We are all about making an impact through social commerce, and part of that journey has been influenced by strategic partners, like our investors.
This week, MagicLinks was featured in the Pasadena Angels May 2021 newsletter. This month’s issue highlights courage and determination in business and MagicLinks as well as our CEO/Co-founder Brian Nickerson, are spotlighted in a company profile. Read the full article below.
Software With Guts
What do you call a startup with 7 employees after 7 years? “Patient?” If you’re being kind, maybe, but more likely you’d think: “struggling.” On the other hand, how would you describe a startup at the intersection of the creator economy and high-end lifestyle brands, one that’s cash-flow positive, getting ready to raise $10M and has grown revenue and staff in excess of 100% for the last two years? You’d say, “En Fuego!” – maybe with two exclamation points.
MagicLinks helps social media creators and influencers share products they love and earn income as their fans shop. Brian Nickerson describes it as a 3-sided marketplace: creators, customers, and brands. MagicLinks connects the creators to the brands so that they can earn a share of the revenue. But, MagicLinks is more than a behind-the-scenes e-commerce tracker. They’re leaders, which is interesting for a mostly transparent layer of software.
Remember way back in 2012 when Groupon seemed hot, and Chippmunk was selling coupons? No? Yeah. It wasn’t that memorable. Pasadena Angels had invested in MagicLinks – then Chippmunk – but after the bottom fell out of that sector, Pasadena Angels investor Richard Chino took Brian aside and told him: “You’re not fundable. Either pivot or shut down.” It was one of those moments: the inflection point. Either become something new or cease to be. Brian’s courage would be tested. He had to separate from his co-founder. He had to forego a salary for a year and a half. He invested his own money, and then his family’s money. He took a different approach.
MagicLinks has always been “creator-first.” Recognizing that the entire virtuous cycle starts with the creator and their relationships with their viewers, MagicLinks intentionally made the creator the sole focus. After all, it’s the relationship between the creator and their fans that drives purchases. So, MagicLinks spent years making sure that it protected and nurtured that relationship above all else – above maximizing revenue, and certainly above promoting MagicLinks. That meant having the courage to turn down some brands. The result has been deep trust from creators, who are MagicLinks’ first customer… even though MagicLinks pays them.
Three years ago MagicLinks began building out its software capabilities for brands. Matching brands to influencers is more of a subtle art than you’d think. You want to match the brand’s customers and the influencer’s customers, but brands also want to grow their customer bases. MagicLinks is able to enlighten both sides about who their customers are.
And then there was COVID. More people were shopping online, and more people were at home all day where they could engage online. And then George Floyd was killed. In the middle of an online shopping frenzy, the world was shocked and didn’t know how to respond. MagicLinks, the silent partner in the middle, stepped up and showed some leadership, leading their brands’ response by declaring a “pause” and taking time to consider how to respond. MagicLinks made a commitment to having significant BIPOC representation – at least 30% of creators amongst all casted campaigns.
It takes courage to speak up when you don’t have a speaking part. In the end, it was a gift to the brands, who were searching for the right way to respond. It helped many of them who lacked a diverse mix, and that was an issue that many were having. It means that MagicLinks was providing leadership not just in society but in their brands’ approach. Those who came along with MagicLinks saw a shift. Make-up brands had a permanent change in skin tone mix.
Last year, Brian was inspired to take his company’s commitment to social good to another level and publicly document its commitment to society and the planet. MagicLinks became the first and only social commerce company to become a Certified B Corporation®, joining a forward-thinking community of only 3,500 certified B Corporations globally. Additionally, they launched a partnership with 1% for the Planet which includes annual cash and in-kind donations to help support environmental causes.
MagicLinks is already profitable and growing, but even more capital can be employed. They’ve got more big ideas. Live shopping is taking off. They were named to the 2020 Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America. They expect to complete a $10M funding round later in 2021. And Brian got his first unsolicited call from a prospective investor yesterday. That was a nice milestone for a guy who was told to shut it down or pivot five years ago. And it was a fitting reward for the courage that it took to turn down brands, to forego a salary, to part with a co-founder, to pivot to a new model, to invest your own money, to speak up when no one else was and to lead on social issues. Courage has its rewards.