Written by Andrew Seale

It started with a girl named Ronnie, a mutual friend of #Paid co-founders Adam Rivietz and Bryan Gold.

“She wasn’t eating healthy, she wasn’t exercising and wanted to make a life change but she didn’t feel inspired to change her habits and lifestyle,” explains Bryan. “So she decided to take to the world of Instagram to hold herself accountable to the public.”

Ronnie started tracking her journey under the moniker @InspiredToBeFit.

“She posted her workouts she did, she kept track of all the healthy meals she made and she started losing weight posting before and after pictures,” says Bryan. “She had over 100,000 followers people following her journey, she blew up almost overnight.”

Bryan, a recent graduate of Media, Information, and Technoculture at Western University, had an interest in social media and he and his soon-to-be cofounder were fascinated by Ronnie’s ascent.

“She had a huge amount of influence over her followers: they wanted to know what protein she was using what blender she was using to blend the protein,” he says.

They tried to introduce her to the world of affiliate marketing but she wasn’t interested. “She just wanted to do what she did best which is to share these awesome stories with her engaged followers.”

That’s when the realized the role they could play in all of this. They set out to create a platform for connecting marketers with influencers like Ronnie.

“Marketing is just changing so quickly, we’re moving past radio, past billboards, to digital – everybody is on social,” he says. “These influencers are the kings and queens of social and brands want to hop into that conversation.”

The appeal, Bryan explains, comes from the dichotomy of social media influencers. On the one hand, they’re public facing with so much of their life doled out for public consumption. Like celebrities, they’re a part of the day-to-day conversation. But on the other hand there’s this intimacy, this accessibility.

“You feel like you know them because they only have a couple hundred thousand followers on Instagram,” he says. “You’re able to chat with them if you’d like and comment on their photos.”

And Toronto is home to thousands of food and lifestyle influencers.

“Some of the best photographers on Instagram are from Toronto – @visionelie, @jayscale, @alenpalander – these are three of the top photographers in the world that are from Toronto,” he says. In a lot of ways, it’s that community that has enabled #Paid to rise from a tiny startup muscling its way through Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone incubator in 2014 to the nearly 20 employee company working with thousands of influencers in 95 countries around the world.

Their time at the DMZ helped the two of them work through the initial challenges of running a startup.

“It was a very collaborative environment… you could talk to your neighbours, they could ask you questions –there was a community of people doing the same thing that you were trying to do,” he says.

In a lot of ways, that idea of community has been integral in what #Paid is trying to do. But while the company is opening an office in New York with some help from the Canadian Technology Accelerator, Toronto is, and will stay, home for the foreseeable future. 

“I’m super passionate about Toronto and everything that it has done for us,” says Bryan.