Early in the pandemic, Nick Gerard, Steven Layne, and Samantha Safer Valentine had a hit on their hands. In the era before the onset of Zoom fatigue, the trio launched Mainstream Live, a website and newsletter that curated live virtual events across all platforms and provided people with text-based reminders for them. see.
“We started with the problem of discovering people looking for cool things to do online,” Gerard told TechCrunch. “We knew immediately that we were taking advantage of something.” Overnight, tens of thousands of people were on the site, searching for events online to keep them connected in a period of unprecedented social isolation.
After going viral, the Mainstream Live team was inundated with questions about the tools it used to expose events and keep its community informed. As the team built more services for their own needs, they eventually opened up their custom toolkit, sharing the code with other community leaders and content creators who implemented the same set of tools with a rebrand.
“People loved it, more and more people asked for it,” Gerard said. “We got to the point where we were juggling a dozen [these] for different partners. ”By the fall, the team finished with the original community, leaned toward the incoming interest in their toolkit, and built Norby.
The new company brought together everything people asked for: a bio link service, referral tracking, SMS, ticketing, and other marketing tools needed to keep a small brand or community of creators active.
Gerard says Norby’s team has been “following that signal” ever since. Now Norby has raised a $ 3.8 million seed round directed by Gradient companies, Google’s venture fund focused on artificial intelligence, to grow its team and scale its full-stack marketing platform to new heights. Bungalow Capital, BBG Ventures, Charge VC and Notation also participated in the financing round.
Norby’s big idea is to combine services like LinkTree, Eventbrite, and MailChimp into a single, affordable subscription-based service, offering anyone running an online community a one-size-fits-all solution rather than a costly mosaic of services that need to be set up and managed individually. . . Norby is ideal for small brands and individual entrepreneurs, with most of its clients running operations of fewer than 10 people. The Creator Toolkit is subscription-based only and won’t charge fees like Eventbrite and other popular services.
For brands, it starts at $ 20 per month, and the company has plans in the works for a $ 5 per month tier for individual use. There is no free tier, and Gerard prefers to think that Norby customers will be excited to save time and money on the company’s bundled offering. “What we found is that people spend an enormous amount of money on these tools,” Gerard said. “We can get a ton of tools out of your pile and save you money. But we can also save you time. “Norby’s team spends a lot of time talking to creators and small businesses. His clients range from sexual wellness companies to advice columnists and activists – anyone who needs to run an online community. It does count. Sad girls club, EVRYMAN Y All bodies among his first clients
The company is growing slowly and organically, attracting new users through a waiting list and invitation system and showing them the product in group demos. “Which has been really cool for us: We’ll get a new client for a role or two … then they went into the product and said, ‘Oh, we’ve always wanted to try SMS,’ and then it’s there and they can start use it, ”Gerard said.
In general, Norby sees himself as an advocate for creators and an insulator against the power wielded by big platforms. In the long term, Gerard hopes to help creators own their communities as a kind of “counterweight” to big platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.
Norby aims to help more people reliably earn a living by creating online content and communities. “There are a handful of extreme winners and after that it’s sterile,” Gerard said, citing Li Jin’s ideas on building a creative middle class.
Helping creators “own the relationship” with their communities is something the big platforms will never have an incentive to do. But those same platforms are realizing that creators wield very real power, and the ability to take their content empires and implement them if they choose.
“The exciting thing about this moment is that right now, looking forward to the next five or 10 years, nothing is inevitable,” Gerard said. “These windows don’t appear all the time.”