Kiwi social media marketing startup eVouch banks NZ$500,000 pre-seed

New Zealand martech startup eVouch has raised NZ$500,000 (A$450,000) in a pre-Seed round.

The increase was supported by leading NZ VC GD1, along with Phase One and Uniservices among several others. The capital will support growing international demand and provide more support to developers.

Founder Eugene Yao initially launched eVouch as a way to help local restaurants do business through word of mouth from diners sharing on social media.

“A few months earlier I had taken a picture of my brunch and posted it on my Instagram. A few minutes later a friend walked into the cafe – they had decided to go out after seeing my photo,” he said.

“That was a ‘light bulb’ moment. I sold something even though I’m just a software developer! The power of word of mouth is well known, but with social media we have the power to scale that word of mouth. I wanted to build on eVouch to combine the trust inherent in word of mouth with the scale of social media – which has great synergy with e-commerce.”

But then came the pandemic, which shut down the hospitality industry in an instant. A small benefit of the lockdowns was that they gave Yao time to think “out of the box” about the next steps. He broadened the idea and built a brand new app in just 8 weeks, as part of the Shopify 2021 App Challenge. eVouch quickly gained more than 500 customers, the majority of them in the US.

eVouch helps companies turn their clients into brand advocates by encouraging them to share their experience with their personal networks in exchange for rewards.

Yao said some customers reported 36x the marketing ROI for their spend.

“Marketing is changing, it’s all about community now, and what better way to build a community than through word of mouth from your shoppers?” he said.

“At eVouch, we are building a way for all businesses to access the most authentic form of marketing, at scale. that is more powerful than any ad you could ever pay for. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small café or a multinational e-commerce chain – we exist to make marketing simple, authentic and automated.”

He said youLike referral programs where someone is asked to target only a handful of people in their network, companies may be able to take advantage of everybody in a customer’s social network.

“The app enables companies to create and upload high-quality creatives and verify that the creatives have been placed, and send the customer a voucher for their efforts. It’s easy, and it’s frictionless,” he said.

““eVouch allows customers of Shopify websites to post an Instagram story about the brand; and be instantly rewarded for their marketing efforts, just like influencers. On a large scale, this democratizes marketing down to the consumer level, while giving brands access to the power of word of mouth.”

GD1 co-managing partner Vignesh Kumar said: marketers understand Intuit’s Scott Cook saying that “a brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is, it’s what consumers tell each other it is.”

“Sellers feel the pain of not being able to hit the market in the same way due to changes in iOS; and they are looking for new ways to reach their audiences,” he said.

“What Eugene and the eVouch team have built enables businesses to leverage the power of social support at scale, expanding the traditional 1:1 marketing model; to that of 1:1 for many. It is smart; and it’s a concept that we expect to catch on as the future of social share marketing.”

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