Fundraising success story on influencer marketing
A success story on fundraising
The fundraising was a real triumph for Fabrizio Perrone and Buzzole. Keep reading this article to find out more.
Let’s meet Fabrizio Perrone from Buzzoole!
Fabrizio Perrone founded Buzzoole in 2013, leading it to become the main European platform thanks to the investments of well-known Italian, Swiss and Russian VCs. Under his direction, Buzzoole has been in the ranks of the “Growth Leader” for two consecutive years, ranking first in 2018.
In 2019 Perrone is in the ranking of the 20 Italian innovators of Forbes and among the 40 most promising under 40s according to Fortune.
Serial startup founder since 2007 (year of graduation), before Buzzoole, he founded two other startups with 1 Exit.
Hi Fabrizio, first of all congratulations, Buzzoole is a real Italian pride! Where did you start from? How did you come to found Buzzoole? What were the difficulties you faced? How did you arrive at the composition of the initial team?
I started working in the social media world a few years before Buzzoole. I had founded an agency called Fan Media, which was one of the first agencies to deal with Digital PR in Italy and worked in the early days with influencers, at the time called bloggers. Initially, we were pioneers from this point of view.
After leaving the agency and after selling it, the idea was to create a technological platform that would automate what we did manually with bloggers’ magazines and more. Therefore, I started discovering Venture Capital. At the time, I wasn’t very used to anything concerning the VC world and what came with it. That’s why, in 2021, I attended my first course, which was called Vulcanicamente, of the City of Naples, to understand the foundations of Venture Capital. Then, I wrote down the project I wanted to create, i.e., a platform that would automate the relationship between brands and influencers.
Back then, we used to talk about Klout Score too. There was a fairly famous company that was the first one to give scores related to our social presence. We got inspired and had the idea of using that type of technology – able to measure interactions on the web – with a more qualitative approach to better understand the different topics and different sectors of each influencer because, for example, food is a thing and art is another one. We also used to talk of influence in the network in a general way. For example, they used to say, “you have a score of 60, you have a 70 and you an 80”, but it was quite a horizontal question because it didn’t go into many details about the business.
Later, since I am not a developer, I started the search for co-founders and particular technicians. I met Gennaro Varriale and we decided to join forces, to create a sort of MVP and to involve two other people of Gennaro’s network, Luca Pignataro and Luca Camillo, who got on board. We produced an MVP that we presented to different investors in 2013. At the end of 2013, we closed the first investment round with Digital Magics and in 2014 we started. Slowly, the team has grown, and we have raised more founds. In short, this is our story.
You, Gennaro Varriale, Luca Camillo and Luca Pignataro have made Buzzoole a successful reality, but to get to today’s levels you have been supported by an exceptional team. What was the team recruiting process like? What do you think are the strengths of your team and how much do you think people count for the success of a business?
I will start from the last question. For sure, people combined with a corporate culture make a business successful. Initially, we focused on talented young people and were lucky to find several of them. In fact, some of them are in Buzzoole and they play important roles. They started with us as a first experience and then they had a vertical growth. The key element was the attachment to the project that many of them had since the beginning.
Especially in the early stages, it is important that the team is very choesive and harmonious. Gradually, it becomes more and more a structured company and Buzzoole has come to have over 70 employees in 3 different countries. Therefore, there isn’t a strong feeling of family, but it is the natural course of things. In my opinion, there are always critical issues as well as success factors depending on the stage of the company. Therefore, we started with pure talent and team harmony and then tried to have the right people in the right place, i.e., an organization of a certain type.
The world of Startups and startup founders who have a yearning for success, see Buzzoole as the example to follow and the goal to aspire to. What do you think were the success factors? Why did Buzzoole become what it is today? What advice do you feel you can give to startup founders?
The reason is part of what I said before. We started from a vision, from an idea, from the knowledge of a need and market that I had already acquired in the previous years. Later, we started the development of the software that let us to be recognized as innovators in the market. Our desire to be always one step ahead of others and continue to innovate has allowed us to strengthen our brand more and more.
The advice I would like to give to those who want to create a company is to know very well the market in which you want to enter and, before introducing yourselves to an investor, complete the initial steps and prove that you can also go on by your own. Don’t give up or get discouraged when you get a “no”. The Buzzoole project was torn to pieces many times too in the initial phase because it was considered unfeasible, illegal and not successful. Also, open your eyes because some feedbacks are important and you need to distinguish those that are valid to tone down or give a direction to your idea from those that are given by people who don’t share your vision.
Buzzoole has closed successful campaigns with important names. How do you get to make agreements of this calibre?
In most cases, through a commercial network, which is useful to build relationships with certain customers, or through inbound marketing activities.
We have done a lot of education activities on this sector and we have positioned ourselves in a certain way. We constantly produce materials and invest in the creation of webinars and this favours a certain positioning. Therefore, it is clear that certain types of brands that want to be positioned as leaders or innovators ask for our advice or opinion because they consider us the experts of the market. It is all about brand positioning and day-by-day commercial activity.
Buzzoole is the startup of records also in terms of fundraising. You have closed important fundraising rounds for a total of several million euros. How do you get capital increases of this magnitude?
Clearly, it is a step-by-step process. In Italy, you can’t find anyone who invests several million on an idea. At most, you find those interested in investing a few hundred thousand euros on an MVP. Then, with the traction on the market, you can convince the investors that a business that today is worth X tomorrow can be worth ten times as much and, consequently, it can have an interesting return investing at a given moment.
In each step, there are different things to analyse. The first thing is the idea, then the MVP, then the team and, at the end, the only thing that matters is traction. You also meet different investors. The first one could be an accelerator, then angel investors and funds to end with institutional funds. Those who deal with institutional funds usually analyse in great details the traction of the company, the relationship with customers, the reason why your customers consider your offer unique in the market, etc.
Buzzoole also means innovation, in fact it applies artificial intelligence to influencer marketing. Tell us about GAIIA. How was it born? What are its strengths and how has it changed and improved the way influencer marketing is done?
GAIIA was launched a couple of years ago and has evolved over time. The idea was to be able to automate and maximize – using artificial intelligence data – the investment and return on investment of brands when selecting influencers. The artificial intelligence database took into consideration audience, interactions, type of KPIs and topics as well as the map of the overlap of audiences and tone of voice between brands and influencers. The goal – having nearly 200.000 users and analysing nearly 400 million contents – was to build a model that would let us to do predictive analysis to identify the best influencers when a brand required them to maximize returns on their own audience. This is the goal we set at the beginning, but every project based on artificial intelligence is in constant progress because the more data you have, the more the algorithm is predictive, as the machine learns and offers you increasingly reliable results.
In 2019 your name was included on Forbes among the 20 Italian innovators. President and ex CEO of Buzzoole, you were recently tasked with finalizing and launching the business unit for the company’s enterprise proposition and focused on developing a new division for the SaaS offering, that had already been proposed by the company with the Discovery tool. How did this transition happen? Tell us about the business unit and the Discovery tool. How will they revolutionize and innovate the world of influencer marketing?
In recent years, I have dedicated myself to innovative projects and have also collaborated with different accelerators that have allowed me to see other realities. Specifically, I wanted to focus on the development of an asset, that is a SaaS tool, which could be completely technological, also because the agencies are certainly gearing up. The influencer marketing, from being something very innovative, is becoming a commodity. Today, many agencies do this and many brands have their own internal departments. Therefore, once you have the human resources, what can make the difference is the technological asset, i.e., a platform to use with the modality Software as a Service and able to manage campaigns. In fact, the direction was precisely this one. In this way, if on the one hand Buzzoole had a history on the whole subject of consultancy and end-to-end management, on the other hand the idea was to develop a vertical business unit on the technological theme.
Gianluca Perrelli, who was already part of the team, is today the new Chief Executive Officer of Buzzoole. How did you come to this passing of the baton and what prompted you to do it? What are the aspects of Gianluca that convinced you that he would be the perfect CEO for Buzzoole?
I brought Gianluca on board and I already believed so much in his potential. Over time, he has proven to be a person I could count on for the management of Buzzoole. In the meantime, I was gradually involved in the development of the SaaS division, discovery and tracking and I am currently in charge on many projects and investments. Therefore, I am less operational on Buzzoole’s day-by-day, which is moving forward with the current management.
2013-2021, Buzzoole is not even ten years old and is a star in the firmament of successful startups. What are the next steps? What are the new goals to be achieved? Where do you see yourself and where do you see Buzzoole in 10 years?
The duration of companies today is no longer the same of the previous decades, so probably in 10 years we will no longer talk about influencer marketing or it will be done in a completely different way. I hope that Buzzoole will always be able to adapt to innovations, new channels and new ways of doing influencer marketing and that it will become an increasingly strong and structured company.
As for me, I currently follow several projects on the company side. I recently launched a new e-sport project called “2WATCH” and it just raised 450.000 €. In addition, I am also working on a number of other projects related to fund creation. So, 10 years from now I still see myself in this industry. I love being an entrepreneur and investor and will continue to do so as long as I feel like doing it.
If you are interested in Buzzoole, please read more on: Influencer Marketing: success story of Buzzoole