BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. are also contributing to the funding round, which is being limited to those three investors and is expected to close next week, said Larry Hitchcock, co-founder of Socialeads. He declined to disclose exact investment amounts.
Socialeads was the winner of the Northwestern Mutual Reverse Pitch Competition in January. The Northwestern Mutual contribution announced today is in addition to the “up to $85,000” seed investment the Milwaukee life insurance company committed to Socialeads for winning the competition, Hitchcock said.
Established by Hitchcock, an entrepreneur, and solutions architect Matthew Salzer, Socialeads is a software platform built to help Northwestern Mutual address its salesperson market potential and referral friction challenges. It can analyze social media data using machine learning and data science to find the ideal potential clients in a salesperson’s social media networks.
As a result of the Reverse Pitch win, Socialeads is now working out of Northwestern Mutual’s offices in downtown Milwaukee. Hitchcock relocated from California to his native Milwaukee after the win.
David Trotter, managing director of the Neenah-based, $11 million Winnebago Seed Fund, said he decided to invest in Socialeads because of the Northwestern Mutual partnership and the founders’ skills.
“I think they have a very talented team,” Trotter said. “Their partnership with Northwestern Mutual made them a very compelling investment opportunity and I think it’s a great example, too, of bringing someone like Larry who was working out in California back to Wisconsin. It’s also a success story for the Reverse Pitch competition that was put on for Northwestern Mutual, too.”
Hitchcock said Socialeads will use the funding round to fuel its rapid growth, hiring another three to five engineers immediately to increase its development resources.
“We’re also very open to moving people from outside of the local market into the local market,” he said. “We’re growing our team here in Milwaukee.”
Socialeads plans to launch its pilot program within two Northwestern Mutual offices, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, later this month. It will then expand the program more widely within Northwestern Mutual before launching it to a wider audience in the third or fourth quarter, Hitchcock said.
“As part of our working with the digital innovation team where we’re co-located in the downtown offices, we’re working with their strategic innovation offices,” he said.
If all goes well with the pilot programs, Hitchcock expects to hire another four to five employees this year.