Interview With Simone May
Describe your product or service:
“Digital marketplace elevating emerging brands' businesses by connecting them to creators.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Our values at Clutch are safety, transparency, and balance. At Clutch we believe the future of work will be led by the next generation. But in order for that to happen, they need a platform that equips them to thrive in the ever-changing workplace. That's Clutch.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“VC-backed; our latest funding round was a $1.2 million pre-seed round led by Precursor Ventures with participation from Capital Factory and HearstLab. We have raised a total of $1.6 million in funding with additional capital from DivInc and family and friends.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“I met Madison, my co-founder, at Purdue University and quickly became best friends. Madison, my co-founder and our CEO, and I have lifelong passions for helping all people thrive in all areas of life, and using technology as a tool to bring about solutions that provide equitable opportunities, access, and resources to all people, especially marginalized communities. I had the idea to create a technology-based people-first platform that helped all people thrive, starting with the next generation, and called Madison with the idea and she was hooked. We pivoted a few times in terms of what the technology tool specifically would be that would help provide solutions for the next generation, and all people, to thrive most as we grew in our understanding of our audiences’ needs.
We finally realized that what the next generation, and all people, are looking for are easy, sustainable, trusted, enjoyable, authentic, and flexible ways to make money on their own terms. We created Clutch to provide creators with a platform where they can monetize their talents by connecting with emerging brands to help them with their business needs (we're currently focused on digital marketing). Through our closed beta trial that began in January 2022 along with our open beta that we launched in August 2022, we’ve already seen tremendous validation of our product with both our creator audiences and business audiences.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“When we pivoted our company, we realized we want to broaden our name to appeal to all audiences in addition to students (as our original name was ‘Campus Concierge’) and simplify it to make it easier to remember and resonate with. Madison was eating dinner at a restaurant, and her friend happened to say ‘Clutch’ when they got their meal, and for some reason, the name just fully resonated with both of us and our whole team.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I've been a creator and technologist for my entire life. My parents are both engineers, and I grew up configuring and tinkering with all sorts of computers and gadgets that they had around the house. My experience as a technology consultant at Accenture provided me with invaluable first-hand experience of creating people-first technology solutions; solutions that first evaluate the truest needs of their customers and then create technology-specific products to provide that solution in the most streamlined, accessible, user-friendly ways. My passions have merged and evolved into my vision for creating technology that is used as a tool to elevate all people and democratize information, access, and opportunities to all — especially marginalized communities. Technology is an incredible tool that is providing the resources and equitable opportunities in work and life to all, and I’m thrilled to be leading a company creating technology-based opportunities for all people.”
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?
“The main shift we've experienced is just in the pivoting and shifting of our platform to better serve our customers. We take a people-first approach to everything we do including researching our customers and understanding what they really want and need to enhance their lives. We realized that there was a bigger opportunity for us to help more people in a more impactful way if we shifted our platform to focus on the creator work economy — empowering people to pursue authentic, engaging work in order to have a sustainable, equitable lifestyle.”
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Our target market includes emerging brands and creators nationwide. We are currently focused on connecting emerging brands with student creators for our open beta but will be expanding beyond student creators. We established this market after working closely with students and realizing that the thing they could use the most help with is finding ways to monetize their passions and hobbies while in school and having other commitments on their plate. After introducing our product to students, we’ve realized that its application expands far beyond students and so we’re excited to be creating something that can help everyone achieve a sustainable, equitable lifestyle.”
What's your primary marketing strategy?
“Our primary marketing strategy right now is focused on inbound marketing from social media, public relations, and our #1 which is word of mouth.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Our first 100 customers were acquired primarily through word-of-mouth introductions and references that we were given to emerging brands and student creators that are a fit for our platform.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“We look at total number of brands and clients on our platform, total earnings that creators are making, how quickly clients convert from a lead to paid user, retention, and NPS score for both clients and creators.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“I am currently reading ‘Continuous Discovery Habits’ — it helps with altering the way you think about product development. The book has really helped me craft the way I work with our tech team.”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Definitely Drake or Kid Cudi — I listen to Drake for motivation, and I listen to Kid Cudi for validation.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“On the tech side, it’s Jira and Figma/Figjam. On the team communication side, it's Slack and Zoom.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“I think the most surprising thing is how you simultaneously are stressed and excited at the same time, you feel more connected to your work which makes you want to wake up and make things better every day.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“I purposefully set aside time every day to work out and enjoy my mornings, it’s not always that easy, but it's my way of making sure I start my day right. I also make sure to not work every weekend, there are some weekends where I cannot avoid it but I for the most part set boundaries during my weekend and evenings.”
When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?
“I was not motivated to do my old job to be quite honest. At the time I quit, we had been halfway through our raise, and all I cared about when I woke up in the morning was Clutch, so I knew that was probably when I needed to quit.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“My first job was actually working as a lifeguard in our neighborhood. It taught me about consistency, showing up for work, and taking care of something. It was a relatively easy gig because people rarely came to the pool, but it was rewarding knowing that I was the one who was keeping the pool clean and in shape, I used to hate going to a dirty pool.”
More on Clutch
Simone May, co-founder of martech startup Clutch, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.