A B2B company trying to change the way that marketers procure services for ad campaigns says it has just closed one of Europe’s largest-ever angel financing rounds.
blur Group, which runs a platform called the Creative Services Exchange, says that it has raised $2 million. Bypassing the VC route, the company instead opted for a group of about 20 business names and angel investors including Archie Norman, currently chairman of UK broadcaster ITV; Kevin Lomax, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Misys Plc and director at M&S; and Tim Schoonmaker, chairman of Grapeshot Limited and ex-chairman of Emap Advertising and ex-CEO of Odeon Cinemas Ltd.
Much like crowdsourced funding has cut out banks (and their approval processes and commissions) from the act of lending money, blur’s approach is trying to do the same for the world of marketing: by offering a platform where creatives can offer their services direct to the people commissioning them, blur claims to cut out some of the time and money that used to have to be invested in requests for tender from agencies. Final projects cover areas like design, marketing, creative, art and innovation campaigns.
That also means a much wider net of people for marketers to target with their tenders. blur says that currently 14,000 creative professionals from across 135 countries are already using the Create Services Exchange. Since launching in 2010, the company says that some 300 companies have already briefed on 700 projects with the total value of those projects at just under $10 million.
Philip Letts, blur Group founder and CEO, says that while the company had spoken to venture capital firms while raising funds, it opted for the angel approach because it followed in the mold for the company itself:
“We saw an opportunity to build our own network of partners,” he says.
The aim was to find a group of people who would not only invest in the company but put blur in touch with the right contacts at the marketing end to create more business. “The value of VCs is in their connections, so we decided to cut the middle man out and go straight for the people with connections.”
The average value of deals, at $10,000, is still relatively “grass roots,” he admits, although the client list hints at just how quick more established brands are being to trying out different routes for their marketing procurement. The list includes Disney, Sega, Ralph Lauren, HSBC and the FT, among others. Letts says that later stages of funding would not rule out bringing in more traditional VC firms into the mix as well.