If you’re looking for just the right digital marketing or ad agency, a new platform wants to help you find your “soulmate agency.”
Brussels, Belgium-based startup Sortlist believes its new tool, which emerged last month from beta, does more than just give you a list of agencies. And it has scored a seed round of about $623,000 (550,000 Euros) so it can help make better matches.
The platform was born about a year ago, cofounder Nicolas Finet told VentureBeat, when he and three fellow students discovered their agency matchmaking skills.
They were operating as a small digital agency, he said, and some opportunities required them to find and partner with other agencies that had complementary experience.
As they started doing that, he said, “brands were coming to us as a matchmaker,” looking for advice on which agencies they should choose for their own projects.
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Bootstrapped at first, Sortlist now has in its registry about 53,000 agencies worldwide, of which about 20,000 are in the U.S. Basic listings are free to agencies, and searches are free.
The platform seeks to distinguish itself from others by providing context and system intelligence to make the right match. Once the right agency is found, the two parties deal directly.
Factors on the seeker side include type of company, as well as its location, size, and industry.
On the agency side, searches are impacted by an agency’s influence in social media, including how connected it is to the seeker’s LinkedIn network. Other factors include whether the agency has experience on a similar type of campaign.
The best organic matches show up at top. Agencies can improve their rankings by uploading more works that help characterize them. If they really object to how they’re ranked, they can ask for a review from Sortlist.
Agencies can also pay for featured and labeled placement at the top.
But, if every agency paid for a featured position, wouldn’t that destroy the value of the contextual search model?
No, Finet said, because agencies would still be sorted by sectors and location, and seekers would still be able to assess endorsements.
In addition to guaranteed placement, agencies can also pay for the ability to better customize their profiles and to see such analytics as which companies have been visiting their profiles.
The new funding will be used for expansion into more countries, Finet said. “We are happy with the traction in Belgium,” he added, “but we want to accelerate our growth” in the U.K., the U.S., and France through investment in marketing and sales.
The agency matchmaking opportunity has not been lost on others. But, he told us, those competing services are mostly directories of agencies or search engines with basic parameters.
This includes AgencyFinder, which combines database searching with human search consultants to offer what it also calls matchmaking. AgencySpotter‘s searches are based on broad strokes like type, location, and budget. Agency Search from the American Association of Advertising Agencies provides a larger menu of fixed parameters for its searches, and AdForum’s Agency Gallery offers a directory.
But Sortlist’s contextual/reputation engine is reaching for that certain je ne sais quoi.
“We’re the Match.com of the marketing industry,” Finet told us.
The seed funding was raised from private investors, including the Janssen family, Didier Smits, Petercam Institutional Bonds’ executive director Alexandre De Groote, and the Lean Fund.