Can you tell us about two companies you co-founded, Vested and Qwoted?
Vested is an integrated communications firm, focused on the financial services industry.
It merges financial and fintech expertise with creativity to obtain results. We believe that in the future, all agencies will be topically specialists, incredibly narrow and thoughtful about any particular topic. However, in execution, we’re very broad, with not only paid, owned, earned and shared media, but we also have our own dedicated content and digital studios, and networking group.
Qwoted is a platform, and a network that brings together professional storytellers and the media: writers, editors, podcasters, broadcasters, bookers and producers. It connects them with brands, ideas and experts.
As a PRWeek Dashboard class of 2021 member, can you discuss Qwoted’s larger industry impacts?
We built Qwoted to support the media. For any media member, whether you're a freelance writer, podcaster or reporter at The Wall Street Journal or BBC, it’s always going to be free. And we have paying users, thousands of PR agencies on the platform. Although Qwoted began in finance, it has broadened to cover the full range of almost any topic, where people are quoted.
I understand how creating Qwoted supports Vested, but doesn’t it now also assist Vested’s competitors?
The old fashioned idea of competition is antiquated and anachronistic. For example, one of Apple's largest competitors is Samsung, which is Apple's largest supplier of LED screens. I reject the idea that media engagement is a zero sum game.
The biggest thing that we're doing is leveling the playing field for everybody, making it truly meritocratic. There are 31.7 million small businesses in this country, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Most of them can't afford PR agency retainers. But that doesn't doesn't mean that they don't have interesting stories to share. That’s why the platform offers a free component on both sides. Any user can respond up to three media inquiries every month. Users can respond infinitely if a media person finds them on our database.
Our casual users, 70% of our users, are very content to pitch inside our platform up to three times a month, particularly small businesses. They never have to pay a penny and we’re also helping the media.
How does Qwoted generate revenue? How does this fit within Vested’s business model?
When people need to use the services beyond the free, basic plan, they can subscribe as an individual user for $150 per month. For teams, there can be discounts, depending upon the number of users. We also offer a $750 per month, enterprise-level subscription.
Technology has ripped the middle out of industries and Vested and Qwoted have responded to this trend. Retail is a classic example. People have bifurcated. They want Louis Vuitton, Birkin bags and Tiffany. But there’s also substantial demand for inexpensive self-service, with Sam’s Club and Walmart. Vested and Qwoted attack both ends of the market.
With Vested, for example, when a financial institution launches a robo-adviser, we’re not just advising them about press release language, we also talking about what they should price it at, because they value our insights and expertise. Brands come to Vested for a highly customized, curated experience. You can think of Vested as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and the Birkin bag. Qwoted is the Sam's Club self-service at scale.