M25 VC
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M25 VC

Why We Invested in Hummingbirds

Announcing our investment in Des Moines-based Hummingbirds!

Small businesses make up over 99% of all businesses in the US, and many struggle with marketing. Influencer marketing offers a way for brands to connect more directly with their target audience via individuals who have highly engaged audiences with common interests. It can be a great way to drive return on marketing spend when executed well, but unfortunately for small businesses, current influencer platforms are not designed for driving hyper-local behavior, are expensive to access, and bias toward inauthentic, transactional content.

Hummingbirds fills this hole in the market by providing a marketplace solution allowing small businesses to connect & collaborate with hyper-local nano-influencers (1K — 10K followers). These influencers (aka “hummingbirds”) offer several advantages for small businesses — they are local, small business champions who want to help build their communities, they are perceived as trustworthy & authentic by their followers, they have the most highly engaged followers of any influencer subgroup, and they cost less than macro & mega influencers. Frankly, most of these ‘hummingbirds’ wouldn’t even call themselves influencers given the sometimes negative association with that term. Hummingbirds — the company — allows small businesses to work with the ‘hummingbirds’ in their communities to drive more revenue and recognition in a high-quality, genuine manner.

What we got even more excited about was the *stellar* founding team. The co-founders combine extensive experience in small business marketing and brand building, and prior entrepreneurial and startup experience that demonstrates a history of strong execution. Emily Steele, Co-Founder/CEO, spent three years as the Des Moines chapter president of FEMCITY and is the owner of Love Local, an online brand helping local merchants & makers. When we spoke to local brand customers it almost felt like we were talking to longtime friends of Emily — she has that much respect and comradery within that community. Charise Flynn, Co-Founder/COO, has impressive prior startup experience, most notably serving as the Chief Operating Officer at Dwolla for over 5 years. After leaving Dwolla, Charise spent time as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Iowa AgTech Accelerator, served on the board of Global Insurance Accelerator, and was an advisor to Drake University. Charise was one of the most organized people we have worked with in our due diligence process to date — it made typically painful elements of the process go by quickly and smoothly.

We love the market opportunity, we love the team and we love their vision. They are taking a unique approach to the growing influencer marketing space by focusing on niche segments of both the supply and demand side. This is bolstered by tailwinds specific to small businesses (such as shop local campaigns) and social media (users desiring more authentic & personally relevant content). With this clear path forward, you’ll want to keep an eye on this company — it’ll feel like they have wings as they buzz off on a fast growth trajectory. 🐦

Learn more: Hummingbirds raises a $1M Seed led by M25

About M25: M25 is an early-stage venture firm based in Chicago, investing solely in tech startups headquartered in the Midwest. Since launching in 2015, M25 has become the most active investor in the region, quickly becoming the preferred seed investor for the next generation of Midwest unicorns. Portfolio companies include Kin Insurance, Loop Returns, Astronomer, SummerSalt, SteadyMD, Branch, MVMNT and more. For more information, please visit www.m25vc.com.



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VC focused on Midwest early-stage #startups. Objective and analytical investment process combined with a risk-mitigating portfolio theory.