social-ladder

After three years of plugging away, the small team at SocialLadder is ready to expand.

A big-name, West Coast consumer tech exec has given SocialLadder his stamp of approval.

Former Facebook COO and Myspace CEO Owen Van Natta invested in the slow-burning consumer engagement startup, which raised a $550,000 round, according to an SEC filing. The company has raised a total of $750,000 to date. (Slow-burning? Bear with us, we’ll explain in a second.) The company is branding itself as an alternative to the banner ad, in the age of ad-blocker. Clients include VitaCoco, Flywheel and T-Mobile.

Other investors include Philly-based Pet360 founder Brock Weatherup, Philly-based investors Royal Flush, NYC-based online advertising entrepreneur Michael Walrath, San Francisco restaurateur and money manager David Steele and Baltimore-based entrepreneur Dimitri Topaltzas, said Alana Bly, 34, who cofounded the company with Raavi Iqbal, 37. State-backed investment firm Ben Franklin Technology Partners also invested, along with some other Philly angels, she said.

Here’s why we’d characterize SocialLadder, whose mobile app (both white-label and direct to consumer) hooks up brands and “social influencers,” as a slow-burner: We saw Iqbal present a very early verison of the app at Philly Tech Meetup back in 2012, Iqbal and Bly started working on the startup full-time in early 2014 and shortly thereafter, won the top startup award at PACT’s Phorum conference. Later that year, they landed a flashy customer, filmmmaker Kevin Smith. Now they’re announcing a slate of big-name investors and starting to hire.

Bly and Iqbal just hired a CTO: San Diego-based Amer Qureshi. They currently employ four full-time but they’re also hiring a sales director and marketers.

The company used to work at CityCoHo but now works at the Philly papers’ 8th and Market headquarters, as part of the Project Liberty Digital Incubator.