Product placement startup Glimpse got its idea from the back of a U-Haul truck.
Akash Raju and his friends Anuj Mehta and Kushal Negi started brand pop-ups at their school, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in 2019. They wanted to bring interactive shopping to their campus in the country, which is often forgotten. Local brands and small businesses were showcased at the events, and the three people ran their first job out of the back of a moving truck that was parked in the middle of the school’s property. As their graduation date got closer, the three of them realized that they could use the same method in a new field: short-term rentals.
The people who started the company thought that this plan could help rental hosts make their guests’ stays better and give brands a way to get their products directly into the hands of consumers. They started Glimpse in 2020, and now more than 150 brands show off their products through the network of 8,000 short-term rentals. “We’ve been seeing a huge pull on both sides of the platform,” Raju told Forbes. She said, “The main reason is that everyone wins.”
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Glimpse wants to be in the middle of two trends that are growing. One is that since the start of the pandemic, short-term rentals have grown a lot. In 2021, 300 million bookings were made on Airbnb alone, and this trend isn’t likely to stop any time soon. Raju says that the other problem is that brands can’t rely on digital advertising as much as they used to because laws about digital privacy are getting stricter. This means that a lot of businesses are trying to find new ways to reach their customers. Because of that pitch, brands like Purple, which sells mattresses directly to customers, Liquid Death, which sells water in cans, and Lyric, which makes massage guns, have signed up.
Mike Proulx, a vice president and research director at the research company Forrester, tells Forbes over email that experiential marketing, like what Glimpse is doing, can be very effective. “When experiential marketing is done well, it creates excitement and momentum that spreads through word of mouth.” “Consumers take photos and videos that are good for TikTok and Instagram and share them with more and more people.” He also says that a recent survey by Forrester found that 44% of CMOs planned to spend more on strategy in 2022.
Glimpse works because brands pay a subscription fee to the startup based on how many units of their products are put in. Brands have full control over where they show up and can see how engaged guests are. One of the first companies to join was Lyric. Hugh Williams, cofounder and chief marketing officer at Lyric, told Forbes that the company knew it had to get its signature product, a massage gun, into people’s hands to show them why they should buy from them instead of a more established brand like Theragun.
“We talked a lot about how people will fall in love with a Lyric massage gun once they see and use it,” he says. “So, how can we put it where people will really use it?” Late last year, Lyric began with ten properties, but it has since bought more. Williams says, “The whole partnership has been profitable from a sales point of view.
Raju says that the startup’s rental side is growing by 40% every month, and the company is announcing a $6.2 million seed round to build its team. GSR Ventures led the round, which also included Origin Ventures, Y Combinator, and angel investors like Julia and Kevin Hartz, Bradley Horowitz, and Bangaly Kaba. A partner at GSR Ventures named Yuechen Zhao liked the idea of Glimpse right away. Zhao told Forbes that when he and his wife met Glimpse at Y Combinator in 2020, they were setting up their second short-term rental property. Zhao gave the company a small check back in 2020, and he decided to double down in the most recent round. “Glimpse has shown that the return on investment [for brands] is actually very high,” he says. “Brands get a lot of engagement and a good return on investment (ROI) in terms of sales when people buy from them.
Raju said that the company grew four times from one quarter to the next in Q1, but he wouldn’t say any more. He says, “I think the next thing to do is to keep adding more properties.” “We’ve started a lot of new brands in the past few months, and our main goal today is to make sure they keep growing.
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