When LTK launched in 2011, phrases like "influencer marketing" or "the creator economy" weren't common, but fashion blogger Amber Venz Box faced the same struggles that internet personalities face today. How do you convert unpaid hours writing posts, shooting photos, editing videos and building a following into a viable career?
Amber Venz Box started LTK when she wanted a way to earn a commission from readers who bought the products she recommended, but now a decade later, the blogger-turned-founder has a $2 billion company on her hands. Previously branded as RewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it, LTK helps social media influencers make their posts shoppable and houses them on a central marketplace, both on the web and on its app. Brands can also use the platform to connect with creator partners for upcoming marketing campaigns. The company reached this valuation after raising $300 million from SoftBank's Vision Fund.
LTK caters to creators, brands and shoppers, who spend more than $3 billion on the platform each year, according to the company. The interface is reminiscent of Instagram Shop -- you scroll through posts by creators who have curated their favorite products to share, only LTK predates Instagram's pivot to e-commerce. The company has been profitable for many years, and with its new round of funding, plans to hire across the organization to grow the Texas-based company internationally. Currently, LTK has an international staff of 350, working with 5,000 retailers and more than 1 million brands.
“We believe LTK is helping to reimagine the concept of entrepreneurship by enabling people to make a living out of their hobbies and passions,” said Angela Du, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers, who will join the company’s board of directors when the transaction closes. “LTK's innovative marketing platform empowers these creators to build their personal brands across the social universe and forge long-term, authentic relationships with their followers."
The success and growth of LTK reiterates consumers' increasing interest in shopping through recommendations from the people they follow. Venz Box told Forbes that more than 130 influencers have become self-made millionaires through LTK. These creators, mostly women, earn between 10% and 25% of sales -- the brands and retailers on the platform set their own commission rate. Brands get the sale that the creator drives, and the creator earns a commission on top of that -- LTK earns a transaction fee from these sales.