“The eyeballs of people are continuously migrating from the television and traditional media to the phone and social media to consume their content,” shares entrepreneur Jim Cavale. “So these eyes are migrating to the social media accounts of individual people, but they’re not content producers.”
“I wanted to create something that could be a conduit between the content producers and what are becoming the content channels.”
Cavale is referring, of course, to the influencer market, one expected to grow five-fold from $2 billion in 2017 to $10 billion by 2020. Influencers are individuals with a significant following on social media channels such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and more, that can use their following to promote products and brands.
The Birmingham-based Cavale is especially well-placed to understand the sports and fitness influencer market, a growing segment as consumer spending on wellness also continues to increase. His first successful startup, NextSpex, was a streaming service for college sports that addressed a pain point he felt himself as a college baseball player — because the games weren’t normally broadcast, his own parents couldn’t see him play.
“I raised the money, and really thought I was going to fall in love with broadcasting but really fell in love with business,” he shares. After growing the company for a few years, he sold it in a modest exit.
During the time he was exiting the company, Cavale joined a highly-personalized gym in Homewood, Alabama, called Iron Tribe Fitness. The former athlete was attracted to the model of one-on-one coaching plus group fitness. He partnered up with the owner, took on the President title of Iron Tribe and together, they grew the gym through a franchising model from two locations to 47.
During his seven years at Iron Tribe, Cavale took away many lessons. One, the importance of “selling community,” to secure high customer attrition and retention rates. Another, he says, is the importance of focusing on one small niche in the marketplace at a time in order to eventually own the whole space.
These lessons have served him well at his new startup, SaaS platform INFLCR. As its name implies, INFLCR plays in that growing influencer realm that marketers and advertisers are so hot on. The platform solves the content quality problem influencers and brands face by aggregating internal content — blog posts, photos, videos and more — on a mobile app that influencers can access to push out the content to their social media channel of choice.
The concept could work for any number of industries that take advantage of influencers — beauty, food and beverage, travel. But Cavale wanted to pick a single niche to launch with. Fittingly for his background, he chose college sports.
“You could say that idea needs to be solved in every single industry you could name. But you can’t launch a business that way,” he says. “I thought long and hard about it and I felt like my connections and my comfort is deepest in sports and fitness.”
For an annual fee, a school can add as many teams as they want to the software, upload all their content, and allow access to student athletes, alumns, coaches, anyone that might have an audience that can promote the team. The dashboard provides analytics on how many people are being reached from that network.
They launched publicly in September 2017 with clients like University of Kentucky, Auburn and University of Alabama at Birmingham. That roster has since swelled to 11 schools, adding big-name sports schools such as University of Miami, University of Kansas and Purdue.
And though that niche continues to grow — Cavale says they have several potential clients in the pipeline — they’ve also expanded into a very different industry: politics.
“Just like political campaigns use social media, they [candidates or politicians] can use our platform as part of their strategy to let voters learn what they’re currently doing,” Cavale explains. Instead of spreading content to sports players, it goes to a campaign’s most influential supporters.
Political clients are confidential, but he says they’re bipartisan and he can see the solution being used at all levels of government, from city to state to national.
Now with two niches, the team of 11 is understandably busy. Last month INFLCR raised a little over $1 million in an angel-funded seed round to hire and gain deeper penetration in their two current markets. They previously won $200,000 in equity-free prize money from the Alabama Launchpad competition.
With the new funding, Cavale wants to move quickly. His goal when starting the company was to reach the $1 million ARR milestone within 18 months. Though he’s not sure they’ll hit that, he’s confident it won’t take more than two years. The plan is then to look towards a more substantial Series A and expand into new markets.
“After that the possibility to really explode it is definitely there,” he says.