Read the 9-page pitch deck that a startup helping creators price brand deals used for its first raise
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- Hashtag Pay Me is a creator economy startup that helps influencers price their brand deals.
- The startup launched in June 2022 and closed its first funding round in May.
- Here is the 9-page pitch deck Hashtag Pay Me used to raise its $200,000 pre-seed round.
Cynthia Ruff, cofounder and CEO of creator economy startup Hashtag Pay Me, is raising “two babies” this year, she told Insider — her first child and the startup she just secured funding for.
Hashtag Pay Me, which Ruff cofounded with former influencer-marketing engineer Steven Worrall, is a platform that helps creators set prices for sponsored content with brands. The community-based tool, which launched in June 2022, gathers data from creators such as how much money they are getting paid.
In May, Hashtag Pay Me closed its first round of fundraising with a $200,000 pre-seed. Ruff said participants included cofounders of influencer-marketing platform Tribe Dynamics, Conor Begley and Jon Namnath, as well as unnamed founders and CEOs of DTC brands and engineers in the creator space.
“As good as your product is, that first check is the most monumental step that you can take as an early-stage founder,” Ruff said. “It means that someone believes in you enough that they will give you money.”
Fundraising as a creator economy startup in 2023 is a very different story than years prior. According to a recent report by The Information, funding for creator economy startups has been in decline since 2021, with some startups even shutting down entirely.
The state of the creator economy wasn’t lost on Ruff though as she sought out capital.
“When we went out to go raise money, we had a very strict conversation,” she said. “We can go and try to do a million dollars, but it would take much longer because we’ve never raised money before. We’re essentially ‘nobodies’ in this industry.”
Raising a big early-stage round would also add pressure on Ruff’s young startup, she said. Investors could have “much higher” expectations for rapid returns on their investments, Ruff said, “which means you might have to compromise on your business model … the people that you go after … the ways that you want to test and iterate as an early-stage product owner. That could totally change [the] trajectory of your business.”
Ruff used a brief pitch deck when reaching out to investors for Hashtag Pay Me’s pre-seed, which she curated specifically for individual investors — including a more robust version for investors outside of the creator economy niche.
“You want to keep it as short and succinct as possible so that they are really interested in the information that you’re highlighting and will want to book a meeting with you,” Ruff said. Investors may only read a deck for seconds, so grabbing attention and explaining the market, the problem, the solution, and how this specific product is the solution to that problem is a must, Ruff added.
She said being a content creator herself with 27,000 Instagram followers also helped with the pitching process.
“As soon as I realized that cold outreach to investors was exactly the same as cold outreach to brands, I immediately changed my perspective,” Ruff said, adding that she focused on making it as compelling as possible and tuned the pitch deck for each person getting it.
Read the 9-page pitch deck that helped Hashtag Pay Me raise its $200,000 pre-seed round:
The pitch deck starts with a cover slide and tagline.
Hashtag Pay Me uses the tagline: “The easiest way to go from pitch to pay.”
Then the deck jumps right into creator economy data and stats.
The first slide breaks down three key data points about creators’ income from brand deals and how much money is flowing through the creator economy.
Hashtag Pay Me outlines the problem: Brand deals can be chaotic for creators.
Hashtag Pay Me outlines the timeline and deal flow for brand sponsorships. The slide also notes that “60% of creators have trouble scaling their business due to these friction points,” according to Hashtag Pay Me data.
Then the deck outlines how Hashtag Pay Me solves this problem.
Hashtag Pay Me “empowers creators to streamline brand outreach from pitch to pay,” the slide says. The platform offers creators a single location to source, price, pitch, and invoice brand sponsorship deals.
Hashtag Pay Me highlights feedback from its users.
“Our proprietary benchmarking tool gives creators confidence,” the slide says before it shares testimonials about the product, including one from Ruff.
“Your calculator just helped me renegotiate my 6 month contract with a brand from $250 to $1000 per month! I never would have thought they’d agree to that rate before, THANK YOU!” one of the reviews says.
Then the deck breaks down Hashtag Pay Me’s growth so far.
According to Hashtag Pay Me’s pitch deck, “growth is exploding” and the startup illustrates this with a graph tracking the number of users and annual recurring revenue since September.
Hashtag Pay Me has two cofounders and two advisors.
Ruff introduces herself late into the deck, which describes her as a “Georgia Tech MBA who built a $2M+ digital creator enterprise while working in Compensation Consulting.”
Hashtag Pay Me’s cofounder and CTO, Steven Worrall, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of San Francisco and five years of experience in software engineering.
The slide also highlights advisors and investors Conor Begley and Jon Namnath.
Hashtag Pay Me breaks down how it will use fundraising to grow the startup.
Hashtag Pay Me plans to use its pre-seed to expand its pay database, build a “streamlined” version of the product, hire employees, and test and iterate its go-to-market strategy.
By the end of 2023, the startup will begin its search for its seed funding round, the slide reads.
The deck closes with a thank you and mission statement.
“We’re empowering the creator economy to expand their brand sponsorships,” the slide says.