AirPR has raised a bit of a stir since it was launched with the proposition that startups, unable to spend the kind of money it costs to engage a public relations agency, can do better by connecting with an independent PR practitioner listed on the AirPR site. A sort of online dating service for startups seeking PR, AirPR is the brainchild of Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, who last year raised $1 million in seed funding for the site.
In a Ragan.com post, Arment-Dietrich CEO Gini Dietrich outlined the pros and cons of AirPR. On the one hand, she wrote, it commoditizes the work of public relations, the 3-4-week timeframe from contact to delivery is inadequate for the launch of a new product or service, the ratings provided by clients don’t include references other prospects can call, and the contracts are so short-term they’re not adequate for a consult to “make payroll on or count on for cash flow.” On the plus side, it dismisses the RFP process and “provides an opportunity for solopreneurs, freelancers, and boutique firms to compete for big dollars without having to pull their entire teams off client work to complete an RFP.” (Gini has decided to give it a try.)
In this FIR interview, Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz speak with Fouladgar-Mercer about his vision for AirPR, how it works, the concerns that have been raised, how the business is faring and what he sees for the future.
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About our Conversation Partner
Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer is the Co-founder and CEO of AirPR, a technology platform to increase PR performance. He was a former Entrepreneur in Residence at Shasta Ventures focused on consumer internet and the social graph. Prior to joining Shasta, Sharam was a Senior Associate at Sierra Ventures focused on consumer internet, enterprise software (cloud computing / virtualization), and mobile. He served as a Board Observer at Makara (sold to RedHat) and TouchCommerce.
Prior to joining Sierra, Sharam was in Mergers and Acquisitions at JP Morgan. Sharam began his career as a technologist at Appian Corporation, a business process management software startup. At Appian, he managed the first enterprise-wide tracking system for the Department of Homeland Security, concurrently managed the development of three software products, delivered training seminars, and authored white papers, best practices documents, and technical notes on Web Services.
Sharam has lectured at universities, events and conferences, and judged business plan competitions at Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and Syracuse. He is also an advisor and mentor to eLab (Princeton University’s Accelerator), Dorm Room Fund (First Round Capital Accelerator), and Acceleprise (Enterprise Technology Accelerator). Sharam graduated with honors with a BSE in Computer Science from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Born in Syracuse, NY, Sharam played NCAA Division I ice hockey and is fluent in Farsi. He also enjoys barefoot waterskiing and playing with new technologies.
Connect with Sharam on twitter @sharamfm.
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This FIR Interview is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years. Information: www.ragan.com.
(This interview is cross-posted from For Immediate Release, my and Neville Hobson’s podcast.)