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Partnered Raises $850K In Fresh Seed Funding To Pair Big Brands With Startups

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Partnered, a Y Combinator-backed company that pairs emerging startups with big brands, raised a fresh $850,000 in new funding and is coming out of closed beta. The round brings the company’s total funding to $1.6 million.

Investors in this round include Rothenberg Ventures, Structure Capital, Kima Ventures, Slow Ventures, Shervin Pishevar’s Sherpa Ventures, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

When the startup came out of Y Combinator two years ago, it originally was called Sponsorfied and focused on sponsorships (as you might guess from the old name). But they shifted into a more generalized model around re-inventing business development between startups and brands.

“We found out that there are big brands that are looking for startups that are radically changing every part of their business and how they reach audiences,” said co-founder Baldwin Cunningham. “Then on the other side, there are startups that are trying to figure out how to connect with big brands and enterprises. We simplify business development for both sides.”

Cunningham gave some examples. If a brand, for example, wanted to reach out to music fans two decades ago, they’d use MTV. But today, those customers might be scattered across dozens of channels.

He said that brands would approach Partnered, asking about how to increase their e-mail subscription counts or how to measure how their online-to-offline campaigns were performing.

On Partnered’s platform, brands and agencies will post goals that they need help with and startups that focus on those issues can then respond. They’ve brokered about 60 partnerships between startups and brands in the last three months.

“It’s a basic way for companies to express needs and wants,” Cunningham said. He argued that it’s a better way to handle BD than the old model of using conferences, happy hours and requests for proposal.

The company has worked with brands like AllSaints and startups like Sumpto, a college influencer network that was able to connect with a large apparel brand.

As the company has evolved, its business model has changed as well. Partnered doesn’t charge for access to the platform, but it does make money through education services and custom video reports that help brands identify emerging startup and partnership opportunities.

With the funding, the company plans to hire a few more people and grow the user base.