Content marketplace Pepper Content on June 9 announced that it has raised $14.3 million in its Series A funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, as the startup looks to bolster its presence in the United States and foray into new categories.
The financing round also saw participation from new investor Tanglin Venture Partners and existing investors Lightspeed and Titan Capital as well as individuals such as DoorDash's Gokul Rajaram, Oyo's Ritesh Agarwal and Abhinav Sinha, Teachable founder Ankur Nagpal, Nutanix and DevRev co-founder Dheeraj Pandey, Cred founder Kunal Shah, and Helion Ventures co-founder Ashish Gupta.
Started in 2017 by Anirudh Singla and Rishabh Shekhar, Pepper Content helps companies create content through its talent marketplace network of freelance content creators including writers, graphic designers, language translators, videographers, editors, and illustrators, enabling them to scale their content marketing efforts.
Singla told Moneycontrol that they work with the top 5-7% of the creative talent who have different subject matter expertise and experiences and undergo stringent vetting processes including a range of tests to judge language proficiency and industry proficiency.
The company has built a system of automated tools that check grammar and readability issues in these content pieces and has also developed review and quality layers as part of the workflow.
The startup claims to have more 100,000 freelancers on its platform and claims to work with more than 2,500 customers, of which over 1,000 are enterprises and fast-growing startups.
Customers include large enterprises and organisations like Adani Enterprises, NPS Trust, Hindustan Unilever, P&G, tech giants such as Binance, Google, and Adobe and financial services, and insurance companies such as HDFC Bank, CRED, Groww, SBI Mutual Fund, and TATA Capital. It currently has a team of 150 employees, of which 60 employees are in the product engineering function.
"We have made it easy for companies to be able to order content online, almost in ecommerce-like manner. So today, you can order a blog post or social media posts and ebook very seamlessly on Pepper, we have unique order flows to understand and capture briefs from a customer, which then gets matched to the most relevant freelancer almost in Uber-type assignment system" Singla told Moneycontrol.
The startup uses an artificial intelligence-based matchmaking recommendation algorithm that matches the most relevant creator based on a range of attributes like industry and work experience to any specific project. It has also developed tools for freelancers enabling them to deliver great quality output with fast turnaround times.
One of its key products is an AI-based content writing assistant called Peppertype.ai that helps generate short form content within seconds. The company claims the product is currently used by over 200,000 users across 150 countries. Overall, Pepper Content claims to produce about 65,000-70,000 content pieces on a monthly basis. The company earns money by taking a cut of the transaction fee.
"We feel we are now ready for high growth velocity scale up in global markets, hence a lot of our focus towards this fundraise is going significantly in our US expansion, since it is one of the largest global markets that has high value for a business like ours." Singla said.
Anant Vidur Puri, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, said, "We firmly believe that the future of work is on-demand driven and we love the approach that Pepper is taking to build a powerful content marketing stack that helps startups and enterprises to work more strategically with expert on-demand freelance talent and enable workflows and collaboration tools to create great quality content."
Diversifying to newer categories
Pepper Content will also utilize the capital raised towards diversifying its marketplace offerings to newer categories like graphic design and language translations, which will enable them to provide a wider spectrum of offerings to their existing customers.
The company currently offers language translations, localisation and subtitling services in 45 languages across the world, including all major 15 Indian languages. It also plans to add dubbing and voice overs among others in the future.
"Today, we are a platform to outsource content production. Over time, we are building a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that will enable companies to also manage their content operations on our platform, thereby becoming a one-stop destination for anything related to content. What Salesforce has done for sales, we want to do it for the content ecosystem" Singla said.
Dev Khare, Partner at Lightspeed India said, "Pepper's value proposition to be the scale-out partner to enterprises globally for high quality, on-demand and on-budget content production has really found its mark. In addition, we believe Pepper's SaaS offering to help creators and enterprises to create, collaborate and drive content operations has found strong market resonance in the US and globally."
The Mumbai-based startup also plans to add video content creation to expand its offerings by the end of this year."Video certainly has massive potential and is one of the key categories that most of our customers have been requesting us. However, it requires a strong cross-stakeholder management and close collaboration with a lot of different kinds of creators to execute at scale. It might need a script writer, a video editor and a designer as well to execute a video. We're working on enabling collaboration in our system and once they are structured, we would love to double down on video as a space" Singla said.