Feathr is a software startup with over 100 employees all based in Gainesville, FL. Feathr provides a suite of digital marketing tools specifically tailored for the needs of professional associations and conference/exhibition organizers, enabling them to grow attendance, membership, and sponsorship revenue through modern online channels such as programmatic advertising and influencer marketing.
Did You Know:
Feathr recently became the first software startup in Gainesville to ever raise a Series B round of venture capital funding ($11M led by Fulcrum Equity Partners).
Feathr began as a “digital business card” mobile app while co-founders Aidan Augustin and Aleksander Levental were still undergrad students at the University of Florida. First pitched as “CardSync” at a Startup Weekend event in late 2011, Feathr incorporated shortly thereafter and was one of the first companies to move into UF’s then-brand-new “Innovation Hub” incubator (now UF Innovate | The Hub).
After a successful crowdfunding campaign and two failed rounds of beta testing their business card solution, they were approached by the organizers of the TEDx UF conference in Gainesville to build a custom version of the Feathr app which would contain speaker profiles and allow TEDx UF attendees to connect with each other before, during, and after the conference. “We ended up with a much more practical app, as well as a new business model” said Levental.
Feathr fully pivoted to focus on providing white-labeled mobile apps to conferences and events. The new direction led to a $150K seed investment from angel investors in Florida in 2013 and modest revenues over the next year and a half as Feathr built apps for over a hundred conferences, but the founders saw the writing on the wall. “We were failing in slow motion” said Augustin. “We had over 80 direct competitors in what was already a fairly niche category, and our original differentiation of being networking-focused quickly become commodified.”
On the stage at SXSW 2014 before a panel of investors, Feathr pitched yet another pivot: while many tech companies were offering apps to increase attendee engagement at events, none were helping get more attendees there in the first place. Conference organizers needed help navigating the increasingly complex maze of digital marketing channels as their traditional methods such as direct mail campaigns or advertising in trade publications were losing efficacy. That pitch led to another $100K seed investment plus an invitation to Capital Factory, a renowned startup accelerator in Austin, TX.
“The old saying of “third time’s a charm’ held true in our case” said Augustin. After sunsetting the mobile app product and launching an early version of Feathr’s current digital marketing suite, business immediately took off. After absorbing the mentorship of Capital Factory for a year, Augustin and Levental concluded that the cost of living, talent pool, and culture of Gainesville provided a better environment for Feathr to scale up. Feathr returned to Gainesville in 2015 as a team of two, and now “The Flock” is over 100 strong, all based out of Feathr’s office in the Gainesville Innovation District. The company was recently recognized as #8 in the Gator100, UF’s list of the fastest-growing Gator-owned or Gator-led companies in the world.
Besides their commercial success, Augustin is especially proud of how Feathr gives back to the local community. For example, Feathr holds the annual “Wintr Ball” event which just had its fourth iteration and raised thousands of dollars for charity, and gives all employees a fully-paid “service day” to spend with the cause of their choosing. Another way Feathr gives back is by sponsoring community organizations such as startupGNV, Gainesville Black Professionals, the Cade Museum, and the Collaboratory for Women Innovators.
Augustin emphasizes just how important Gainesville’s community has been to the company. “The tech startup scene in Gainesville certainly smaller than Austin’s, but it is tight-knit and extremely supportive.” Augustin says the company, and he personally, received a lot of mentorship and help when they were first starting out, and he feels strongly about paying it forward to the next wave of Gainesville entrepreneurs. Simply put, as Augustin says: “We love this city.”