Potloc raises $35 million to expand social media sampling tech across North America, Europe

Potloc co-founders Louis Delaoustre (COO) and Rodolphe Barrere (CEO). Image courtesy Potloc.
The consumer research startup claims to have surveyed 36 million people globally.

In the current market squeeze a lot of companies are contracting; not Potloc. The market research startup announced a $35 million CAD Series B round, and, after expanding from 60 to 230 employees in the past year, plans to hire 120 more staff in Montreal, New York, and Paris.

Potloc describes itself as a tech-enabled consumer research company that conducts survey sampling through social networks.

“Potloc is a growth story that we are excited to be a part of,” said Tony van Marken, managing partner and co-founder at First Ascent Ventures. “They are disrupting old methods by delivering tangible value in new ways and having a major impact on how companies acquire consumer insights to make decisions.”

The startup claims its sales have more than doubled annually for the past four years, and that leading consumer brands in retail, consumer goods, food services, financial services, healthcare, transport/automotive, manufacturing, and industrial equipment use Potloc’s market insights. Some of its customers include L’Oréal, Cadillac Fairview, Carrefour, Loblaws, and Aldo.

Potloc has used its survey technology to do market research on everything from health workers on the front lines of the pandemic, to political polling, to a survey of Toronto homeowners in early June for the home renovation marketplace startup Billdr.

Investissement Québec led the round with participation from First Ascent Ventures and initial investors Brightspark Ventures, Desjardins Capital, Cap Horn, EcoFuel, and Business Development Bank of Canada with debt financing provided by CIBC Innovation Banking.

The new funds consist of $25 million in equity and $10 million in debt. The round was done in two tranches, with the equity closing in December, and the debt closing in May.

The fresh funds will help accelerate Potloc’s go-to-market strategy in North America and Europe, and further develop Potloc’s machine learning-driven social media sampling technology.

While Potloc co-founder and CEO Rodolphe Barrere said raising the funds in December was “totally doable,” he noted that the real issue will be raising money over the next two years. He said startups are being warned to be cautious with their burn rates, and that Potloc has been asked to have a runway of 30 months. “Everybody’s telling us you shouldn’t be planning to raise until the end of 2024,” Barrere told BetaKit.

Following the raise, Potluck’s new board members include van Marken and Marie-Michèle Caron, president of international markets at the SaaS startup Thryv.

Barrere noted that Caron opened Coveo’s United States (US) office, and was in charge of channels and strategic alliances. Barrere claims that Caron brought in 40 percent of Coveo’s total revenue. “She’s been pivotal in Coveo’s growth,” he noted. “Her help will be around channel sales for us, finding partners that will be able to sell our solutions, and penetrating more efficiently the US market.”

Barrere cited van Marken’s experience in building a company from the ground up, and taking it public, something that Barrere said is Potloc’s goal ultimately.

As president and CEO of Architel Systems Corporation between 1994 and 1999, van Marken grew revenues from $1 million to $70 million and led Architel through its initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1996, and its NASDAQ listing in 1998. Architel had over 450 employees worldwide across four continents with a market capitalization of $400 million.

Started in 2014, Potloc raised a $2.5 million seed extension round in 2018, and then announced a two-part Series A round done in tranches in 2019 and 2020 for a total of $20 million.

When Barrere began Potloc right out of school at the age of 22, with co-founder Louis Delaoustre, he recalls initially intercepting people in the streets of Montreal, and asking them questions in order to understand how to entice people to take surveys.

“People dislike surveys,” Barrere said, noting most people don’t have time for them and that even if they do they lack interest in taking them. He said the only time to survey people is when they have downtime, and these days most people spend that time scrolling through their social media feed.

Potloc began targeting people on social media. If the topic was enough of a niche, it in and of itself might interest people enough to do the survey. But to ensure interest the startup began using incentives, such as $5 to a charity of choice for taking the survey. At this point, Barrere claims Potloc has surveyed over 36 million people globally.

Now, the startup uses machine learning to ensure that the advertising the startup places on social media converts into respondents. “Every net new respondent we get makes our technology smarter in order to get the next one,” Barrere said.

Why call the startup Potloc? Barrere noted it’s a play on words with potluck. “We love that idea. It has a positive connotation,” he said. “If I’m inviting you over for a potluck, you know it’s going to be casual cool. We liked the vibe of the word. The analogy for us is good. We believe every single survey respondent is a potluck participant and brings their little pasta salad to make a better whole.”

And that’s the whole point, according to Barrere. “By taking surveys the vast majority of the time you’re contributing to a better world because you’re making sure enterprises are actually producing products, goods and services that will match a demand,” he concluded.

Image courtesy Potloc.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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