Our Seed Investment in Propel

Published March 15, 2022

Confession: For 20 years, VSC has used some of the worst software compared with other marketing verticals. That's because every one of these tools was built for sales and marketing, not PR and earned media.

That was until we met a company whose product was so good, we not only signed up and parted ways with our existing tools, but we also invested in it!

Meet Propel.

Propel is an end-to-end PR software that helps professionals discover the right targets to contact, pitch them, track their campaigns, analyze what's working, measure return on investment and monitor coverage and results. From the very first demo, VSC's PR team was blown away. Then again, we shouldn't be too surprised because Propel was built by a former agency exec because he too understood what was missing from legacy platforms. .

Zach Cutler recognized many of the problems outlined above when he was running his own PR agency Cutler PR which he later sold to Kite Hill. Over that decade, much like VSC, Zach tried multiple customer relationship management systems and used a patchwork system of Google docs and spreadsheets and other apps but found they were designed for sales and marketing, not PR. So naturally, Zach and his CTO David Cohen built Propel's first product as a PRM — a CRM purpose-built for the PR workflow — which has over time has added a media database, media monitoring and social listening services as well.

Earned media continues to be the fastest-growing channel in the marketing mix for companies of all sizes – as digital advertising costs continue to rise and customers seek out signals of credibility from the media outlets they read and trust. Yet Propel’s data showed that journalists and influencers were ~32% less responsive to pitches from PR professionals in 2021 as compared with 2020.

As Zach puts it "When you’re able to marry the creative side of PR with numbers and data, that’s where the magic begins." Propel allows PR teams to understand which campaigns are working, which journalists are engaging, which team members have the best relationship and where managers can intervene and coach teammates. In the near term, Propel plans to enhance their Recommendations features, with the help of AI, to analyze and report which stories are most relevant for which journalists, with the added benefit of reducing irrelevant clutter in the journalists’ inboxes in turn.

It’s no wonder that Propel has on-boarded over 150 customers to date and has grown revenue by over 2.5x since last year. Customers include Real Chemistry (2nd largest PR agency in the world), Textron, Insurify, The Daily Mail and other Fortune 500 brands and leading PR agencies. With over 125,000+ PR and marketing agencies in just the US, not to mention 10,000+ potential brands and businesses, Propel has a lot of opportunity to grow their already expanding customer base in the coming years.

We at VSC Ventures are stoked to announce our Seed investment in Propel’s $4.5M round, once again alongside our friends and frequent co-investors at NFX. Our thanks to James Currier and Gigi Levy-Weiss for introducing us to the Propel team. From our very first conversation, we could tell Zach was the kind of entrepreneur we love to back.

Zach has built and scaled a company before, was self-aware enough to speak on the challenges he faced in doing so but still filled with that first-time founder optimism on how to best serve his customers. And Zach has already recruited an expert team of product, engineering, and customer success leaders that only further convinced us that Propel really was the end-to-end solution that the PR ecosystem has been clamoring for.

Propel is ushering in a new era for the PR industry and we are confident that Zach and team are uniquely qualified to make Propel the platform of record for PR professionals across the globe.

Thank you so much for reading our latest update from VSC Ventures Fund I. We're in the early days of our long and healthy partnership with all of you, so please reach out to us with additional questions on anything above. Thank you again for your support for our vision and our fund!

Vijay Chattha & Jay Kapoor

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