Our investment in Smore — Digital marketing for the 99%

I’m excited to report that we just closed a new investment with some old friends.

Smore is based in Tel Aviv, but two years ago they came to Seattle for the summer to participate in TechStars. Gilad and Shlomi had never built a company before, but they were two of the most talented makers we’d ever met and we agreed to lead their small angel round before the program was even halfway over.

They moved back to Tel Aviv after TechStars — mostly because the U.S. makes it so hard for talented young immigrants to stay — and settled into a steady pace of customer and product development far from the west coast echo chamber. While this was a bummer for us — we loved having the Smore guys in our Seattle office and our regular Google Hangouts with them weren’t quite the same — it turned out to be a great move for Gilad and Shlomi.

Smore’s mission has always been to take the mystery out of digital marketing for the 99.9% of humanity that doesn’t live inside the tech industry bubble. 

Getting away from the noise allowed them to really hear what regular people were saying about finding customers online:

  • “It’s just too hard and I don’t know where to start.” 
  • “I don’t really want a fancy website, I just want more customers to walk in my door.” 
  • “I’m doing a bunch of stuff but I have no idea what’s working and what’s not.” 

Building simple, beautiful tools for these people is all Smore has focused on for the past two years. They haven’t hustled press, they haven’t fundraised, they haven’t hosted tech meetups or tried to get on the front page of Hacker News.

So what *did* the Smore team do, if they weren’t keeping busy with all the activities that seem to consume most young founders?

  • They built and shipped constantly, learning about their customers through an endless set of experiments in running code. 
  • They got over half a million people (and counting) to sign up and promote something — a local event, a real estate listing, a product or a local business — with a beautiful online flyer. 
  • They gave those people simple and effective ways to spread the word about their flyers, driving millions and millions of prospective customers to visit them every month. 
  • They figured out what kinds of services people would pay for, how much they’d pay, and how to keep them coming back for more. 
  • They built a profitable business — adding a steadily increasing layer of recurring revenue each month — based purely on organic adoption. 

Gilad and Shlomi entered TechStars as gifted makers, and their obsession with digital craftsmanship will always be the core of their firm’s culture. But two years of heads-down company-building helped them hone new skills and insights about how to turn beautiful product into real business value. As soon as they felt ready to flex those new muscles, we jumped at the chance to lead the raise we’re announcing today.

I don’t expect Smore to suddenly start behaving like every other startup just because they raised a little money. They’ve always done things their own way and this raise just gives them a little more space to be themselves. All I know is that it’s going to be both beautiful and useful, and that’s an excellent place to start.