After moving to Santa Monica just 4 weeks ago, I’m sitting here alone between Tower 10 & 11 on a beach chair I purchased an hour ago from REI thinking to myself “this is quite possibly the stupidest place to write something thoughtful.”
It’s calm, beautiful, zen — and I probably should have stayed home where I would be fighting our two cats to stay off my laptop. Instead I have nothing but my thoughts to get in the way — a far more dangerous place to be.
Anyway, this isn’t about describing first world writer problems…
Yesterday we launched a new product called Agent. I would tell you our elevator pitch, but it’s not that simple without it sounding like another regurgitated Silicon Valley mission. A Yelp for this, an Uber for that — making the world a better place. SoLoMo.
OK, still tho — what is it?
Agent is a service. A tool. A Business. A disruption to the status-quo. Tangibly speaking it’s a thing (an app) that lets you book Talent. The talent we’re talking about is Models & Photographers(, and Stylists & Makeup Artists).
And the idea came from…
A few things… and lots of reasons.
- We haven’t seen anything good in this (Fashion & Modeling) industry in a long time. On one side of the spectrum we see mega Modeling Agencies like Ford, IMG, and Wilhelmina to name some big ones. Each very reputable and represent the best of the best with entrenched business practices. And on the other we see Products like Model Mayhem, Regional Facebook Groups, and shoddy Craigslist postings. None of which (even the Agencies) provide a safe, reliable, and efficient (modern) way of booking and working with Talent.
- We also see things happen like young and vulnerable workers being exploited, Michele Waagaard telling us the ugly side of modeling, and are deeply moved by the misfortunes that occurred in the Girl Model Documentary.
- We’re inspired by people like Sara Ziff creating the Model Alliance which aims to give a voice to the faces of Fashion.
- We like Fashion (hey, there’s upsides too) and it’s a $1.2 trillion dollar industry.
- As a retired Amateur Photographer, I found it egregiously painful trying to book quality, reputable talent without it being a whole ordeal. Speaking of which…
The Painful Booking process
Remembering those dreadfully awkward moments of meeting new people while trying to gain their trust as I stand in front of a new face with a camera in hand.
“I’m about to take your picture. It will be fun, I promise
Searching & Scheduling
I can go to an Agency website, look at 300 faces, then send an email to email@example.com with the names of a couple Models I’m interested in working with.
Perhaps a day, or two, or week later I get a response. Or maybe there’s a phone number I can call. Then eventually we’ll coordinate availabilities, and hopefully find a time that works for everyone.
If I wasn’t booking through an Agency, I was searching through Model Mayhem (bless their hearts) sending messages to male & female models trying to manage an unpleasant inbox experience, negotiating rates, and holding my breath waiting for Talent to respond and/or show up to locations only to unpredictably be stood up.
Even with reputable talent, with a great looking portfolio, and a huge following on Social Media(s) — I don’t know who they’ve worked with, what they’re like in person, or if I’m getting ripped off. Which leads to…
To be fair, all industries have this problem. We’re inspired by companies and technologies like Stripe, Venmo, Apple Pay, and many more. These are all great, but come actual payment time, it becomes unpredictable.
Client: Do you have Square?
Talent: No, I use PayPal.
Client: Hmm… is a Check OK?
Talent: I’ll take cash.
Client: Alright is there an ATM around here? My bank only lets me withdraw $300, would you mind if I send you the rest next week?
Talent: Are you a joke?
Client: Yes — I am very much a joke who tried to pay you with Square.
This one is tricky. On one side there’s straight up unlawful, and ungodly terrible events. Like rape, or solicitations for sex. Then there’s uncomfortable situations (harassment). Like when a Model is midway through a Photoshoot for a brand selling t-shirts… then the Photographer asks her to remove her shirt.
We absolutely do not want circumstances where people are crossed with the thought of “Well, I do need rent money, so…”
Ideally with a reputable Agency, the Talent can work with their Agency to take appropriate actions against these Clients. In the circumstance where you’ve met through Talent Groups or Classifieds… it’s a whole other can of worms.
In many ways I think these scenarios are akin to riding with a traditional Taxi Driver where the Passenger is left in the mercy of these unpredictable Drivers (San Francisco Residents, you know what I’m talking about). When something (usually) goes wrong, who do you complain to? In my experience it just ends up being a yelling match accompanied with an angry tweet proclaiming “I’ll never take a f**king Yellow Cab again”
In 2010, I feel Uber changed (most of) this (it was only a matter of time before using Uber as an example). We were given safer, predictable rides, at a reasonable cost, sans-haggling. And in the (very rare) event that something goes wrong, you have Corporate on your side.
Where we are now
As mentioned in the introduction, today is day 1 of our public (very beta) launch.
Beginning work after an Angel round last December (five months ago) from a few exceptionally supportive Investors, we had 100+ phone calls with Advisors, Talent interviews, and Potential Partners. We’ve had Thirty-Five overwhelmingly positive User Tests telling us things like “OMG I’d totally use this” and “How does this not exist already!?”. A company name change (we called our company Pre App at one point). A basic website with a neat name. A move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. An iPhone app. And at least 85 mar•ga•ri•tas.
We have a long way to go, but our MVP is out the door! Or as I like to say…
The most expensive mistake a startup can make is not shipping at all.
If you’re not completely embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve waited too long
And when others say…
I just think it’s a boring low stakes non-lucrative business… even with all the weird shit that goes on
You’ll never win at this
Please, go on.
In the meantime, we’re a small team now Open for Business starting in Los Angeles with immediate plans to expand our market to New York and Miami — and we’re looking to take on the Impossible.
We want to make things better. We value transparency, empathy, fairness, and hard work while balancing growth, quality, and efficiency. (It took a long time to come up with those words, so do not take them lightly)
We have a few solutions, and it will always be a work in progress.
If you’re a Model, Photographer, Stylist, or Makeup-Artist. Download our free app. Create a profile, and connect a credit card (We’re PCI compliant with Stripe). We’ll eventually charge subscriptions to be listed, but it’s free for now, too. We also verify each account prior to being listed for the integrity of the community.
Ideas, Questions & Feedback
We’ve heard a million ideas on how this could work. We also have a million ideas of our own lined up that we want to do. Nevertheless, we still want to hear from you letting your voice be heard.
Talent, Clients, Partners, Investors, Engineers: drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. These Helinox swivel chairs are 💯