Pocketed secures $1M for its founder-funding marketplace

The round was led by WUTIF Capital with participation from more than a dozen investors including Hustle Fund, Women’s Equity Lab and New Avenue Capital.

It was the spring of 2020, and Brianna Blaney and Aria Hahn were building a predictive hiring and retention platform for restaurants and retailers. But then their worlds were upended. Of course, it wasn’t just theirs — all of ours were. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just impact legacy businesses. In the case of Blaney and Hahn’s budding venture, it was virtually dead on arrival.

“We had pilots live in Canada and the US with a bunch of restaurant partners,” Blaney told Vancouver Tech Journal over the phone. “And then with COVID, and one by one by one, they shut down locations. They went from, in some cases, 60 locations down to three, many of them declared Chapter 11. And it was very clear to Aria and I that the timing for that business just wasn't right.”

Reflecting on what could’ve been as they snacked on pizza and sipped wine on Blaney’s couch, the pair debriefed on what went wrong and what went right — and they came to a realization about their past businesses, including their most recent: non-dilutive funding had been critical. But what they were seeing in headlines regularly — “access to capital is a barrier to entrepreneurship and innovation” — didn’t square with their own experiences securing non-dilutive funding. They took this as a signal to start exploring the space further. They started speaking with founders to understand their experiences trying to access funding, and they kept hearing similar things.

“It's a pretty fragmented and confusing world,” Blaney explained. “It's painful to navigate grants and tax credits... you've got to take the time to find programs, figure out what you're eligible for, read through 95 pages to find the one paragraph that tells you what you need to know, take time to apply and hopefully be successful.”

With that feedback and insight, Blaney and Hahn asked themselves, “What if we could build a platform that made it easy and levelled the playing field for all entrepreneurs to find information about which programs they’re eligible for easily in one place?”

Fast-forward 14 weeks later, Pocketed was born with a 500% oversubscribed alpha product. “It was one of the earliest indicators that we absolutely had, in fact, found a pain that wasn't unique to us,” Blaney, CEO of the startup, shared. 

Today, Pocketed announced that it raised $1 million in seed funding. It’s capital that enables the firm to expand across the USA, hire additional talent to support its growth and attract more SMEs to both its platform and marketplace. The round was led by WUTIF Capital with participation from more than a dozen investors including Hustle Fund, Women’s Equity Lab and New Avenue Capital.

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Now a fully built out product, Pocketed is laser-focused on helping start-ups and small businesses access billions of dollars in grants, tax credits, and business incentives with an intelligent matching platform and managed marketplace. Based on a business’s profile, Pocketed automatically generates a list of eligible non-dilutive funding programs. Then, through the Pocketed marketplace, users can connect with the right service providers to increase their success rate and get faster access to cash.

Since launching its core product in February 2021, the startup has helped more than 2,000 SMEs secure over $10 million in grant funding. What’s more, the company reports a 100% success rate for funding applications. “At Pocketed, we’re breaking down financial barriers for all entrepreneurs,” said Hahn, Pocketed’s CTO and co-founder. “Our free and easy-to-use platform and marketplace eliminate the frustrations that businesses encounter when navigating the fragmented grant ecosystem. With this new round of funding, we’re ready to expand our reach and support SMEs all over North America.”

To fuel its growth, the company has secured partnerships with organizations like MaRS, League of Innovators and Accelerate Okanagan. In addition, the startup has attracted over 60 vendors to its marketplace — including Boast AI, Stratesol, and Ayming — and is developing a channel partnership with Toronto unicorn Clearco.

“We’re extremely excited about this investment and look forward to watching this company take-off,” said Mike Volker, CEO of WUTIF Capital.

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