Cloutly closes $500,000 pre-seed funding to revamp customer reviews

Lachlan Fea, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Cloutly

Gold Coast based tech startup Cloutly is building its footprint after raising a $500K pre-seed round of funding, led by Unify Ventures with participation from Palm Beach Ventures (PBV).

Cloutly co-Founders Lachlan Fea and Joshua Heslin are excited to welcome a star-studded cast of new investors and heavyweight advisors along for the ride, including Alex Retzlaff of Unify Ventures, Mike van der Heijden of Portal Ventures, Jason Atkins of Cake Equity, PBV, George Hartley of Bluethumb, Smartrmail and Chad Stephens of 1Form, Fillr.

What was the inspiration behind Cloutly?

The funding will allow Cloutly to build its remote-first team and accelerate the delivery of its product roadmap – a more ‘human’ reviews experience for businesses and their customers.

“We never set out to build a reviews platform. It happened by osmosis” CEO & Co-Founder Lachlan Fea noted. Cloutly took on a life of its own in late 2019, after internal use for clients at Mr Fea’s prior business, a digital marketing agency, bore repeated success stories.

“Our clients wanted a reliable way to get more online reviews, anywhere, without being locked into big contracts. What stood out was that across multiple verticals, businesses were frustrated by the same problem: there were dozens of review sites, but nothing that could bring them all together and put the business back in the control of their reputation” he added.

“We saw an opportunity to turn the idea of transactional review requests on its head; to build a more personalised, engaging way to ask for feedback, testimonials and user-generated content (UGC) that connects businesses and clients,” said Co-Founder Joshua Heslin.

Existing solutions were tools that took a transactional approach to review requests – sending out generic NPS messaging after a purchase while burning holes in the pockets of SMBs.

How does Cloutly rate in the review industry?

Unlike other tools in the space, Cloutly allows businesses to segment their customers and ask for online reviews using personalised, automated video campaigns. “Your clients don’t all share the same, cookie-cutter experience with your business, so why would you send them all the same, cookie-cutter review request?” Mr Fea said, noting that on average across other tools, only 7% of standard, text-based review requests result in a successful review.

Whether it’s a local accountant, dentist or real estate agent, consumers compare businesses against each other before making a decision. And it’s not just on Google, it’s on Facebook, Tripadvisor, Realestate.com.au, Fresha, DealerRater and hundreds of other marketplaces.

Cloutly’s mission is to make it easy for businesses to close the loop on customer testimonials, from automation, segmentation and personalisation; to become the fastest (and most authentic) way to get your customers talking about you online.

What were the investor’s thoughts on Cloutly?

On why this was such a backable team, Alex Retzlaff from Unify Ventures commented, “Lachlan demonstrated rapid commercial traction with recognised early customers and met my criteria of being much better than I ever was when walking in his shoes.”

Less than one year after launching their MVP, Cloutly’s lean team of two hit 6-figures in annual recurring revenue (ARR) and onboarded over 150 paying businesses, including cornerstone customers such as Swyftx, Swimart, Home Instead and Cake.

“Cloutly is able to impact the client’s income, without requiring a big investment of time or money. There’s an abundance of differentiating product feature opportunities to deliver even greater customer value and carve a defensible position within the space,” added Mr Retzlaff.

“It’s a crowded space with well-funded incumbents, however, we consistently see them ‘line extending’ in an attempt to capture the full value of delivering an end-to-end online customer communication experience, which in turn prevents them from becoming an exceptional product in the eyes of their client. We see this as an advantage and reason to stay focused.”