Jobbing social media managers and community managers may find the story behind the Detroit-based social media startup Stik.com an inspiring one. Given that it’s just secured Series A funding totaling $2.3 million, it’s clearly doing something very right.
A small idea leads to big success
Strik’s co-founders, 29-year-old Harvard buddies Nathan Labenz and Jay Gierak (both of who were in the Class of 2006 with the founder of Facebook, himself, Mark Zuckerberg) had gone their separate ways after graduation. Gierak was working with the investment bank Morgan Stanley, while Labenz was running his own business editing resumes (as most social media managers can testify, finding time to keep your resume in tip-top condition without help isn’t easy).
Labenz came up with a modest marketing idea: he asked customers to recommend him to their friends if they’d liked his work, whereupon each friend received a $5 coupon. The result? Business blossomed. Labenz puts it like this:
“The lesson was, your customers will do your advertising for you for free if you just ask. And if referrals worked for finding customers for me, it would work for finding customers for others.”
Why Strik.com’s social media managers are busy
Labenz came back to the U.S. and teamed up with his buddy Gierak in Silicon Valley, where Strik.com was first launched. The company offers a free social media service allowing users to post and receive reviews on local service providers like accountants, attorneys, real-estate agents and mortgage brokers. It now employs 10 people, and expects to be cash-positive by the end of the year. Revenue is chiefly coming from advertising, although a smaller amount comes from an upgraded service costing $29 per month.
And its social media manager and community manager roles are likely to be hectic: the site now boasts 200,000 listed professionals and has collected around 2.5 million recommendations and reviews.
The move to Detroit wasn’t simply borne of homesickness, although both co-founders are fellow Detroiters. It was motivated by the search for talent: there are plenty of social media managers, community managers and other sought-after pros in Silicon Valley, of course, but there are also plenty of companies trying to snap them all up. Costs are lower in Detroit, says Gierak, and there are “fewer companies fighting for talent here.”