Lindsey Lee Lugrin took an unconventional route to becoming a founder, so it’s only fitting that her fundraising strategies are just as unique. Her company Fuck You Pay Me (FYPM), which is like a Glassdoor for influencers, raised a $275K seed extension solely via Instagram stories, with no pitch deck.
“If you think of what a pitch deck is, it’s what you send to someone to get a meeting,” Lugrin told TechCrunch. But the people she wanted to meet with already followed her on Instagram, where she has a broad audience in the creator economy industry.
“I would just post the numbers – here’s how we’re doing, here’s what we’re doing, here’s how much money I need, how much is left… Here are the terms, DM me if you’re interested,” she said. “I throw on a thirst trap every now and then, because those give my story a bunch of reach – you know, it’s sad but it’s true.”
Some of these angel investors include Derek Schlicker (CFO at Clearbit, which was recently acquired by Hubspot for $150 million), Jessica Lee (a former Wall Street managing director turned influencer), and Sophia Amoruso (founder of Nasty Gal, now an investor).
Image Credits: Instagram Stories that Lugrin used to raise $275K without a pitch deck
Not all founders could manage an Instagram-fueled fundraise, but it made sense for Lugrin, whose company is built to support social media creators. On the platform, creators can review brands they’ve worked with, and share data like how much they were paid, how long it took for them to get paid.
FYPM is a product borne out of necessity. In 2015, Lugrin was a freelance model who won a contest to be in a global modeling campaign for Marc Jacobs. She got paid $1,000, a dismal sum for a massive fashion brand – but, like most young creatives, she was just excited to work with such an esteemed company, and assumed the exposure would lead to other better paying opportunities. It didn’t.
“On paper, I was really successful — I did New York Fashion Week, I was on Vera Wang’s website, I was sold as wall art in Urban Outfitters, and I could just never get paid,” Lugrin told TechCrunch at VidCon last year. “So I found myself in a position of being good enough to do the work, but not good enough to be paid for it.”
After getting a master’s degree in finance, Lugrin entered the corporate world; on the side, she posted about sexism in the workplace on her Instagram, @MsYoungProfessional, where she built up enough of a following to get offered brand deals. Once again, no one wanted to pay her, and there was nowhere to find concrete information about how much these brands even paid.
Thus, FYPM was born. Since 2021, FYPM functioned like a searchable database for influencers, but the way the website was set up, the platform was going to be difficult to scale. So, FYPM has been rebuilding the site from the ground up. Instead of only catering to influencers, the new iteration of FYPM will also allow talent managers and brand representatives to use the platform to advertise opportunities (so long as they’re transparent about how much money they’re offering).
“Going through the data, the spread [of payment] is so huge," Lugrin said. "For the same work, someone will get paid anywhere between zero and six figures, and oftentimes, the differentiator is knowing how much to ask for, and understanding what's reasonable or not, and knowing what your value is."
FYPM is only as good as the quality of its data. If anyone can post anything on the platform, then there's no way to know whether testimonials about working with a company are legit or not. This has been one of FYPM's biggest challenges -- Lugrin and her intern ("Who I pay, by the way," she adds) have been manually reviewing each of the 38,000 creators who have signed up on the platform. So, with the new funding, Lugrin wants to remove these technical barriers to scale, without damaging the quality of the product.
"At the end of the day, what I think would make the most impact in this space is a scalable data business," Lugrin said. Lugrin wants to make sure that creators and talent managers can access this information for free, so long as they upload verified reviews. Eventually, Lugrin hopes to hire data scientists who can help create reports based on all of this payment data from across the creator economy. She also wants FYPM to develop an API, allowing talent companies to upload their own data directly to the platform.
“It just changes people’s lives, democratizing information,” Lugrin said. "It's financial freedom."