Hustle 20 X’d its annual revenue run rate in 15 months by denying clients that contradict its political views. It’s a curious, controversial, yet successful strategy for the startup whose app lets activists and marketers text thousands of potential supporters or customers one at a time. Compared to generic email blasts and robocalls, Hustle get much higher conversion rates because people like connecting with a real human who can answer their follow-up questions.
The whole business is built around those relationships, so campaigns , non-profits, and enterprises have to believe in Hustle’s brand. That’s why CEO Roddy Lindsay tells me” We don’t sell to republican candidates or committees. What it’s allowed us to do is build trust with the Democratic party and progressive organizations. We don’t have to worry about celebrating our clients’ success and offending other clients .”
Investors agree. Tempted by Hustle’s remarkable growth to well over a $10 million operate rate and 85 million conversations started, Insight Venture Partners has led a $30 million Series B for the startup that’s joined by Google’s GV and Salesforce Ventures.
The round arrives just 10 months after Hustle’s$ 8M Series A when it was only doing$ 3 million in revenue. Lindsay says he was impressed with Insight’s experience with communication utilities like Cvent and non-profit tools like Ministry Brands. Its managing director Hilary Gosher who specializes in growing sales teams will join Hustle’s board, which is a great fit since Hustle is hiring like crazy.
Humanizing The Call To Action
Founded in late 2014, Hustle’s app lets organizers write MadLibs-style text message scripts and importation contact listings. Their staffers or volunteers send out the messages one by one, with the blanks automatically filled in to personalize the calls to action. Recipients can respond immediately with the sender ready with answers to assuage their fears until they’re ready to donate, buy, attend, or assist. Meanwhile, organizers can track their conversions, optimize scripts, and reallocate assignments so they can reach huge audiences with an empathetic touch.
The app claims to be 77 X faster than constructing phone calls and 5.5 X more engaging than email, which has won Hustle clients like LiveNation’s concert empire, NYU, and the Sierra Club. Clients pay $0.30 per contact uploaded into Hustle, with discounts for bigger operations. Now at $41 million in total fund, Hustle plans to push further beyond its core political and non-profit markets and deeper into driving alumni gifts for universities, marketings for enterprises, and attendance for event promoters.
Hustle will be doing that without one of its three co-founders, Perry Rosenstein, who left at the end of 2017.[ Disclosure: I know Lindsay from college and once worked on a short-lived social meetup app with Rosenstein called Signal .] Lindsay says Rosenstein’s” real excellence was about early stage activities and problems “. Indeed, in my experience he was more attuned to underlying product-market fit than the chores of scaling a business.” It was Perry’s decision, it was a deviation we celebrated, and he’s still involved as an informal consultant to me and the company” Lindsay concluded.
Hustle has over 100 other employees in SF, NYC, and DC to pick up the torch, though. That’s up from simply 12 employees at the start of 2017. And it’s perhaps one of the most diverse larger startups around. Lindsay says his company is 51 percent females, 48 percent people of color, and 21 percentage LGBT. This inclusive culture attracts top diverse talent.” We see this as a key differentiator for us. It allows us to hire unbelievable people” Lindsay says.” It’s something we took severely from day one and research results depict .”
Partisan On Purpose
What started as a preferred tool of the Bernie Sanders campaign has blossomed into a new method of a communication at scale.” We’re massively humanizing the way these organizations communicate” Lindsay told.” Human truly matter , no matter if what you am worried about is getting lots of people to come to events, election, or renew a season ticket package. Having a relationship with another person can cut through the noise. That’s different than your interactions with bots or email marketing campaigns or things where it’s dehumanized .”
Lindsay felt the frustration of weak relationships when after leaving Facebook where he worked for six years as one of its first data scientists, he volunteered for Mark Zuckerberg’s Fwd.us immigration reform organization. Its email got merely a 1 percent conversion rate. He linked up with Obama’s former Nevada new media director Rosenstein and CTO Tyler Brock to fix that with Hustle.
Working with Bernie aligned with the team’s political sentiments, but they were quickly faced with whether they wanted to fuel both sides of the aisle — which would entail delivering fringe conservative campaign messages they couldn’t stomach. Hustle still has no formal policy about declining Republican money, and a spokesperson said they point potential clients to TechCrunch’s previous article mentioning the posture. Meanwhile, Hustle is growing its for-profit client base to build shunning the GOP feel like less of a loss. Having Salesforce as a strategic investor also creates a bridge to a potential exit option.
Focusing on the left is working for now. Over 25 country Democratic parties are clients. Hustle sent 2.5 million messages and reached over 700,000 voters — 1 in 5 total — during the course of its Alabama special election, helping Democrat Doug Jones win the Senate seat.
” Let’s build this large business for the Democratic party. Let’s let someone else take the Republican” Lindsay explains. A stealth startup called OpnSesame is doing just that, Lindsay mentions. But he says” we don’t actually assure them as competitive. We see them as potential friends that advocate for the power of p2p texting in get everyone included in our democracy .” Instead, Lindsay assures the potential for Hustle to lose its sense of purpose and drive as it rapidly hires as its biggest threat.
Long-term, Hustle be available to propelled the right side of history by sticking to the left. Lindsay concludes,” You can really just put on your business hat and see this is a good option .”
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