Social Recommendations Startup Stik Relaunches, Raises $2.3M From Detroit Venture Partners And North Coast Technology Investors

Just months after relocating from San Francisco to Detroit, Stik is relaunching its Facebook-powered recommendation service and announcing a new round of funding. The $2.3 million Series A round was co-led by Detroit Venture Partners and North Coast Technology Investors. Draper Associates, First Step Fund, MEDC and Automation Alley also participated in the round. Stik originally launched in 2010 on the back of a $500,000 seed round led by Draper Associates.

Co-founder Nathan Labenz explained to me that the new cash will go towards acquiring new talent. “We are hiring developers first and foremost, but also looking for great designers, product managers, community managers, and eventually salespeople — essentially the classic web startup profile.”

stik-responsive-01Ahead of this announcement, Stik relaunched with an overhaul of the website. “It’s a complete redesign and re-build of the front-end, complete with a deep Facebook timeline integration,” Labenz told TechCrunch, adding the whole service is now mobile friendly.

Despite the relaunch, the focus is still the same. Stik launched with the goal of bringing word-of-mouth referrals online and they tapped Facebook vast social graph to personalize the experience. Co-founder Nathan Labenz discovered while attending Harvard and running a business on the side that word of mouth referrals are very valuable. Together with Jay Gierak, a hometown friend from Detroit and Harvard classmate, the pair launched Stik in San Francisco in November 2010.

Stik made headlines in 2012 when the startup relocated from the Valley back to the founders’ home of Detroit. The young company quickly moved into the region’s startup epicenter of The M@dison Building, home of other startups, Detroit Venture Partners, and Bizdom.

“We thought there was a culture in stik-founders-jay-gierak-nathan-labenzDetroit where we could build a long-term company that was going to win,” co-founder Jay Gierak explained to me late last year. “Thus far it’s been true and we’ve hired terrific people who are motivated, talented, and skilled.”

“When we looked around Silicon Valley, we felt we couldn’t build a long-term company there because of the turnover – not only to get people in the door but retain them.” Jay stated, “It’s hard to compete with Facebook and Airbnb but also the YC’s of the world where there are people whispering in your ear to start a two-person app company.”

“We thought there was a culture in Detroit where we could build a long-term company that was going to win,” Stik co-founder Jay Gierak

Stik is committed to Detroit, and judging from the various Michigan funds which participated in the Series A, Michigan is committed to Sik as well. As mentioned above the round included North Coast Technology Investors, an early stage fund based  Ann Arbor, Michigan that seemingly focuses on technology-focused manufacturing and fabrication companies — you know, companies normally associated with the Midwest. And Detroit Venture Partners CEO and Manager Partner Josh Linkner is quickly becoming a major VC force in the Midwest (isn’t that right, UpTo?).

“We are thrilled to support the passionate and creative leaders of Stik. They have identified a very compelling void in the market, and we believe Stik will become the dominant source for professional referrals and own the category,” said Josh Linkner, CEO & Managing Partner at Detroit Venture Partners, in a released statement “The company’s momentum, combined with its leaders’ vision and focus, will ensure Stik becomes one of the most valuable and recognized platforms online.”

With the notable exception of Tim Draper’s Draper Associates, Stik tapped Michigan funds around metro Detroit for funding.  Local investors First Step Fund, MEDC and Automation Alley all participated in Stik’s funding as well, showing that despite headlines of physical and fiscal doom and gloom, Detroit is hungry for great ideas — and has the money to invest.

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