First Round Capital Launches A Platform For Startups To Hack PR

Over the last year, early-stage venture firm First Round Capital has quietly built an arsenal of tools for its portfolio companies to connect and share resources. Now they’re adding another tool (and it’s actually open to all startups, not just First Round ones): it’s a platform for companies and reporters to quickly and efficiently connect on press coverage.

Called hackPR, it’s a site where journalists can reach out to several companies at once around a specific story or question — like how do e-commerce startups handle fraud? Or how do mid-size companies scale teams while maintaining a strong internal culture?

By the same token, startups can more easily develop relationship with reporters — something that can help them down the line when they want to grow their customer bases.

Eyewear startup Warby Parker, for example, got a huge leg up through an early profile in GQ, said First Round’s Brett Berson, who built the product with CeCe Cheng. The site will formally launch in December, but First Round is doing this announcement now to sign up startups and reporters, who will be heavily vetted from the beginning.

Reporters will be able to put out requests to startups based on company size, industry or location, and then First Round’s platform will match them with appropriate companies. If appropriate, they’ll also send reporters the right contact information for different startups, so journalists can follow-up with more in-depth interviews.

“We’re going to open up the platform slowly. Reporters and startups will be curated,” Berson said. “The worst sort of outcome would be having companies and journalists being spammed.”

First Round’s Josh Kopelman said that while there are other sites that offer a similar service like HARO (or Help A Reporter Out), startups will benefit if there’s a platform that’s specifically devoted to them and surrounding tech media ecosystem.

This is the type of product that’s actually just up First Round’s alley, since many of the companies that the firm funds are, in fact, two-sided marketplaces. First Round has backed companies like TaskRabbit, Threadflip and Modcloth. They specialize in the first 18 months of a company’s life (hence the name “First Round”) and have expertise in e-commerce startups.

HackPR is yet another sign of how VC firms are having to step up their game in offering services beyond raw capital. Other firms like Andreessen Horowitz offer their own in-house PR help to portfolio companies.