First Stage Investor

New Pick: The Startup That’s Revolutionizing Visual Marketing

New Pick: The Startup That’s Revolutionizing Visual Marketing
By Andy Gordon
Date December 14, 2020

Startup: Cortex
Security type: Preferred Stock
Round size: Up to $1.07 million
Valuation: $8.42 million
Minimum investment: $250
Investment portal: Wefunder
Deadline: February 15, 2021

Take the following with a grain of salt…

“I’m recommending Cortex to you today without doing any research. My reasons below all come from personal taste and unsubstantiated opinion. I know what I’m talking about, so you’re going to have to trust me. Okay?”

Because I’m just kidding. Hell will freeze over before I write those words and mean them. Winging it is not acceptable. I have strict criteria that tells me what makes a great startup investment. 

I can’t imagine making a recommendation based on instinct and a vague notion of what might be a good startup. 

And yet, that’s exactly what marketers do when they create videos and various visuals to popularize brands. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they do it in a frivolous or non-serious manner. 

What I am saying is that they’re flying half-blind. Every video is a guessing game. Chances are the marketers guess wrong. And the video is a disaster. Even if it succeeds, they often don’t have the capability or tools to understand why. 

It’s why you see so many ineffective videos and commercials. The marketer has no clue what you like. You, of course, do. But here’s the rub. You probably don’t know why. Numerous studies have shown that the decisions we make and how we react to circumstances often aren’t the same as what we tell ourselves we’d do. We are a mystery even to ourselves!

No wonder marketers get visuals wrong more often than they get it right. And a big reason why job turnover among these hard-working professionals is twice the average of other jobs. 

Which makes video marketing incredibly inefficient and ineffectual and (this is where it gets exciting for investors) highly susceptible to disruption… if only a company could help solve these seemingly intractable problems

One company and — at least right now — ONLY one company can: Cortex. The one thing in the opening paragraph I wasn’t kidding about was recommending this brilliant company. It’s bringing desperately needed data-driven observations into the creative process through the 10 million visuals (photos and videos) in its growing database. Cortex uses AI and machine learning to glean patterns and insights — essentially the do’s and don’ts — on how to make videos (and photos) that effectively connect with an intended audience. 

Marketers have been operating with one hand (maybe one-and-a-half hands) tied behind their back. Think about the million things that go into a single scene! How many people are in it? What do they look like (right down to their hair style!)? Is it indoors or outdoors? What colors should be shown? And on it goes. So many decisions… and so little information to inform those decisions. 

Until now.

Cortex has data and insights on all these factors… before the video is shot and distributed and money is sunk into an ineffectual video campaign. With Cortex’s AI and data-driven tools, there’s no more guessing. No more overreliance on “the marketer/director knows best” axiom. 

Marketing copywriters have used software tools for decades to help them get to the top of Google searches. Now, Cortex does the same thing for video marketing — boosting positive responses that trigger social media sharing algorithms. 

Cortex says that it increases marketing performance by 50%. What do its clients say? Here’s a typical comment from Oreo…

“Cortex’s insights were very clear. Now we have actual facts that say ‘this is what’s not working.’ With Cortex’s reporting it’s very clear what actions we can take.” 

Cortex charges $30,000 per brand per year. That’s more than affordable for companies like Marriott, Toyota and L’Oreal — three of Cortex’s 16 big-company clients. 

Cortex’s current revenue run rate is $660,000. That includes pilot revenue (non-recurring) and annual recurring revenue (ARR).They’ve conservatively set 2021 revenue at $2.8 million. They only need 10 more clients to achieve that goal. But they’re already in the late stages of onboarding 14. And that number includes very big companies — like Dennone, Unilever, AB Inbev and Heineken. 

Capturing companies that are the giants of their industries is not typical for startups! Most start out servicing small- and medium-sized companies. Then a few years down the road they begin capturing bigger companies as their technology and products grow more diverse and sophisticated. That’s when their revenue takes off. 

The eventual upside of other startups is the immediate upside of Cortex. Big companies are big spenders. Once they see that Cortex’s technology works, they add more and bigger brands. I really like Cortex’s “land and expand” strategy. Revenues increase much faster.

It’s a beautiful thing — and it’s happening right now with Cortex. An Asian client has lined up a series of demos for additional brands that should double annual recurring revenue (from $100,000 to $200,000). And that client is huge, so this is just scratching the surface. A European luxury company has just added three brands. A Japanese company is in serious discussions to add a slew of brands. 

Big companies with big brands have every reason to use Cortex. The price is certainly right. If a campaign with a projected $2 million pay-off can instead realize a $3 million pay-off with Cortex, the annual $30,000 fee is peanuts. 

Cortex’s technology is compelling to big consumer companies not just in the U.S., but all over the world. Again, an American startup making a dent this early in Europe and Asia is highly unusual. It’s another clue that Cortex’s value proposition easily translates to the large global customers it’s targeting. 

The world is becoming increasingly visual. Millions of consumers now get their first peek at a product through a video, animation, graphic or some other visual. Cortex is the FIRST company able to predict how people will react to what they see on their screen.

Founder and CEO Brennan White knows from experience how much his company’s predictive AI-based tools are needed. He once headed a startup creating content for some of the world’s biggest brands… as did his co-founder, Matt Peters, who spent 15 years as a creative director. These two industry insiders have the background and expertise to help their company realize its massive upside. 

Cortex is on the path to an extremely promising future. At an $8 million valuation, the potential financial rewards far outweigh the risk of things going awry. And for as little as $250, you can reap the rewards by going on Wefunder to invest.

How to Invest

Cortex is raising up to $1.07 million in this round of funding on Wefunder. You’ll need to sign up for an account there if you haven’t yet.

Once you’re signed in to Wefunder, head over to the Cortex page. Now enter the amount you want to invest and click the green “Invest” button on the right-hand side of the screen. The minimum on this deal is $250.


All early-stage investments are risky. While this one has substantial traction and a very reasonable valuation, you can still lose your investment. As always, don’t invest money you can’t afford to lose. You should expect to hold on to this investment for 10 years.

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