TapInfluence Taps Into Colorado VC Firms for a $5M Series B Round

9/10/13Follow @MichaelXBD

TapInfluence, a Boulder, CO-based startup that develops software to power influencer marketing campaigns, has closed a $5 million Series B round, the company announced today.

The new investment increases the total amount raised by TapInfluence (which until March was named BlogFrog) to $9 million. Grotech Ventures led the round, which was oversubscribed, and Access Venture Partners is a new investor. Both firms have offices in the Denver area.

TapInfluence will use the money to scale up its sales, marketing, and customer assistance teams, co-founder and chief marketing officer Holly Hamann said. TapInfluence has 40 employees split between offices in Boulder and New York City.

TapInfluence bills itself as a cloud-based platform that allows users to automatically create, manage, and measure content marketing campaigns.

But content marketing isn’t especially helpful for brands if the right people aren’t seeing it, and that’s where the second component of TapInfluence’s strategy comes in, Hamann said. It has developed a network of more than 100,000 social media influencers who will run sponsored content and native advertising. Brands also can import their own influences.

“You take the decline of the old advertising model, the rise of content marketing, and then the explosion of social media, what that creates is this environment where marketers are trying to tap the power of influencers to co-create content and then use those influencers as a sort of digital army to create and distribute content,” Hamann said.

The hope is the digital armies generate the returns on investments big brands need to see to shift more advertising dollars to content marketing, Hamann said.

TapInfluence’s software also features real-time analytics on the effectiveness of each registered influencer and campaign and calculates a dollar value for the ROI of each piece of content, Hamann said.

Nearly 100 brands and agencies are using TapInfluence, including Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, and Microsoft, which Hamann said is the largest client.

TapInfluence will license its SAAS platform to brands, Hamann said. The company had reached breakeven despite its rapid expansion and new office in New York, she said, although now the priority will be on building its U.S. client base.

Working with universally recognized brands is a big step up from the earliest versions of TapInfluence, and the company and product have evolved considerably in their short history.

The company was formed in 2009 by Hamann and CEO Rustin Banks. Banks began working on what would become TapInfluence on nights and weekends when he was an employee at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., a Boulder-based company.

Banks and his wife had recently had a child, and he became interested in so called “mommy blogs” and the communities that arose around them. The original incarnation of TapInfluence, known as The BlogFrog, developed social media tools for those communities and eventually moved into influencer marketing. Its software helped brands connect with influential mommy bloggers who might review or discuss their products on their blogs.

A few years ago, the company expanded its focus beyond helping marketers reach mothers to niche communities that were predominately made up of woman. In March 2012, the then BlogFrog raised a $3.2 million Series A round and opened an office in New York City to have better access to ad agencies and marketers.

This March, it rebranded itself to TapInfluence and announced it was shifting to its current strategy.

TapInfluence is Banks’ first startup, but Hamann has experience with several in the Boulder area, including LeftHand Networks and Service Metrics, which were two of the most notable exits for Colorado tech companies in the past 15 years.

That experience helped the company tap into an impressive list of angel investors, including LeftHand Networks co-founders John Spiers and Kelly Long and Service Metrics co-founder Raj Bhargava.

David Cohen’s super angel fund Bullet Time Ventures also is an investor.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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