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  • Jason Calacanis 19:24:37 on 2021-04-09 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    Insights from Giggster Co-founder Hank Leber on building a location marketplace for creators & content production | E1196 

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    Top Insights

    • Building a business on top of another platform is risky, as revenue can go to $0 overnight by no fault of your own
    • Adding simple and easy solutions to archaic industries and business processes can result in rapid adoption
    • Giggster filled their marketplace supply-side first: once there was a large volume of high-quality supply, demand generation was much faster and mostly organic
    • When all sources of revenue are on the line, even archaic industries like film production can adapt quickly
    • Since Giggster has been operating successfully before raising money, they know their unit economics and are comfortable putting together an aggressive growth plan

    Intro / Problems with building on other platforms

    Guest: Hank Leber | @hankleber

    • Co-Founder & Head of Growth, Giggster (April 2019-Present)
    • Website: https://giggster.com
    • 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 Leber
    • 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 Leber

    Giggster’s founding story

    • 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:
      • Logistics
      • Permiting
      • Power
    • 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

    Creating the marketplace supply-side first

    “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.)

    Pitching at Remote Demo Day, raising via Jason’s Syndicate

    ” (Regarding Jason’s Syndicate), the money is actually secondary to the quality of the network.”

    Hank Leber
    • 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!
    • Giggster was The Syndicate’s largest investment ever
      • According to Hank, the quality of the network of investors created additional value beyond the capital invested

    Giggster’s use cases and emerging content business models

    • Giggster collects 15% from the final host payout as a service fee
    • Daily rates for a shoot range $2-30K per day depending on how high-end the location is
      • the average is around $8-10K
      • Larger long-term deals will hit 7 figures
        • example: ABC renting a mansion for The Bachelor for three months
    • Production came back online quickly during the pandemic, the film industry was really aggressive and inventive about their protocols
      • Even in an industry resistant to change, all of the money drying up overnight caused people to change their minds FAST
    • Giggster holds production companies accountable and cares a lot about reputation.
      • Location marketplaces need to maintain a good relationship with cities & neighborhoods so they can continue to operate
      • Typically the professional production companies have outstanding reputations for taking care of properties, however, a new potential business model is more uncertain…

    TikTok content houses are a new media business model

    • Sway & Hypehouse are the most famous TikTok houses
      • 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

    Scaling Giggster

    • 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.”

    Hank Leber

    The post Insights from Giggster Co-founder Hank Leber on building a location marketplace for creators & content production | E1196 appeared first on Jason Calacanis.

  • Jason Calacanis 19:41:44 on 2021-04-06 Permalink

    Snack’s Kim Kaplan PLUS 3 key metrics for consumer, enterprise SaaS & marketplace startups | E1195 

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    Top Insights

    • “Match has done a phenomenal job at working with different companies, acquiring different companies.”
    • It has been significantly easier to raise capital for Snack post-Bumble’s IPO. A sector can become stale to investors, especially after being burned repeatedly. Proof of a publicly traded challenger company makes picturing a success easier.
    • “Every 8 to 10 years there’s a new dating app that kind of enters into the space and Tinder’s now nine years old. So it is the right time for that next dating out to come in and usurp them. And I fundamentally believe that’s what Snack is doing with a video-first approach.”

    The post Snack’s Kim Kaplan PLUS 3 key metrics for consumer, enterprise SaaS & marketplace startups | E1195 appeared first on Jason Calacanis.

  • Jason Calacanis 06:19:47 on 2021-03-26 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    Paul Judge on helping lead SoftBank’s $100M Opportunity Fund, the future of VC & more | This Week in Startups Blog 

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    Top Insights

    • Investing over zoom expands the top of the funnel and lowers the barrier to entry for all founders
      • Investors can take 2-5x more meetings with founders from anywhere in the world
    • Paul’s thesis: Investing in overlooked founders will likely generate outsized returns
      • The American Southeast and Midwest include 44% of the US population but only receive 14% of VC funding
      • Despite this, 36% of last year’s Inc. 5000 reside in these regions with a median growth rate of 161% year-over-year
    • The “either or” debate between making existing firms invest in underrepresented founders from their main funds OR raising “opportunity” funds that are specifically focused on underrepresented founders isn’t helpful, both are necessary to make VC funding more equitable
    • Jay-Z had the best Q1 2021 of any entrepreneur or investor
      • Tidal was acquired by Square for $297M, he sold 50% of Ace of Spades to LVMH for ~$300M, launched $10M cannabis-focused fund to back black founders, Oatly filed for IPO


    • Paul Judge, Ph.D. is Managing Partner of Panoramic Ventures, a VC fund that invests in “underserved geographies and overlooked founders” prioritizing the American Southeast and Midwest. Paul is also Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of Pindrop, an information security company that provides risk scoring for phone calls to detect fraud and authenticate callers). Pindrop’s most recent valuation was $900m in 2018.
    • Paul also serves on the investment committee for SoftBank’s $100m+ Opportunity Growth Fund to invest in Black, Latinx and Native American founders
    • Paul is based in Atlanta, but has become a Miami regular.
    • Atlanta’s startup scene is heating up:
      • Airbnb just located it’s East Coast engineering team there
      • Local Unicorns: Calendly ($3B), Greenlight ($1.2B, consumer fintech), Rubicon ($1B, recycling technology), SalesLoft ($1B, sales software)
      • Strong talent pipeline from Georgia Tech

    The virtual-first investing paradigm shift

    “I see more companies than I would have seen otherwise, the top of funnel is wider. From the entrepreneur’s standpoint, it’s easier to get a meeting with an investor than it was traditionally. That means a whole new generation of entrepreneurs that wouldn’t have had access, now have more access to venture capital funds & angel investors.”

    Paul Judge
    • Paul has made 25 investments in 2020, all over Zoom. He has met 2 founders in person, but only after investing.
    • Being an active investor in 2020 required going virtual. Most investors never considered this a viable method prior to the pandemic. Both Paul & Jason discovered that virtual investing offered a new set of benefits:
      1. Investors can take 2-5x more meetings because intro meeting times went from 2-3 hours to 20-30 minutes. How?
        • Commutes and pleasantries are eliminated, and everyone gets down to business ASAP.
        • Conversations now start with hard numbers. Entrepreneurs have become more direct in their approach, making the information needed to diligence an investment up-front in their first email.
      2. Investors now have much greater access to founders outside their city. Travel and cost of living in the Bay Area are high and are no longer an obstacle for founders.
        • By taking more meetings from broader geography, investors are able to reduce their bias.
        • With more meeting slots available, it’s easier to take a chance on a founder you wouldn’t have met with pre-COVID.
      3. Virtually, the pattern-matching necessary to be a great VC becomes more about assessing the founder based on their performance, rather than by charisma or presentation skills.

    How Paul Judge invests

    • Paul’s Techsquare Labs was focused on backing top talent (students & professors) from local universities like Georgia Tech, funding founders at the pre-seed and seed stages.
    • He is now expanding to be involved at Series A & B both at SoftBank and Panoramic Ventures, which just launched a $300M fund.
    • Paul knew 2/4 other members of the Softbank Opportunity fund’s investment committee from being a part of the 2016 class of Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellow Program.
    • Panoramic’s thesis: investing in overlooked founders will generate outsized returns.
      • The American Southeast and Midwest receive only 14% of VC funding even though they include 44% of the country’s population.
      • 36% of last year’s Inc. 5000 reside in these regions with a median growth rate of 161% year-over-year.

    How to make investing more equitable

    “Black founders are not just solving black problems, they are solving some of the most meaningful problems that exist.”

    Paul Judge
    • The “either or” debate between making existing firms invest in underrepresented founders out of their main funds OR raising “opportunity” funds that are specifically focused on underrepresented founders isn’t helpful, we need both to make venture capital more equitable.
    • VC firms typically don’t change their partners often (turnover typically occurs with a new fund every 3-7 years), so adding new diverse partners to existing firms is a slow process.
      • The industry needs to evolve in this way, while also meeting fiduciary responsibility to limited partners who invested in the fund.
    • Purpose-built investment vehicles like SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund have a clear mission and can make an impact right away.
      • Another benefit is creating an ecosystem where some of the top underrepresented entrepreneurs can support & inspire each other.

    Jay-Z’s groundbreaking Q1 2021

    “I was just talking with somebody about who had the best quarter, Chamath or some other venture capitalist and I was was like, ‘No, I think Jay Z had the best, he just sold half Ace of Spades to LVMH.'”


    “I love that love Jay-Z’s going after industries that have traditionally been unfair to the people that have been creating value. The music industry is traditionally unfair to the creators, so he did Tidal. In food and beverage, the Crystal CEO got shot himself in the foot, so [Jay-Z] went after that. Then if you look at the cannabis industry, I mean, it’s not exactly tech, but it’s creating tens of billions of dollars of value. It’s one of the most valuable crops that this country’s ever seen. But if you look at everyone that’s going public, there’s no diversity, but we all know this country was built on the backs of blacks tending to crops.”

    Paul Judge

    Companies Paul Shouted Out

    The post Paul Judge on helping lead SoftBank’s $100M Opportunity Fund, the future of VC & more | This Week in Startups Blog appeared first on Jason Calacanis.

  • Jason Calacanis 21:25:52 on 2021-03-23 Permalink

    Kevin Rose on his product philosophy, Reddit & Digg’s inverse journeys & Twitter’s recent product innovations | E1185 

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    Top Insights

    • Products must begin with only 2-3 key features. Once there is traction, you can prioritize what features to build next by asking users for feedback.
    • Fewer features allow you to launch quicker, at a lower cost, and actually determine if there is product-market fit.
    • Replacing a founder with “professional management” to commercialize a business often kills the product and company culture. (See Tobi’s Rule EP 1184)
    • Twitter’s new product roadmap offers an antidote to the chaos of text-based social media, a natural extension that compliments their core product.
    • NFT & blockchain technologies will revolutionize the ways we manage rights & ownership, despite most projects in the space likely being worthless.


    • Kevin Rose is a partner at True Ventures, a consumer-focused venture firm with early bets on Peloton, Fitbit, Blue Bottle, Ring and more. He hosts the “Kevin Rose Show” Previously, he founded the social news site Digg, the intermittent fasting app ZERO, and the meditation app OAK.
    • His most notable investment include: Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Square, Medium, Foursquare, Nextdoor, Blue Bottle Coffee, Clever, Ripple, Oura.
    • Kevin’s past This Week in Startups appearances:

    Experience as a founder vs. investor

    “Nothing beats the rush when you launch a new product. The ultimate peak as a founder is to have people using something that you created.”

    Kevin Rose
    • Some downsides of being a founder include managing people, making hard initial engineering hires, fighting for talent, and having difficulty sleeping.
    • Kevin prefers building a product in the early stages over trying to scale a growth-stage startup.
    • A common mistake founders make is not asking for help when they don’t understand how to do something. Great founders seek out mentors and soak up information like a sponge.
      • For instance, when Mark Zuckerberg visited Digg in the early days of Facebook, Kevin was surprised at how unafraid Zuck was to ask questions and be vulnerable.
    • Investing is fun because you get to identify companies early on and try to imagine how it could become a multi-billion dollar business (and sometimes that happens!).
    • There will always been a randomness in investing:

    “Some investments, I really did a good job getting the deal done. I tracked down Jack [Dorsey], I had him on my podcast, I convinced him to be an Angel in Square. But the crazy thing is that I’ve had cryptocurrency investments outpace that return, just because somebody asked ‘hey, do you want to throw in some cash on this crazy new up-and-coming project?’ and I put a little bit of money in and it returned a boatload.”

    Kevin Rose

    Product philosophy

    “Pound for pound as product person [Kevin is] part of an elite top 10 alongside Elon, Steve Jobs, and Alex from Calm. When [Kevin] makes a product it just comes out great.”

    • Creative people are filled with ideas, but you need discipline to boil it down to the simplest version of your product vision.
      • Pick only two or three things that absolutely must exist and do them really well.
    • Building fewer features shortens the development timeline down to just a couple of months versus 6-8 months.

    Case study on Kevin building Zero Fasting

    • Problem: Kevin read promising research on intermittent fasting from Dr. Valter Longo at USC. There were human placebo, double-blinded, “gold standard” studies showing autophagy, improved glucose levels, and reduced chemotherapy side effects. In short, fasting was helping people live longer with less disease.
    • Market Research: There was nothing on the App Store dedicated to fasting. Using your phone’s timer was inadequate because it didn’t track historical fasting data.
    • The essential features: Timer + Calendar. Allowing for historical performance, average fast duration, streaks, etc.
    • Kevin’s subtle fingerprint on Zero: Showing the live number of simultaneous fasters on the platform in order to create a feeling of community, due to the difficulty of fasting – especially in the early stages. “570,345 people are fasting with Zero”
    The Zero app, note the “active faster” count at the top
    • Essentialism creates a clear user value proposition & lets you bring it to market quickly.
    • Once you have traction, there is an opportunity to add the other features you wanted to build. More importantly, your community is going to start telling you what they want.
    • Digg would survey 1 in 100 users, asking them to stack-rank the list of features the Digg team wanted to add. By combining the team’s product insight with the input from users, the community was engaged and excited.
    • Kevin invented the “Like” Button on Digg (called “diggs”).
    • Don’t get high on your own supply as a product person. Keep trying and keep iterating.

    “If you try and fail as many times as I can, you will get some home runs from just the sheer number of times you’ve had the at-bat.”

    Kevin Rose

    Lessons from Digg & Mahalo

    • Jason saw Digg early in 2004 and was impressed with how quickly it became a top source of traffic for his company Weblogs, Inc
      • Jason got a verbal OK from Weblogs investor Mark Cuban to try to buy Digg for $1M.
    • Jason’s idea for Mahalo was 10 years too soon: “I knew that search would change from 10 blue links to what it is now. I even came up with that name, ‘comprehensive search.’ What if the images and the video and content were mixed with the search results? -Jason
    • Branding Mahalo: Jason considered which companies and products had the most beautiful logos. Thunderbird and Firefox came to mind, so Jason tracked down the designer Jon Hicks.
    Mozilla Firefox & Thunderbird Logo
    Mozilla Firefox & Thunderbird logos
    • There was a 6-month wait due to the demand for Jon’s design genius, so Jason made a series of aggressive offers to jump to the front of the line. Jon’s Mahalo logo was an instant hit amongst “product-people” like Kevin Rose.
    Mahalo Logo
    • Beware of relying on one source of organic traffic: Mahalo was making thousands of dollars per day from ad revenue. But when Google released the Panda update for search, 90% of Mahalo’s traffic went away overnight. Even with influential connections at Google, Jason was told search was a “black box” and nobody was able to help.
    • Professional management” can destroy a product and the culture around it: Digg’s 3.0 redesign made it more commercial, prioritizing publishers instead of the content the community loved. The goal was to become a bigger business, but it destroyed the core product value and eventually led to Kevin’s departure.

    Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse

    • Not needing to download a new app reduces friction and it’s easy to get “40 blue checkmarks in a room” on Twitter, since influential people are already there.
    • Twitter has been slow to add features or change the core product, which they have been lambasted for by power users. However, it’s also a secret sauce to success. Reddit is in a similar boat with their product history.
    • Twitter Spaces is a natural extension the platform. Audio has the power to create a meaningful dialogue to offset the “dunking” and tensions created from the current lack of tone/context on Twitter.
    • Social media founders didn’t set out to create chaos online, and these new features can help realize an idealistic vision of an at-scale social product. “I think that you’ll use text until you feel misunderstood or the conversation devolves significantly and someone says ‘you guys should talk it out in a Twitter Space.'” -Jason

    NFT & blockchain technologies hold promise & potential pitfalls

    “I’ve been tracking NFTs for a long time. I believe there’s going to be a lot of garbage in the space when every artist with Photoshop can become an ‘NFT Master’. But there’s a lot of really credible projects reimagining rights, distribution and ownership.”

    Kevin Rose
    • Tokenized ownership can allow the creator of an object to receive a portion of the proceeds every time the asset changes hands.
    • Some potential revolutionary use cases:
      • Unisocks has dynamically priced socks where the token can be exchanged for the physical product (it’s silly because these are socks but imagine them as Yeezy’s or other high-end collectibles). This allows for price speculation on objects without needing to hold physical inventory.
      • Backing early musicians, where the the owner of the token is entitled to residual music royalties.
      • Media licensing on the blockchain, where every artist/creator can set the price to license their creation.
  • Jason Calacanis 01:35:39 on 2020-12-07 Permalink
    Tags: besties, calacanis, chamath, david friedberg, , podcast, podcasting,   

    The All In Podcast and Syndicate 

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    A couple of months ago my pal Chamath texted me and said “I want to do a podcast with me and you.”

    We discussed some names and landed on “All In,” as a tribute to our mutual friendship over poker. This was during the pandemic and in an election year, so there was plenty to talk about above and beyond technology, finance, and entrepreneurship, so we had a full docket of issues to work from.

    We invited two other poker buddies to come on the pod, David Sacks and David Friedberg, and got into a quick rhythm given the massive brainpower of the two Davids.

    We’ve now done 14 episodes and the podcast quickly went from the top 50 to 25 and then top three technology podcasts on Apple’s quirky podcast rankings.

    People have responded in a deep and meaningful way to the podcast, tell us that it’s their favorite listen when we drop an episode every couple of weeks. People say they love the friendship and comradery they feel as we laugh it up while discussing and debating the most important issues of our time.

    Fans tell me they wish the rest of the media world was more like the All In podcast, where folks listen and appreciate each other–even when they disagree. In fact, I think we appreciate each other MORE when we disagree, because it feels like we’re learning, evolving or simply getting to some central truths.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if many of you come to the blog any more, but I thought I would post this to give a little background on how this whole thing got started and let you know how to find the podcast.

    This linktree will take you to all the places to listen:

    and you can see us on Zoom if you subscribe on youtube

    For fun Chamath suggested we launch an angel syndicate, so we put up a form for accredited investor to sign up at here: https://www.thesyndicate.com/allin

    At the time of me posting this, 3,000 of you signed up to invest with us–which is nuts! It took me six years to build my angel syndicate to 5,500 members (!!!). Note: if you signup for the All In syndicate you’ll also seem my deal flow, but not the other way around. So if you’re a member of my syndicate at thesyndicate.com you need to signup again for the All In syndicate.

    The post The All In Podcast and Syndicate appeared first on Jason Calacanis.

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