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Techstars Atlanta Grad Bootstraps To Acquisition

by Maija Ehlinger

Atlanta native Max Ade chuckles when he thinks about his move back to Georgia from the West Coast. “It felt like we were on the last flight out during an evacuation,” he said, since the move coincided with the day San Francisco first implemented lockdown orders in March of 2020. 

Ade and his wife had long planned to return to Atlanta. But, of course, they didn’t anticipate spending the first year in the city in a remote-first environment. 

But that environment turned into a unique opportunity for Ade’s early-stage startup, Growth Collective. The platform started in 2019 to address a pain point Ade experienced trying to find quality freelance marketers at his previous venture. Ade worked at Google before joining Wilbur Labs, a San Francisco startup studio, as the team’s first hire. 

Max Ade 

“Prior to COVID, freelancing had this offshore connotation,” Ade told Hypepotamus. But whether due to layoffs or a desire for a more flexible work schedule, the platform gained significant traction over the course of 2020 and 2021.

Growth Collective takes a different approach to building a marketplace of freelancers. The platform matches highly-skilled, US-based marketers with businesses looking to scale. 

The team has vetted and onboarded 500 highly-skilled marketers, many of whom previously worked for major brands like Airbnb, Hilton, Google, and held titles like VP or SVP of marketing. 


Bootstrapping to an Acquisition

Growth Collective was built to thrive in a remote-first environment. Freelance marketers have the flexibility to work full-time while agencies and businesses alike can find the talent they need regardless of location.

The team of four full-time employees is also fully remote, something Ade said is possible because of their own reliance on automation, freelancers, and no-code options.  

But being physically in Atlanta was still an important part of the platform’s growth over the last year. 

“When I first got to Atlanta, I really wanted to meet everyone in the Atlanta startup ecosystem,” he said. “I just happened to check in on the deadline for Techstars Atlanta and it was the next day. So I put together an application….and I ended up really, really meshing well with [Managing Director].” 

Growth Collective joined as one of the ten startups picked for the fully-remote 2020 class of Techstars Atlanta. Not only did that help Growth Collective scale, Ade said it helped him rethink the fundraising path. 


“What I like about Dave is he doesn’t have a specific model for how startups should be built and funded. He even said early on, I don’t care if you bootstrap or you raise money or whatever. I’m in this with you.”

Bootstrap he did, with transaction volume on Growth Collective’s platform growing 6x over the course of 2021. 

That caught the attention of Legion, a San Diego-based firm dedicated to scaling SaaS companies. Legion announced today it is acquiring a majority stake in Growth Collective.

While details about the acquisition were not disclosed, Ade said Growth Collective will remain an independent brand within the Legion portfolio.

Ade sees continued opportunities for Growth Collective moving into 2022 as companies and employees alike reframe hiring and work-life balance.

“I think a lot of people got over the hurdle [of freelancing] during the early days of COVID. And I think that is actually one of the contributing factors to the Great Resignation and the fact that many companies can’t backfill roles. A lot of people are choosing self-employment options,” he added.




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