Hank previously was CEO of GonnaBE a planning social media app (they presented at LAUNCH Festival). The concept of planning socially wasn’t embraced by users.
Lesson learned: if you put out your plans publicly and no one comes you look like a loser.
“You have an idea that everybody thinks sounds great, then there’s an ugly cultural truth somewhere that makes it not a real thing.”
Hank also had a company called Vytmn which was a “growth as a service” tool built on top of Twitter
Twitter shut down one of their key features, the ability for to automate actions like DMs, which killed their revenue ($1M ARR at peak)
“… do not build on the back of another platform, if they can kill you, they will, it’s not your money. That’s their money that you’re stealing.”
Hank and his Co-Founder Yuri Baranov were not from the film industry, they are tech entrepreneurs
How they discovered the market opportunity with Giggster:
Yuri is LA-based and lives in a nice house near the water
One day, a production scout knocked on his door and offered him $70K to shoot at his house over two days for CSI: Miami
The process included door knocking, clipboards, paper contracts and excel spreadsheets
this “business flow” was terrible for a $70K transaction, so Yuri told Hank about it and they started doing some research on the production location industry
After realizing the location industry had been run this way for decades, they started Giggster
Giggster is a two-sided marketplace for video production, meetings, weddings & events. Think Airbnb for production locations and events.
Larger clients would be Netflix, HBO, Hulu, large production companies, etc.
Smaller clients would be TikTokers, YouTubers, Vloggers, etc.
How Giggster differs from Airbnb and VRBO:
Short-term rental platforms do not allow production shoots because they require more overhead: insurance, more people per location then allowed, production parking, waivers, etc.
Giggster added a services element because some film production teams need higher-touch support (above $2500-$3000 a day) these services include:
In California, you can rent your home for up to 14 days per year tax free
Giggster has some client who shut down their listing after being booked for 14 days for this reason
“What we’ve found is, chicken and the egg, locations matter first. As long as we have the supply we can generate the demand.”
Hank Leber on starting a marketplace
Giggster has almost 10,000 locations on the platform
In the early days, they filled the supply-side inventory by:
partnering with Hollywood agencies, who already had direct relationships with private property owners
they also knocked on doors for early customers
filling the supply-side first turned out to be a good decision, as it created an immediate flywheels with renters
Customers needed a lot of education, so Giggster built out detailed FAQs and comprehensive signup flows
Demand has been strong and scouts are now loading their locations onto Giggster
If a major client (Netflix, HBO, etc.) needs a location that does not exist on Giggster, they will hire location scouts to go find and matching location and on-board them
Giggster saw an opportunity to expand with cheap inventory from pandemic disruption (commercial real estate, restaurants, etc.)
” (Regarding Jason’s Syndicate), the money is actually secondary to the quality of the network.”
Self-funded for 3.5 years while they figured out the business
Took ~3 years to build a solid base and infrastructure, and now they are seeing rapid growth
Yuri (Hank’s Co-Founder) told him to go try and land Jason Calacanis as an investor, so Hank started reaching out to mutual contacts and eventually got a slot in a Remote Demo Day session over the summer
Remote Demo Day format:
Seven founders pitch thousands of investors over Zoom
Pitches are three minutes each, with a two minute Q&A with judges after
After all pitches are finished, the judges vote on their top three and the audience members (accredited investors) vote for their #1 company in a poll
One day later, all 7000+ members of Jason’s Syndicate get an email with the recording and a sheet where they can pre-commit a dollar amount to invest
Any companies that receive over $200K in interest are syndicated!
These are new media operations that have very different needs and filming styles than traditional production.
They don’t have big camera crews but are also notoriously crazier than a film studio.
It’s not cut and dry how to service these creators yet, so that’s where Giggster is attacking the opportunity:
They are working to pick the right locations (areas with more space and fewer neighbors), and figuring out the insurance needs to service these new smaller-scale customers
The importance of network relationships and trust is key for B2B. Cold emails work worse in this category.
Since Giggster has been operating successfully before raising money, they know their unit economics and are comfortable putting together an aggressive growth plan
” [once] you get dollars in the door and deliver real value with product-market fit, adding money to scale is a math equation instead of trying to paint a picture and tricking people into buying your vision of the future.”
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