Slovenian startup Epidemic, which is making its way in the market with its solution to connect brands with influential people, has received its first major investment to grow the business. The three Slovenian angel investors invested a total of €400,000, recognizing the unique value that nano- and micro-influencers and word-of-mouth marketing can bring to brands.
Epidemic has won an award in the past for its use of artificial intelligence under the sponsorship of Amazon Web Services (AWS), so we can expect a rapid expansion of the business both in Slovenia and abroad.
This is an exceptional achievement in an otherwise unpredictable year and one of the largest investments ever by Slovenian investors. "With the money invested, we will be able to expand the team and base of our influencers and further grow our business, as well as improve the artificial intelligence we use to find the most suitable influencers for each company," says Nika Kristina Butina, director and co-founder. She attributes the company's success to the team finding an answer to followers' dwindling trust.
Until a few years ago, innovative marketing mainly meant hiring big social media stars who gained fame and influence through regular posts about their lives, habits and the products they use. Such collaborations were particularly successful because influential people enjoyed a special reputation among their followers, which meant that their (more or less covert) advertising messages fell on fertile ground. Over time, the big influencers were affected to some extent by their own success - the followers recognized advertising messages more and more frequently and they became more obvious, and the influencers lost their advertising power.
Epidemic, therefore, relies on the authenticity of its nano- and micro-influencers (they already have over 10.000 of them in their database and are expanding that number with the help of artificial database) by searching for the "people next door" for each project who really want to present themselves to their followers. So it's influential people with a few thousand followers at most, who share the products and services of companies they trust - honest, free and often two-way communication with followers is crucial to Epidemic. The value of this form of marketing has been recognized by many Slovenian and foreign companies on the Slovenian market, including Wolt, Barbie, Pampers, Mali Junaki, Fisherprice, Mercator and Petrol, which use selected nano- and micro-influencers for more visibility and sales growth.
The young team has already won a €100,000 Amazon Web Services Award. for its use of artificial intelligence. Criteria for the AWS award included the use of artificial intelligence to address a specific business challenge, the sales potential of the solution, complexity and positive impact on society. "This award is an exceptional recognition of our work while bringing us recognition in the broader space in which we are expanding," Butina says.
Epidemic arose in the year preceding the epidemic
The year 2020 was special for Epidemic, as the business grew so much that three new team members were hired and the company expanded from Slovenia to nine European countries, Australia and the US. And yet, the company was named before anyone even thought of Covid-19. "We wanted a strong name that illustrated how quickly something can spread. Of course, we didn't expect this to be portrayed negatively in real life, but we're sticking with the name because it helped us achieve the initial goals we set," says Butina, who was also on the lookout for business opportunities in 2020 at the international startup and technology conference Podim.
Even more important to the company's great success than a great idea is the team behind it. Despite their youth, the three company founders are proud of their many achievements and experiences. Nika Kristina Butina founded her first IT company at the age of twenty-one, won first place at the startup competition Eureka Innovest Barcelona, and was invited as an honored guest to the Young Global Leadership Summit in Florida and the Startup & talent exhibition tour in Silicon Valley. She believed so strongly in the idea ofEpidemic that she dropped out of her doctoral studies at the last minute.
The core of Epidemic also consists of Gašper Anderle, who was hired by international companies to help with data visualization even while studying mechanical engineering, and Martin Šušterič, who used his programming skills to participate in national programming competitions, where he achieved top results and also represented Slovenia at the Central European CERC competition for two years (2015, 2016).