Masset Raises $700K Pre-Seed Investment Led by Startup Ignition Ventures
Founded by Benjamin Ard and Tyler Russel, Masset.ai is a digital asset management platform that helps B2B, SaaS, and Tech businesses centralize, manage, and analyze all of their marketing content in one place. The Utah County-based startup announced it has recently raised $700K in pre-seed financing. The round was led by Startup Ignition Ventures and followed on by the Joan and Tim Fenton Founders Fund at the David Eccles School of Business along with one other angel investor.
“When Tyler Richards and I met Ben Ard and Tyler Russell, it was an instant connection on how to approach startup ventures and go about business, such as following lean startup doctrine,” said John Richards, managing partner of Startup Ignition Ventures. “Masset already has a cadre of customers and growing revenues. When we did our due diligence, we found the target market loved the concept and demonstrated a real need. As we were deciding to invest, Ben and Tyler attended the most recent cohort of Startup Ignition entrepreneur bootcamp and they got a lot out of it. Other VCs liked Masset and wanted to invest, but Ben and Tyler chose SIV to lead this pre-seed investment. Masset is a perfect fit for our highly-tuned focus on B2B SaaS startups with must-have features that help users take care of daily workflows.”
TechBuzz sat down with Benjamin Ard (CEO) and Tyler Russell (CTO) of Masset to learn about how the company came together and to find out their plans with this pre-seed investment. Russell said, “Our goal with this funding is to extend our runway as long as possible. During that time we plan to do all we can to nail product-market fit.”
He explained further: “We’ve bootstrapped pretty far already. We have active customers that are paying for the product and are getting a lot of value out of it. This pre-seed funding for us is to take the traction that we've seen early and ensure we have the resources necessary to adapt to early customer feedback. We don't necessarily plan on hiring heavy at this point. We’re going to use this money responsibly as we build a solution that provides value to businesses, regardless of economic circumstances.”
Ard also stressed the importance of spending enough time and diligence to find the perfect product-market fit.
“People are using and liking our product. It’s changing their jobs. They're sending referrals and independently posting online about how great it is. These are all good indicators,” said Ard. “But at the end of the day, the hockey stick moment occurs when we have found product-market fit regardless of economic situation.”
“We're actually really excited to be at this stage of the company with the current economy, because as we grow our product when budgets are extremely tight, we know that we're on the right pathway. We would rather have the higher scrutiny and more difficulty selling as people have to be extremely cost-conscious. This discipline forces us to build exactly what customers need regardless of economic situations.”
Masset’s ultimate goal is to help businesses get the biggest return on their content marketing efforts.
We asked the Masset team to describe the rationale and use case of their product.
“Digital marketing channels—pay-per-click, online advertising—were a part of the digital marketing revolution 10 or 15 years ago. Those marketing methods are dying. They're just completely falling off,” said Tyler Russell, Masset’s CEO and Co-Founder.
“And what's emerging in its place is the ever-growing importance of the buyer-led journey. It is all about self-education—being able to use content to drive brand awareness and to drive a buyer's journey.” added Russell.
Ard and Russell described the modern reality of many people creating a lot of content. “But they don't have a terrific way of managing it, let alone measuring it at the same granularity and efficacy of an ad based platform,” said Russell.
They said teams and individuals that are generating content are “getting left out to dry in budget meetings because they can’t really show the value of what they're doing.”
Russell continued, “Combine that with generative AI creating an explosion of content and you have a problem in which people are creating more and more content than ever before with no way to manage it and to measure how well it is working. Masset solves that problem.”
Masset primarily targets businesses between 100 and 1,000 employees “that are needing to start the content management process, but don’t have the resources for dedicated headcount or enterprise software costing tens of thousands of dollars a month.”
The core idea for Masset came out of Ard’s nearly seven years where he ran the demand generation at Weave and helped it go through its 2021 IPO. He observed a critical pain point at Weave. There was an ocean of content but it was difficult or impossible to find. “No one had access to everything and no one knew what was being used by whom or where or how. There was no way to track the content’s performance.”
“We focus so much on paid channels because they're easy to track. Put $1 in and you know how much you get out. But we're seeing a shift in the market. People want to self-lead their buying journey. Nowadays, buyers are 70% of the way through the funnel before they ever reach out to a salesperson. Most companies are not doing a good job supplying content at the top of the funnel. Buyers are getting left behind because they can't get far enough in the journey before they are prompted to fill out a form.”
There are digital asset management tools in the market but most are really expensive ($30K-$50K per month), and in Ard’s opinion have the wrong focus when it comes to tech. They were also mostly all B2C, enterprise-focused and Ard and his team needed a B2B tech SaaS-focused product.
Ard couldn’t find a solution in the marketplace that fit their needs, so Ard decided to build one. He started off validating the pain point by texting 16 personal connections locally, at different businesses and all with different job titles. He asked them three questions: 1) Where they are storing their content, 2) How they get access to it, and 3) If they like how they were managing their content.
“15 out of 16 were using Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive as their current storage solution–and they hated it,” said Ard.
Convinced he identified a compelling market need, Ard talked to his wife and they decided in July 2022 to found the startup that would become Masset.
Around the same time, he approached Tyler Russell with whom he was working on a side gig. Russell saw the need and had a different perspective on the problem—a data and analytics view of the problem which complements Ard's marketing-centric view. “I got my feet wet with data early in my career at Domo and a few other data-centric companies. My first exposure to the marketing world came at a marketing data quality startup called Claravine. While I was there, I noticed just how painful the world of marketing data can be,” Russell said.
At Claravine, Russell was seeing large enterprise customers that were creating vast amounts of marketing assets and creatives in Digital Asset Management software (DAMs) but losing measurability in the handoff between systems, teams, and processes.
“Claravine was a big help to these enterprise companies with complex marketing processes and large departments, but it was clear that companies were treating content like a second class citizen. Ben connected the dots and realized that the problem of managing content is just as pronounced at smaller businesses.” Russell commented. “With the explosion of generative AI, small businesses can now create what used to take huge budgets to create. And they have to manage that extreme amount of content without a dedicated team to help.”
Over the summer of 2022 they combined their perspectives and ideas and founded Masset in July 2022.
Rather than charge per seat, like most softwares do, Masset is built around the idea of having unlimited seats for businesses. This helps businesses actually have access to the content they need.
Masset has seen a steady growth of interest in their product since they first launched in March of this year.
For more information, visit Masset.ai.