We in the media have a love-hate relationship with public relations firms and their professionals, with that relationship tending to skew heavily to the latter. Companies pour countless hours of blood, sweat and tears into building products and viable businesses, and when they’re ready to tell those unique stories, they turn to PR. But as it stands right now, companies struggle to find the right PR match, and for the high cost, they don’t get enough value in return. And this goes both ways.
Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer puts it more succinctly: “The PR industry is a horribly broken $10 billion market ripe for disruption.” Fouladgar-Mercer is a former senior associate at Sierra Ventures and entrepreneur-in-residence at Shasta Ventures. Throughout his experience in venture capital and private equity, he tells us, he witnessed company after company struggle with sourcing independent and small PR firms — with finding the right representation to accomodate their needs.
So the former VC founded AirPR in 2011 to address this problem, developing a platform over the last 18 months that is designed to provide the fragmented and demand-heavy PR industry with solutions to serve both the supply and demand sides of the market.
To support the upcoming launch of AirPR’s platform (in mid-October), the startup is announcing today that it has raised over $1 million from Mohr Davidow Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Correlation Ventures, and 500 Startups. A number of angel investors also contributed to the startup’s seed financing, including Matt Mullenweg, Founder of WordPress and Thomas Lehrman, Co-founder of Gerson Lehrman Group.
The mission, according to AirPR’s founder, is to decrease the friction for the PR professional, while increasing efficacy for the client — a mission that, if it is followed-through, could bring a huge benefit to startups and big companies alike.
Obviously, for companies, building the face of their business and coherently expressing its core message is of critical importance, impacting not just how a company interacts with the media but with potential partners and investors as well. And it’s one that doesn’t just happen through canned email correspondence and occasional check-ins.
Unfortunately, the landscape is ruled by large-scale PR firms that charge anywhere from $10K to $50K for their services, a price that is hard to justify even for the most respected firms, especially when it may not reflect the scope of the work they’re doing or the projected outcomes. For smaller businesses looking for lower-cost, shorter-term engagement campaigns, the challenges are many. So, AirPR wants to become the go-to platform for these companies, doing the heavy lifting for them and sourcing quality PR reps so co-founders and executives can focus on what they do best.
The company isn’t yet revealing the details of its platform, but we were able to get a sneak-peek of the guest list of the startup’s upcoming pre-launch party, and let’s just say that there’s plenty of interest from recognizable names in the tech industry.
AirPR plans to use this seed funding to continue building its platform, and invite-only launch is scheduled for mid-October. More to come then.