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Meet Kate Edwards and Brian Freeman of Heartbeat in Venice

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Edwards and Brian Freeman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kate and Brian. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
KATE: I’m originally from Northern Virginia, where I grew up in an old Victorian farmhouse. Yes, we even had chickens. I went to Brown for my undergrad, where I concentrated in International Relations, and then started my career working at large advertising agencies in New York, including J.Walter Thompson (JWT), and Publicis. My clients were major CPG brands at Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble. I then moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA Anderson for my MBA, where I focused in Technology Management and Entrepreneurship. During grad school, I interned and consulted at Facebook on the Global Vertical Marketing team, but after I graduated, I decided to take a different route, joining an early stage tech startup in LA. I was so inspired by the female CEO that I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I started a company, which failed, which was instrumental in my journey. I then consulted for numerous startups in LA on strategy, marketing, and fundraising. I met my current co-founder, Brian Freeman via Instagram or AngelList (neither of us can remember), and once I heard about his idea for Heartbeat, I was positive it would be a success. Of course everyday women are the best marketers! Since then, we’ve given everything we have to the company, and are incredibly proud of what our team has built over the past two and half years.

BRIAN: I grew up in San Diego. I’ve been a techie my whole life. By the age of 10 I had taught myself HTML & used Photoshop to create the images for my first star-wars themed GeoCities site to manage my clan for an online game. That clan grew to 300 people before they realized how old I was and quit, so I guess I have it in me to motivate and lead. I’ve started more entrepreneurial experiments than I can count, from burning CDs for my friends in high-school to building computers for family friends to make money the summer before I started school. I worked in finance through a good part of my twenties at the behest of my brilliant but conservative father who was sick of the starts and stops on businesses that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. I eventually got into working in sales at a startup after abandoning the mind-numbing finance role and got my first taste of what being at a high-growth startup was like with MOGL in San Diego. Within a year and a half I worked my way up to working directly for the CEO where I learned what it took to run a startup. I started my first company Wyldfire moonlighting at MOGL, and went full-time on my first FUNDED startup (although still mostly a bootstrap environment) with the dating company Wyldfire on Feb. 14th 2014 (yes I get the irony).

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
KATE: My mantra is “be comfortable with the chaos,” because you have to learn to accept the constant struggles of a growing company. For Heartbeat, we’ve had struggles around team and culture, prioritizing tech and sales, and everything in between. We’ve even had to deal with a haunted, dilapidated office space! We’ve spent a lot of time convincing our clients that our way was better than influencer marketing, and we’ve seen a dramatic shift in how marketers accept that everyday women are incredibly powerful, especially in the past year. It’s been a really positive experience to watch that evolution.

BRIAN: Wyldfire was a bumpy ride to say the least, I go through it in detail here on the UnSexy Startup Podcast, but I was tested beyond anything I had ever been through before. I’m incredibly grateful for the family and friend support I received along that journey, as well as the support of my amazing fiancé. We’re still tested every day at Heartbeat but the pain of being near-bankrupt personally, the company running out of cash 3 times, and also being audited added up to a gauntlet unlike anything I had ever imagined. Being on the other side of that makes you appreciate what it means to be scrappy, and also where to invest energy to get the most output.

Heartbeat – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Heartbeat connects brands directly with the millennial and GenZ consumers they are trying to reach, creating massive consumer-generated content and ambassador marketing campaigns on social media. Heartbeat’s network of over 200k female brand ambassadors are authentic brand loyalists, sharing content on their personal Instagram accounts and delivering real, highly-targeted, ROI-driven marketing results with our word-of-mouth marketing platform.

As a company, we are most proud of the way we’ve been able to empower the voices of everyday women in marketing, changing the way that brands view real people compared to celebrities and ads. Millennials are going to change the world, even if you don’t know it yet!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
BRIAN: The proudest moment of my career so far was closing our first round of financing. We brought on some fantastic venture partners who really understand what we do. This was the largest single round of funding I had ever accomplished, and it gave us the freedom to pursue building the business for a good amount of time without worrying about fundraising. Something that not many entrepreneurs get to experience.

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Heartbeat

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