Collabosaurus is a matchmaking platform that connects businesses for marketing collaborations across social media, products and events. The company was founded 3 years ago by Jess Ruhfus who says that “Collabosaurus is a marketing tool up to 30x less expensive than other digital advertising (and much, more fun)”
Startup Soda sat down with Jess to learn more about Collabosaurus and her journey to build the company to where it is over the past three years. Starting off, Jess said “The idea came about because I was frustrated sourcing effective brand-to-brand marketing collaborations while working in PR and then at an SME marketing education company. Tinder was becoming popular and I thought: how amazing would it be to have a Tinder-style platform for brand-to-brand partnerships?”
From there, the company has grown to a community of over 4000 businesses, big and small across fashion, beauty, lifestyle, B2B, food & beverage (and more!) in 5 countries, all looking for brand collaboration opportunities.
Reflecting back on the early days Jess said that it took roughly 8 months to go from idea to launch and that there have been a number of iterations along the way. Jess, and her business partner Nick, who runs a software development agency initially launched Collabosaurus as a platform solely for publicists. What they realised soon after however was that their early adopters were predominately startups and SME’s.
As a result they transitions to a broader platform, redesigning their MVP and relaunching it on a customised wordpress site. Twelve months on from that and the site couldn’t handle the traffic and system updates. This forced them to re-build again, this time on their own software stack and since the relaunch in March of this year they have attracted brands including Mirvac, Redbull, AMP, Magnum PR, PPR and Kikki.K to the platform.
As one can imagine balancing costs is always a challenge in any startup. Jess spoke of how she learned to code to assist with the platform in the early days but highlights that “the range of experience I would need in order to build todays’ Collabosaurus would require years of practice”. To get through this period and make sure that Collabosaurus would emerge as a well built platform capable of handling the demands of large global brands Jess outlined that “we have survived by reinvesting profits into tech improvements”. Jess also bought on her business partner Nick, who offered an equity deal in exchange for a big tech build and support.
The net result of this commitment to their mission is that now Collabosaurus is in the middle of an investment raise which will allow them to grow and build an in-house tech team, proving that even non-technical founders can successfully scale a tech based company if they remain committed to their company mission.
Diving in on this aspect of the Collabosaurus journey Jess shared that the biggest lesson that emerged from the MVP stage is that “things will happen a lot slower than you would originally expect”. In particular, Jess speaks about the gap between intent / opinion and behaviour. For example Jess says “we had a lot of publicists say “yes! We need this. Let me know when you launch” which we were building the first version. However, none of these people actually made a purchase in our first year.
Finally, as a non-technical founder Jess makes clear that for other founders starting their entrepreneurial journey, and who do not come from a technology background, that “technology is never fully complete or built”. This is a mistake Jess admits making during the early days of Collabosaurus. As Jess goes on to say “the landscape is fast moving, consumer behaviours are changing and we are always obtaining new feedback. It is so important to dedicate resources, time and cashflow to ongoing tech improvements”.
Looking to the future Jess sees a bright future for Collabosaurus. First up they aim to complete a capital raise to bring their tech team in-house and from there dedicate their time and energy to expansion into the US.
This article is part of a new series at Startup Soda called “In The Trenches”, curated by Startup Soda Founder Paul Towers & Matt Trustrum through his work with Start Ups in the Start Up Hub.