Sarah Ware took her startup Markerly cross-country with her in 2012 to join the premier Bay Area accelerator, 500 Startups. When she did so, her company was focused on helping publishers share content, grow traffic and understand why readers were engaging with certain content on social media. It was a useful tool, but according to Ware its usefulness just pointed out what Markerly really needed to be doing – influencer marketing, or matching bloggers to brands that want to reach their audience.

“We built up a huge network of bloggers, and we were thinking about how to monetize on it,” Ware said. “We started pitching the idea to some brands, ‘What if we started having some of our bloggers write sponsored content?’ If people are willing to pay us for this and we have a network, why don’t we just blow out that network even more?” People were interested, Ware said, and Markerly immediately began running some campaigns to test it out. About nine months ago, they started experimenting with smaller startups the company knew to feel the model out, and now they’re moving on to campaigns with larger companies – like Levi’s – and ad agencies, which have deeper pockets for campaigns.

The process of Markerly’s mini-pivot Ware described as similar to the way many social networks build massive user bases before even questioning how they’ll make money, but on a smaller scale. “We could’ve continued to grow the network and sell data, but that’s something we realized we didn’t want to be in the business of, so we decided lets just empower brands by

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