Meet Takumi, the company making social media work better for brands

The startup puts brand power in the hands of millennials by reaching out to the people they care about most

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Social networks are now an established part of any marketing strategy, but some brands still don’t know how to make the most of them. That’s where Takumi, a free platform designed to help brands reach the influencers their customers care about, comes in.

Instead of focusing on the megastars asking for megabucks, Takumi puts the power into the hands of popular, but ordinary, people. Takumi allows micro-influencers, which it measures as Instagram users with 1,000 or more followers, to pick and choose the brands with which they want to associate, and in return receive a slice of money for correctly promoting the brand.

Breaking into this new field of marketing hasn’t been easy, especially with the sticky subject of advertising standards. We caught up with Takumi co-founder and CEO Mats Stigzelius to find out what the company is all about.

Where did the big idea for Takumi come from?


Mats Stigzelius, CEO and co-founder

The original idea came from Solberg Auðunssons, one of the co-founders of Takumi – and our head of product – who observed that the inherent talent of “smaller” influencers on social media was a huge missed opportunity for brands, and consequently for those influencers.

I had seen the same problem from the other side when I was a marketer, and I was familiar with the issues from that perspective. It was potentially highly rewarding for brands to work with smaller influencers, but to do so on a regular basis would have been very time-consuming and challenging.

Solberg, Gummi Eggertsson [another co-founder] and myself took these insights and learnings and developed the platform that is Takumi.

What big problem is Takumi solving?

Takumi enables brands to become an integral and seamless part of the consumer experience without the disruption of ads. It also enables the creativity of micro-influencers to be unleashed, creating much more versatile, authentic and engaging expressions of brands on social media.

What is the biggest challenge you've overcome since starting Takumi?

I wouldn’t say we’ve had any big struggles. As with all new businesses, we learn new things every day as we continue to grow. From product design and user acquisition to raising finance and the awareness of influencer-powered marketing, we’re constantly striving to improve and fine-tune Takumi.

If I had to pick one thing, I’d say our biggest challenge as a company is category awareness. Influencer-led marketing and the existence of highly scalable, efficient platform solutions is so new to most marketers that we spend a lot of time and effort educating marketers on its possibilities. This will, of course, get easier over time as the market matures, but, at the moment, raising awareness is our biggest challenge.

We’ve overcome this by creating our own events, offering workshops, writing opinion pieces and blog posts and amplifying them all via PR and social media.

Takumi founders (left to right) Solberg Auðunsson, Mats Stigzelius and Gummi Eggertsson

How is Takumi handling the subject of advertising standards with its influencer-driven marketing approach?

As a platform connecting brands with influencers, Takumi provides an easy way for both parties to collaborate on Instagram.

As the facilitator of these collaborations, we promote best practice and let all brands know that it is their responsibility to ensure their campaigns comply with the CAP [Committee of Advertising Practice] code of conduct. Similarly, Takumi encourages all influencers to be as transparent as possible when posting about brands as part of paid-for partnerships or campaigns.

Where do you see Takumi being in five years’ time?

Over time, we want to be helping brands and influencers connect on any social media platform around the world. This will, of course, take some time, but that’s the ultimate goal – to be the global platform connecting micro-influencers and brands.

What is the one thing you wish you'd known before you started Takumi?

There are so many things you don’t know when you start a new company in a new sector: what’s the market size, what’s the most profitable customer segment, how will social media consumption change over time – the list goes on. So, you have to figure out which of those questions pose an existential threat or are key drivers of your eventual success and try to answer them as early as possible in your startup journey.

Move down the list of possible worries until you have a good understanding of all those levers over time. Our biggest early questions were simple: will micro-influencers want to use the platform and will brands be willing to pay for influencer marketing?

The answer was yes on both counts, but, as the very first risk we faced as a company, it would have been good to know that before starting. Now, of course, my questions have moved on to the next challenges, mainly around lifetime value metrics.

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