As the internet's “wild west” era comes to an end, the open internet's promise of freedom has given way to siloed social networks as the gatekeepers that connect audiences with content. For marketers, that means one thing: It's time to power up their social marketing chops, relying on strategic deals with influencers and brushing up on their best instagram memes — fun fact: As of last year, the internet has “cared more about memes than about Jesus.”
This need for high-quality content also presents an opportunity for any startup platform that can help spur the process. Which is just what GAIN is built to do: The startup is a marketing technology company that automates the social media and content publishing workflow for agencies and the like.
Though just a six-person team, GAIN works with heavy hitters including Honda and The Weather Channel, and has enjoyed growing revenue ever year since its launch in 2014. It's also entirely bootstrapped. Here's a Q&A with the company's CEO and cofounder, Albizu Garcia, that covers what they do and how they do it.
What's your elevator pitch for GAIN?
“GAIN simplifies and automates the content workflow for agencies, social media managers, and anyone working in teams. Yellow Pages, JWT, and McCann are just a few of the worldwide agencies using GAIN to gather approvals for content from their internal teams and their clients so they can control exactly what goes live on their social media channels.”
Why does every business need a content approval process to avoid social media crisis?
“It seems like we’re seeing brands publishing inappropriate content on social media almost daily now (Examples. More examples.) and it's safe to say that for most businesses, the culprit is the lack of a proper approval process. For any business managing multiple social media accounts with multiple contributors, having an approval process in place is crucial. Not only does an approval process ensure that your posts are appropriate for each account but it also helps minimize mistakes — whether it’s poor timing, grammatical issues, or spelling errors.
Unfortunately, managing a content approval process for each piece of content can be a nightmare for both the content creators (i.e. agencies and marketing teams) as well as the final approvers or clients. It can be time-consuming to email posts and feedback back-and-forth and keep track of every edit, comment, or request on each single piece of content. That’s why we created GAIN. GAIN works like your team’s very own content traffic manager, notifying the right people at the right time, gathering feedback from clients and stakeholders, and moving the process along for you until everything is approved.”
Why did you decide to bootstrap GAIN?
“We never intended to create an entirely bootstrapped company. I had recently sold my stake at a large agency, and I wanted to move from directly servicing clients to creating technologies that would enable other agencies and marketing teams to simplify the process of servicing their clients.
Being able to self-fund GAIN was key in allowing us to experiment and test our ideas following the Lean Startup methodology. Once we found traction, we continued experimenting using the lean model, and it was quickly apparent that we could continue growing GAIN without having to add headcount to our operation. So far, we are growing quickly, and we have hired carefully based on our revenue, always staying profitable along the way.”
So why is GAIN right for bootstrapping rather than seeking investments?
“Going through the Venture Hive accelerator program, the question about reaching out to VCs was continuously discussed. We always saw it as an option; however, we were growing quickly, so it seemed foolish to raise funds and dedicate the time required to properly do this, especially when we were already making money. It simply did not make sense.
Another key issue for me and my co-founder was control. We did not want to lose control or have the added pressure of outside capital on what we were building. The last thing that we wanted was to have to be constantly justifying any changes or pivots that we wanted to make as a company. We decided we would much rather fail on our own terms than raise capital from traditional VCs.
All in all, profitability is key to our goals of maintaining independence. It brings a sense of confidence to the team that’s really unmatched. As long as we are lean and efficient about building the best solution and experience for the companies and teams that use GAIN, we have an unlimited runway. We’d rather grow our company team slowly and carefully, instead of dealing with the challenges of assembling and managing a large team in a chaotic and uncontrolled manner.”
What challenges did bootstrapping bring?
“The challenges that we faced bootstrapping GAIN were pretty universal. For one, not having the resources to scale as quickly as we wanted was one of the most frustrating parts of the journey. But to be honest, I think having those limitations made us much more creative and less prone to waste time and money on nonessential things.”
If you were talking to a young entrepreneur interested in the digital media world, what advice would you offer?
“If you are building a service or product for customers in the digital media world, make it beautiful and simple to use.
The primary customers of GAIN are marketing and advertising professionals – mostly creatives and content creators. They are very innovative, so for us, creating a product that is clean, beautiful, and simple to use is our top priority. In the same way that many creatives would rather use iOS devices over Android, even if there are some clear limitations with iOS and Android could be considered to be more powerful and flexible, we’ve worked hard to make using GAIN a pleasing experience for our customers, which helps alleviate any shortcomings our product might have when it comes to a customer’s specific use case.”