Yesterday, Howard Morgan announced First Round’s investment in SinglePlatform, a company started by Wiley Cerilli.
For almost as long as I’ve been at First Round, we’ve been thinking a lot about the gap between the average experience of a local merchant and the huge marketing opportunity that the internet and social networks represent. We’ve talked to tons of people in the space, and seen a lot of great teams with interesting solutions—but at the end of the day, the biggest problem was that we couldn’t see how people were going to solve the local sales challenge.
Selling to local merchants has long been the Northwest Passage of geolocation and hyperlocal plays. Figuring it out could mean untold riches, but lots have failed trying. First Round’s NYC team: Chris Fralic, Howard Morgan, Phin Barnes, and myself had a ton of internal conversation about what we thought about this market. We’re not necessarily sector investors, but we were really interested in finding a play that made sense here.
It’s funny how deals come about. Back in December, I met Nikki Aurora from Icreon Global at the Anniversary Party of the Arts/Tech Meetup. She was just getting her start in the NYC tech scene and we were talking about how to get more involved. I told her to get to know everyone and be a connector. When she asked me what areas First Round was looking at, she knew exactly who to introduce me to when I mentioned merchant marketing. A few months later, in April, she introduced me to Wiley Cerilli. After just one meeting, I went back to Chris and Howard and said, “I think I just met the guy we’re going to back in this space.” Wiley ran sales for SeamlessWeb for 10 years—one of the best examples of a successful local sales effort. He was extremely impressive—polished, smart, but most of all really understood what building real partnerships with local merchants is all about.
This deal was a real team effort—Howard Morgan will be joining the board, but our enthusiasm really came out of a lot of great conversation that we all had around the space. I had a lot of smart back and forth with Phin about retailers, group buying, customer acquisition challenges, etc., and Chris weighed in given his expertise in the sales & marketing area.
It’s also exciting to be working with other local investors, RRE and DFJ Gotham on a deal together—and we’re glad they decided to join us for this round. We’ve also got some serious sector expertise in the syndicate, including the founders of SeamlessWeb and Restaurant.com. We’re seeing more and more of these types of stories—where NYC success stories like SeamlessWeb are begetting new entrepreneurs, new angels, and new opportunities. Welcome to the next generation of the Big Apple.