in Lincoln while working to establish a global presence.
“For us, Johnny is an example of the talent we can find here with the proximity to the university,” Doerfl said. “When we started off, we could have been in Berlin or Paris or London. We came here for a reason.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.