Influencer marketing is a growing trend in the fast-changing world of marketing. Many industry insiders predict that influencer marketing is going to be an important part of the future of digital marketing. While it has gone mainstream in many markets, the trend is still in its early days in Bangladesh. But the future appears set — up and right. There are several reasons for it.
The idea of social influencers is not a new idea. It has been around for ages. In the world of atoms, we have social influencers in Imams of Mashjid, social workers, prominent people in society, and so on. These people usually enjoy broad acceptance in society. Their opinions matter and can help change perceptions of people.
An influencer in the world of bits aka social media platforms is similar to many extents. The model is equally flawed like the world of atoms. Similar to the offline world, controversies happen in the world of online influencers. Questions about why someone is considered influential or an opinion leader are equally fuzzy in both worlds. But it is how the world functions. And similar to the offline world, I think the online influencer thing is here to stay.
This is where HypeScout, a Dhaka-based influencer marketing platform, comes into play.
HypeScout started its journey by introducing the inaugural beta edition of its platform in September 2020. In those early days, the platform only had a few limited capabilities. But the ambition has always been there — to establish a data-oriented influencer marketing platform that could enable brands to discover and communicate with suitable social media influencers.
Over the last two years, HypeScout has grown significantly, with over 15,000 influencers and more than 1,500 brands presently using the platform. The company has also raised meaningful investments.
HypeScout is an interesting company and has an interesting founding story. In an interview with Future Startup published last month, HypeScout Founder and CEO Faym Bappi shared how the company came into being and what the early days were like. In this article, we share the story and our takeaways with you.
Founding stories are fascinating because it contradicts one of the common myths about building companies. In fact, about building anything for that matter. The general assumption is that starting a company is a linear journey. You start with an idea. Work hard and build a great business, eventually. In reality, however, it is simply more complicated and circuitous.
The origin of HypeScout
Trained in computer science graduate from Daffodil International University, HypeScout founder Faym Bappi started working at Pathao in 2016 when he was a second-year undergrad student. But Faym always wanted to build his own thing, which would eventually lead to the founding of HypeScout.
“I always wanted to build something that could help people at scale. That’s part of the motivation behind starting HypeScout,” he told FS in an interview.
Faym first started to consider the idea of HypeScout first in 2020. The Pandemic had already started. Many people were losing their jobs. Companies were going through major layoffs and salary cuts. He also had to go through a salary cut as well. He was looking for ideas to explore. That’s when the idea of an influencer marketing platform came to his mind.
Before that, “I didn’t know that something like that existed, especially in the South Asia region. I shared the idea with some friends, and then we started building it. Eventually, we got funded, and we started the journey. That’s about how HypeScout started its journey,” added Bapi.
While at Pathao, Faym had the experience of working with micro-influencers. Pathao used to work with hundreds of micro-influencers every month. Faym was in the team that managed the whole thing. The whole thing was mostly manually managed and thus took a lot of time. That’s when he thought there should be a platform that could automate the whole tedious process, save time, and help him with data and ROI. In many ways, HypeScout is solving the problem that he faced when he was at Pathao.
“The idea came in mid-2020. Somewhere in July 2020, I started working on this idea with my friend Mushfiq. We both started building the first version of the product. We didn’t have an office. So we used to meet up in coffee shops and work,” added Bappi.
At that time, he was still working at Pathao. He was funding his project with his salary. After working for almost three months, they built a minimum viable product (MVP). It had some capabilities but much much less in scale and capabilities than what they have now. For instance, they could only onboard influencers from Instagram at that time. Now they have Facebook, Youtube, and TikTok as well. But initially, they had only Instagram on the platform.
Once they had the initial platform ready, they hired about 50 micro-influencers and convinced a couple of brands to test out the platform, mostly through his network and referrals. These brands launched a couple of campaigns on the platform and from that, they figured out whether there was any issue in the platform where they can improve.
While they were beta testing the platform, he also applied to an incubator program run by the North South University called NSU SN. And got selected as one of the four teams selected for the program. The program was very helpful for them, Faym told FS. They received important guidance and a network of angel investors. They also received a grant of almost $5,000. They invested the grant money to grow the platform and cover some of the operational expenses.
HypeScout also started doing influencer marketing for themselves around this time. Faym said, “we thought if they are asking other brands to use influencer marketing to promote their brands, we should be able to leverage the same technique for us.” It was something like testing your own medicine and it worked. The platform grew without much marketing.
In January 2021, Faym left his job. In February 2021, HypeScout received its first investment, approximately $50,000 as a pre-seed round from three angels.
HypeScout started its journey almost two years ago. The platform started with about 50 influencers. Right now, approximately 30,000 influencers are registered on the platform.
“You can have two types of collaborations with influencers on HypeScout: paid collaboration and free product giveaway collaboration. Let’s say you are a clothing company. You are running a campaign but you don’t want to get into a paid collaboration. What you can do is you can give a dress to an influencer, and in exchange, you can ask for some sort of shout-out,” said Bappi.
HypeScout started working with only 10 brands. Today, the platform has over 4000 brands.
While the number of influencers and advertisers has grown significantly on the platform, the company remains lean in operation. Faym said they have automated a large part of their operations allowing them to operate efficiently.
Besides, they are working with many different types of influencers. They have people from the corporate world like Don Samdany, who is a trainer and motivational speaker. They are working with cricketers like Shahriar Nafis, and footballers like Zamal Bhuiyan. All these people who belong to different industries are on Hype Scout.
Last year, HypeScout raised another round of pre-seed investment recently. The company has so far raised a total of $280,000 in investment.
The business model
HypeScout started with a commission-based model, where the platform used to take a commission per campaign. However, the company has since changed its model to SaaS, where they charge a subscription fee from the brands for all the data, analytics, and enabling them to connect with the influencers. The subscription fee starts at $49/month. The company only charges it from the brands. The platform is free for influencers.