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Introducing Trust, and the Importance of Product-Founder Fit | by Mark Suster

Photo by Vanna Phon on Unsplash

Customer acquisition is the lifeblood of many startups from e-commerce to gaming to marketplace companies, among others. Most of these startups spend the lion’s share of their marketing budget in today’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Snap, TikTok and so on because — no surprise — that’s where the customers are.

Digital advertising spend is projected to grow 25% this year to $191 billion, and Google (69%), Facebook (59%), Snapchat (116%) and Twitter (87%) all just reported rapid growth in their year over year advertising revenues. For these companies, it looks like a rosy picture.

But if you ask anyone in the ecosystem of customer acquisition — founders, marketers, investors — and you’ll hear the same thing: customer acquisition (CAC) is getting harder and more expensive. Some of this can be attributed to the exponential growth in e-commerce and direct-to-consumer businesses as a result of the pandemic and global lockdowns — eCommerce for example grew 39% just last year – so there’s simply more demand. And some of this can be attributed to the increased pressure on the available platforms not only to facilitate acquisition at scale but to do so in an increasingly “walled garden,” privacy-restricted world.

Despite the huge and sustained growth in digital advertising (or maybe because of it), there are virtually no tools where a marketer or growth leader can understand their performance and spend across channels, nor where they can share best practices and insights with their peers so the platforms are at an information advantage.

That’s where Trust comes in — it was built to arm those spending money in channels in order not to be at a disadvantage.

==> You can join the Trust waitlist here.

Trust, which today has announced a $9 million financing (Upfront is an investor), is a platform designed to help make the most of marketing investment by providing both analytics and a community of likeminded executives to share what’s working, and what’s not, across platforms. Think of it as Bloomberg for marketers, in a way that gives smaller companies and teams as much firepower as larger organizations to help them optimize spend across channels and identify new, high-performing opportunities. This is accomplished through aggregated, anonymized competitive benchmarking, market-level performance data across the major social and ad platforms, and curated news and conversation from industry leaders.

To start, Trust is also launching with the Trust virtual card, which essentially funnels credits and preferred billing to any business, allowing them to increase their marketing buying power by up to 20x and receive 45-day payment terms for all their marketing investments.

Why Did I Invest in Trust?

As a VC, one of the key things I’m looking for in any new investor is “product-founder fit” e.g. does this founder have an insight or advantage that makes them uniquely suited to successfully build this product and business? There are plenty of talented, smart founders out there but you’d be surprised how many don’t have that “unfair advantage” when it comes to their product and audience.

Trust is led by CEO and co-founder James Borow, who led Snap’s global programmatic ads platform and grew the self-service ads revenue from 0 to $1B+ over three years. In that role, James and his co-founders (many also from the Snap team) saw first-hand how hard it was for companies to understand where and how to best invest in marketing, and how opaque the platforms make it for advertisers. They lived this challenge every day alongside their customers at Snap, and Trust was founded out of a direct desire to reshape marketing and ad-spend dynamics for the people who are on the ground building businesses. To me, that’s the textbook example of “product-founder fit” and one of the reasons I believe this business will succeed.

Since day one I’ve believed in James as a founder who deeply understands and empathizes with his customer pain point, not just from the user side but also from the platform side. A lot of people have tried to solve multi-channel analytics and optimization, but I believe James and team have the unique set of skills and experience to finally crack the code.

As an investor in early-stage companies, many of whom are living the customer acquisition challenge every day, I’m excited to see how Trust can reshape the playing field for startups and larger organizations alike. Founders, marketers and growth leaders — join the Trust waitlist here.

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