A Conversation on Digital Marketing with Shane Hegde, CEO of Air

By: Emily Libresco, LH Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications

When we invested in Air, we knew we were partnering with an A+ team solving a challenging problem: how to help creative teams work collaboratively and comprehensively on their visual assets. At the time, more and more brands across a broader range of industries were relying on digital assets to tell their stories, but digital asset management (DAM) solutions were outdated. There hadn’t been an all-in-one solution for streamlining workflow among organizations that rely heavily on visual assets to tell their brands’ stories.

March 2020 ushered in the beginning of what’s become several years of working from home for many of us — a situation that’s made creatives’ jobs even more challenging. At the same time, digital marketing is more important than ever. We’ve seen e-commerce grow exponentially, and digital brand presence has become inextricable from the products brands are peddling.

Air’s all-in-one solution for streamlining workflows within organizations has been especially helpful in a world requiring more collaboration and cloud-based tech than ever before. And Air’s numbers mimic these trends. Their customer revenue is doubling in size every six months, with over 90% organic growth. And today the platform manages almost 20 million digital assets.

On the heels of this surge in popularity, Air has just announced the close of a $10 million “Operator Round,” which they’ll use to double down on growth and the obvious market opportunity. The round is full of strategic, brand-forward founders and marketing executives along with some powerhouse investors, whose invaluable perspectives will propel the company to the next level.

In honor of this milestone, I sat down with Shane Hegde, CEO and co-founder of Air, to chat about the round and the state of digital marketing.

(The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Emily Libresco: First off, congratulations on Air’s tremendous growth. To start, I want to ask about your take on the current state of digital marketing and content creation.

Shane Hegde: Marketers and communicators are the people who bring brands to life. It’s their creativity that inspires us to open up our hearts, minds, and wallets. For too long, however, marketers have been stymied by outdated processes and cumbersome systems that create roadblocks and bottlenecks. Today, we’re seeing a fundamental shift in the way marketing and creative work happens across industries. In a decentralized, often remote-first environment, tools like Figma, Canva, and Notion have revolutionized how content creation and marketing works on the individual level. It’s an especially exciting moment to be working in these fields right now.

Emily: Where does Air fit into this new climate for digital marketing?

Shane: When we talk about a new creative cloud, we’re not talking about a tool but a system. The greatest challenge for communicators is not creating the next asset, it’s managing the creative process. We believe value is held in the connectedness between the tools in this process, and Air’s strategy is to be the bridge. Assets are created in After Effects or Canva, they sync onto Air, and they’re versioned, approved, and cataloged as they’re distributed to agency partners, social media platforms, Figma, Shopify, or your CMS. Time matters — and a creative ops system works to unblock creativity through the automation of your visual data.

Emily: Tell us more about how Air solves problems for modern marketers.

Shane: Air automates how you create, version, track, and collaborate on images and videos. What Air is doing for marketers is no less a game changer than what Slack did for anyone with an email address. We are taking a product-led approach for asset management and creative collaboration, and creating something for marketers that is seamless, visual, and fits how their minds work when creating assets and campaigns. At Air, we believe that this new creative ops system is ushering in a new era of collaboration and creation.

Emily: This new round of funding is exciting. How will you use it?

Shane: Over 90% of our growth last year was organic, which gave us a strong understanding of who are customers are. Now, we want to accelerate that growth. To do that, we’re going to heavily invest in features and tools that improve the free and first-time user experience. To engage high active users with a product-led business, we need to build a best-in-class user experience.

Emily: We love your idea to raise an “Operator Round.” Why is that model exciting and, more importantly, helpful for your business?

Shane: An operator round is particularly exciting for two reasons: it helps to accelerate our go-to-market motion and offers us a cohort of truly exceptional marketing leaders who can provide crucial mentoring and support along the way. One of the things I’ve appreciated the most during this round has been the opportunity to further partnerships with existing customers. Product-first teams are always looking for an edge and bringing in operator-investors who are already our customers can help shape and fine-tune the product roadmap. They’re already “invested” — but now they are true partners.

Interested in working with Shane and the team at Air? Check out their current job openings here.

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Lerer Hippeau is the most active early-stage venture capital fund in New York.

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Lerer Hippeau

Lerer Hippeau

Lerer Hippeau is the most active early-stage venture capital fund in New York.

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