Stagger, a visual storytelling platform designed for small and medium-sized businesses, closed a $1.3 million round in pre-seed funding Wednesday. The San Antonio-based venture firm Active Capital led the round, with participation from Operator Partners, Hustle Fund, Adapt VC, and several angel investors.
Stagger is a graphic design platform that includes templates for users to create social media graphics, presentations, and other visual content. Chrissy Cowdrey launched Stagger first as an iOS app in mid-2019 for her own use.
Stagger has a drag and drop design much like Canva that business owners lacking complex design software experience can use. Stagger’s added value is the machine learning features Cowdrey built into the platform to feed the analytics-based dashboard that tracks viewer engagement. The platform provides actionable insights on content that attracts the most customer engagement so business owners can make informed decisions.
Cowdrey’s product design and advertising experience working for enterprises such as USAA and Logitech made her aware of how small and medium-sized businesses also needed data-driven ways to engage with their audience. After realizing she could scale her new kind of digital content creation tool into a Software as a Service (SaaS) business model, the solo entrepreneur developed her app into a web-based software solution by early 2020.
Customers can create their first three projects for free. A business subscription is $49 a month to access the full functionality and maintain the brand’s logo and style guide for your content.
“Creating content that stands out from the crowd of competition can cost a business owner thousands of dollars and weeks of revisions to get something that may or may not engage your audience,” Cowdrey said. “Stagger solves this problem with data analytics and machine learning to analyze every element of your content, giving you actionable insights so the business owner can be a smarter storyteller.”
During the early months of the pandemic, fundraising was challenging for Cowdrey, who focused on Twitter to connect with venture capitalists (VCs). That’s how she found almost 60% of her investors, including Pat Matthews, who founded Active Capital to lead seed rounds for business-to-business (B2B) SaaS companies based outside of Silicon Valley.
“When we first connected over email she was very early in her journey relative to other companies we were evaluating,” Matthews said. “Finally, we got to connect in person, and given the progress she’d made we felt good about investing.”
The first-time founder didn’t want to take on any debt, so she focused her fundraising on angel and VC investors. Cowdrey learned VC terms, taught herself about the different funding rounds, and refined her pitch. Her advice to first-time founders is to ask yourself if your startup is VC fundable, take a critical look at your business model, and focus your pitch to get your point across.
“We focused on building product and were able to launch our beta by November,” Cowdrey said. “I was able to turn lots of early no’s into yeses.”
The Austin-based startup has four employees — Cowdrey and the company’s chief technology officer are in Texas, plus two engineers work from Uruguay. With 31% in month-over-month growth in customer sign-ups, Stagger will use the pre-seed funding to hire a remote growth marketer. Cowdrey also plans to refine Stagger’s data models with big data sets and pursue channel partnerships.
“The definition of stagger is ‘to astonish or deeply shock,'” Cowdrey said. “We strive to have our data insights do just this for our customers.”
The featured image is of Chrissy Cowdrey, founder and CEO of Stagger, courtesy photo.