Should you devote a considerable amount of time to YouTube, you’ll likely encounter videos in which the creators discuss the sponsors supporting their content. Agentio is building a platform for creators to sell ad slots to brands.
The New York-based startup was founded by Arthur Leopold, former president at celebrity talent marketplace Cameo, and Jonathan Meyers, a former engineer at Spotify who led the Automated Content Marketing team.
While at Cameo, Arthur Leopold gained insights into the intricacies of establishing a creator network. However, he recognized a gap in the market for a more streamlined approach to foster collaborations between brands and creators.
“Creators have highly engaged audiences. However, currently, brands work with creators on an on-off basis and often it takes days or weeks to get deals in place. We thought there needs to be an automated and scalable ad platform to bridge that gap,” Leopold told TechCrunch on a call.
The situation is grim for the creators. Even large creators are only selling 10 to 25% of their available ad slots, the duo said, implying that only a fraction of their produced videos are sponsored. MrBeast, one of the most popular YouTubers, posted on X in August about availability of ad slots on his channel’s videos. Agentio defines one ad slot as one ad read per video of 10-15 minutes in length on average.
Max Levine, co-founder of media firm Amp Studios, said it takes time to find the ideal match between brands and creators.
“For creators, finding a partner that is supportive and easy to work with from a creative perspective is the biggest thing. Creators, particularly at a certain scale, are outputting content to their audiences at a very rapid pace and need to hit posting deadlines. There are many cases where brands aren’t prepared to work within a creator’s existing production schedule, which can lead to misalignment,” Levine told TechCrunch in an email.
Levine said his firm typically engages in either flat-rate or CPM (cost per thousand impressions) arrangements, citing that automated solutions often fall short in accommodating creative processes.
Agentio started onboarding brands last month on its platform. The platform is designed to resemble a tool for executing social media campaigns, thereby minimizing the learning curve for brands, the co-founders said. Marketers are provided with features like the ability to approve creators participating in a campaign and to review advertising scripts prior to their live deployment.
The startup is focusing on automating key tasks, such as pairing brands with compatible creators for campaigns and ensuring that the advertising content is both live and brand-safe. Additionally, Agentio is developing predictive models to dynamically price creator partnerships, moving away from the conventional approach of static rate cards.
Creators (and their teams) can upload details about their upcoming videos to sell ad spots. And because of those details, Agentio can do a better brand matching. Once they sign up and add plans about their content, the platform uses an automated bidding process to show creators different brands interested in buying ad slots in their videos. Creators also gain visibility into bid amounts, creative guidelines and other requests.
The startup has raised $4.25 million in seed investment funding co-led by Craft Ventures and AlleyCorp, with participation from additional institutional investors including Antler, Protagonist and Permanent Capital.
Other investors such as Wieden+Kennedy CEO Neal Arthur, creator Cody Ko, Global VP of media at Expedia Rory Paterson, co-founder of Buddy Media (acquired by Salesforce) Jeff Ragovin, Academy Award-winning producer Michael Sugar, Cameo co-founder Steven Galanis and SoulCycle co-founder Elizabeth Cutler also participated in the round.
Agentio earns money by charging a 20% fee to brands on their ad spends. Currently, it is not taking a cut from creators.
The startup, with a staff of six, aims to maintain a closed platform in the near term. However, plans include expanding its roster of creators and brands. For the time being, Agentio is focusing its efforts on streamlining ad sales on YouTube.
Bryan Rosenblatt, a partner at Craft Ventures, told TechCrunch over a call that Agentio serving both as a creator marketplace and SaaS platform for brands drew the interest of the fund. Rosenblatt, who started his career in radio, pointed out that traditional radio and TV stations typically have specialized teams managing branded content, a resource that individual creators often lack.
“Agentio is a great platform for creators to get brand partnerships without divulging from the content. While the startup is currently accepting select brands and creators, they will need to get it right by developing a scalable vetting process when they open the platform up,” he said.