StackSocial provides deals and bundles for gadgets, software and online education products. With over 20 publisher partners, the startup now reaches 30 million readers per month with its platform.
AOL is a big prize for StackSocial, but the startup doesn’t have any assurances that it will reach any of the giant’s other Web properties. Opportunities do remain on the table, though, depending on how things go.
“We’re basically going to use this to monitor the success for them and if it hits those metrics, we’ll begin to dialog with AOL and begin to roll it out to other properties,” founder Josh Payne said.
When it first got started in 2011, StackSocial met resistance toward the convergence of editorial and e-commerce, but Payne views the latest deal as a strong affirmation of his company’s business model.
“The reason we were able to make this deal with AOL happen was because we’ve already validated it with 20 other publishers,” he said, adding that some partners bring is as much as seven figures in StackSocial sales annually.
StackSocial has built up a profitable business focusing on tech sites, and especially those from the Apple ecosystem, but it’s interested in other verticals as well. One obstacle it faces, though, is an increased complexity with offering physical goods instead of digital products like software, games and tutorials.
Payne also noted that StackSocial is currently building a self-serve platform that will enable it to provide online marketplace services for smaller publishers. The startup is also interested in tapping the mobile app distribution market once it can provide an elegant solution that works alongside the current app store model.
Since StackSocial has been profitable from launch, it hasn’t needed to raise much venture money. It did, pick up $800,000 in seed funding from several notable investors, including 500 Startups and Siemer Ventures, last July, but Payne said his team hasn’t needed to touch the money. StackSocial currently has 17 employees.
“We’ve sort of been a Silicon Beach success story and we really take a lot of pride in being an LA company and a lot of pride in running our company in a way that’s profitable, ” Payne said in an interview. “We’re looking to have that continued growth – the second half of this year is going to be a big one. We’re really hitting our stride.”
In the long term, StackSocial is also aiming to build out its own open marketplace offering. While it white-labels its platform for publishers, it also brings in about half its revenue from putting up deals on its own site. Upcoming improvements to StackSocial’s own e-commerce store will be focused around building a sense of community and improving engagement.
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