Tribute.co, a Williamsburg video gifting startup led by Andrew Horn, just raised $1 million, its first round of capital, in part from a star-studded cast of Brooklyn entrepreneurial influencers.
Matthew Brimer, General Assembly cofounder. Radha Agrawal, who cofounded party startup Daybreaker with Brimer. Bre Pettis, cofounder of MakerBot. Plus Erica Berger of media startup Catchpool and Jonathan Swerdlin of Mark Cuban-backed video startup Mass Lab.
Connections abound: Brimer also backed Mass Lab in 2014 and Swerdlin’s the chairman of the buzzy women’s period underwear company Thinx, run by Horn’s girlfriend Miki Agrawal, sister to Radha Agrawal.
In the round of convertible debt from 25 individuals, about one-quarter of whom are based in Brooklyn, Horn said. Other investors include actress Sophia Bush and David Kidder, who wrote The Startup Playbook.
“When you’re around a sphere of tech influencers, it’s a great place to start,” the 29-year-old Horn told us in a phone interview. He credited invite-only entrepreneur networks like the Summit Series, Sandbox Network and Renaissance Weekend, as well as girlfriend Miki Agrawal’s network of investors. (Thinx raised a Series A in 2014, though the company kept quiet on how much and from whom.) Horn is also part of the Burning Man scene — he spoke at Burning Man TEDx and he and Miki got “married” at the annual desert festival that’s become a hotspot for the tech set.
“In the end,” Horn said, “when you’re doing something that’s good in the world, like Tribute.co is, it’s not crazy difficult to get sit downs with cool investors.”
What inspired Horn to do something that’s good in the world was a a birthday present from Miki four years ago.
She had gathered video clips from his friends and family, edited them together and played the compilation video for him in the middle of his birthday party. Horn said he cried like a baby before pulling himself together and realizing that every person should receive a gift like this at some point in their lives.
“It’s the most meaningful gift on earth,” he said, “being able to wake up on your birthday and watch a video of your friends and family telling you why they love you.”
The startup makes software that helps people give “the most meaningful gift on earth,” which is is Tribute.co’s tagline. The New Yorker called it “Hallmark 2.0.”
“I love how Tribute is opening people up to more empathetic, meaningful connections with those they love,” investor Brimer told us via Facebook Messenger. “Deep relationships with friends and family are so vital for a happy life and a healthy world.”
Other than a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $35,000 in December 2014, Horn and his cofounder, software engineer Rory Petty, have bootstrapped the business. Since launching in January 2015, Horn said more than 17,000 people have created and sent Tribute.co’s video gifts, a “healthy mix” of paid and free trial. The company have packages ranging from $25, that are more self-service, to over $300 where a professional editor steps in and helps create your video montage.
Tribute.co plans to use the money to focus on user acquisition and developing a mobile app. The cofounders aim to hire about five more staffers by the end of the year. So far, the full-time team has been Horn and Petty, working out of a 500-square-foot garage in Williamsburg, plus a dev shop based in Argentina, which Petty had worked with before. Before Tribute.co, Petty was an engineer at Mozilla.
On the topic of the garage office, Horn said: “We have two stand-alone desks and one central table for the support team and video editors to work on. We’re in the heart of Williamsburg. There are plenty of restaurants and even gardens to escape to for mid-day meditation.”
Via email, he told us one of his favorite spots to go to for meditation:
There is a littleFlower garden next to marten park that has some perfect littleMediation alcoves.
(Horn was typing from his phone so the line breaks were almost positively accidental but we enjoyed them. Also, he wrote to tell us that he meant “McCarren Park.”)
Horn, who is originally from Hawaii, moved to Brooklyn three years ago to be with Miki and though he has lived in D.C. and Chicago, he feels that no other city has the kind of entrepreneurial vibe that Brooklyn does.
“The energy in Brooklyn is one that is overarching,” he said. “It’s nice to be surrounded by friends who run amazing companies. I dig it here and it’s a place that truly aligns with who I am.”-30-
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