One of the most difficult parts of running a small business is building a steady stream of new customers. Advertising on social media such as Facebook is the most obvious way to acquire new customers in today’s market. However, Facebook advertising isn’t automatically effective.
Arrow AI by Custom Social hopes to save the day for small businesses at their wits’ end with Facebook ads. The company’s simple Google Chrome browser extension layers on top of brands’ Facebook ads manager. It leverages an extensive data set of user interests to recommend innovative audience targeting strategies. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Rolan Reichel to get an inside perspective on the industry’s challenges and learn how Arrow AI hopes to overcome them.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Arrow for Business is a tool for the 165 million businesses that have an online profile but don’t advertise online. These businesses, solopreneurs, and everyday entrepreneurs want to build brand awareness and equity for their Facebook and Instagram pages but don’t know how to use the native tools, are too small for agencies, and unsure about using freelancers.
Arrow takes the frustration out of Facebook for small businesses and helps you connect with the right people in your community.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I spent years selling and building enterprise solutions for some of the biggest companies in the world (Disney and Microsoft) and managed/participated in billions of dollars of investment for enterprise digital marketing tools. Meanwhile, Mainstreet is falling further behind in the digital space, struggling to use and deploy effective marketing tools. There are 180 million digital business marketing profiles, but only 25 million companies advertise. We built Arrow for all those companies that are just learning digital paid marketing and need a tool that requires no expertise or previous knowledge and doesn’t require you to learn a new platform.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
This is my second AI technology build. Previously, I built a company and technology, RLLCLL, and a programmatic video advertising platform. Integrated into 1.5 million websites, we were able to identify an online user and find and serve a relevant video ad all in literally the blink of an eye. After selling RLLCLL to a Canadian company, Aquarius AI, I joined the executive team, and we took the company public on the Toronto Venture Stock Exchange. We are bringing forward the same founding team and partnering with a world class CTO, Bill Rose, with over 25 years of experience building advertising technology and managing over $1 billion in development budgets.
I have experience with the public markets, fundraising, and team development as well as bringing digital products to market. A key capability we bring to the table is digital marketing. As experienced digital marketers, we are able to market our own products without relying on agencies.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
The vision is micro advertising — hundreds of millions of companies accessing the main digital channels of search, social, connected television, and apps, doing local advertising that is smart and data driven for a few dollars a day.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Great question! We brought forward our core team from our previous company and added a new CTO, Bill Rose, and Head of Product Justin Lockwood. Justin Lockwood’s background is amazing, building some of the first consumer apps ever in the Apple store. Bill Rose rounds out the founding team. He and I have crossed paths many times over the years at Adobe, Disney, and other companies. I always admired his work ethic, creativity, and ability to work collaboratively with teams. We are lucky to have Bill on board with equity in the company.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
There is always competition! Part of what we compete with is the general noise and “snake oil” in the ad industry. Over the last five years, our industry has taken amazing strides to improve transparency, data collection, and protect privacy, but there is still a lot of general distaste for the industry as a whole. We built our brand and our policies focused on transparency and building trust. Our competitive advantage is that we are NOT a platform. We work in browsers and in pages, giving us a structural cost basis advantage. Also, our pricing model is unique — flat fee, never a percentage of spend.
What does your business model look like?
Flat fee, $19 per month, per user/seat.
What brought you to equity crowdfunding?
We love the crowdfunding space. It aligns with our fundamental view that transparency, democratizing media tools, self sufficiency, and participation are the keys to sustainable economic growth. Plus, we are finding that a ton of our investors are also our users!
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
The quality of the founding team and their ability to solve problems. When one is investing at an early stage, it is often about the people. Every day, I see this team solve problems in a way that benefits our end users. Getting them on board with equity from the beginning is key, and this team is in it for the long run.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
We see our company purchased by a public company that services the small and medium business market. Hubspot is one that comes to mind, but a strategic partner from another vertical like real estate is also a possibility. I like this exit for us because a bigger company will take our solution and roll it out to millions of businesses.
We are excited to see where Rolan and his team take the company. Arrow AI is currently raising on StartEngine.