Startup Studio Spotlight: Nobody Studios
Welcome back to another series of startup studio spotlight! In today’s spotlight, we’re covering a studio that is like “nobody” else! Nobody Studios is a new globally distributed, high-velocity venture studio headquartered in Orange County, CA with an unwavering determination to achieve what nobody believes is possible.
Through their crowd-infused incubation, their light-speed company creation, and social and cultural impact, Nobody Studios strives to create companies that unite society.
The Nobody Studio portfolio includes a wide range of companies in development, including:
- Parentipity, an online community for parents to post and create content around tips and advice for parenting, and pays them without any follower requirements.
- SweatOptionsTM, a “work-for-stock-options” platform that gives visibility, value estimates, reporting, loan options, and even currency-equity exchange to unlock equity value for companies.
- Prehab LifeTM, a data-driven team of licensed and caring professionals to meet people who are struggling with drug addiction where they are and give them the preventative support they need.
Now that we’ve covered a little more about the overall purpose of the studio and projects that Nobody Studios is responsible for, let’s dive right into our interview with Mark S. McNally, the founder and CEO of Nobody Studios.
Mark’s first startup went public on the NASDAQ exchange in 1999, and throughout his entrepreneurial journey, he has since produced fourteen startups that have raised over $300 million and seen over $5 billion in exits. Now, with Nobody Studios, he’s addressing a critical gap in the startup world by de-risking investments in new companies — inviting anyone interested to bring their talent, influence, or capital to help create world-changing companies.
Interested in how Mark and his team of proven builders are disrupting the startup-building space? Check out our exclusive interview to learn more about Nobody Studios!
What sets you apart from the rest of the competition in the startup studio space?
It’s a number of factors:
Vision: Nobody Studios, from the very beginning, was meant to be bigger than anyone’s personality. I knew that I was a catalyst to get it off the ground, but I never wanted it to be about me.
We’re tapping into people’s desire for purpose and willingness to embrace entrepreneurialism and technology innovation — accelerated by COVID. There’s a prevailing sense of, “I’m not going to do things in the future the way I was doing them before. I need to be a part of something bigger. I need to have an impact and change the world. Not only that, but I need to jump out of bed excited about my day again.”
We’re out there to build an entire ecosystem of companies that tackle major problems of humanity at scale. It’s about as big and exciting a mission as anyone could hope for.
Volume and Speed: We have an audacious — and many would say irrational — goal of creating 100 compelling companies in five years, and many more beyond that.
And there’s a reason: it’s not just about being better and faster. We fundamentally believe the world is going to see 5–10 major, rapid paradigm shifts converging in the next decade.
Today’s companies aren’t prepared for the level of change that will entail. The reason we need the kind of speed we’re going for is that is what it will take to meet the challenges ahead.
Crowd-Infused: To achieve the scale and speed we need, we can’t do it alone. Figuring out what 100 companies to build might mean looking at 10,000 ideas. That alone is going to take a lot of people to accomplish. Then we need the talent, influence, and capital to start, build, validate, and scale these companies.
So, the core of our ethos is building a massive crowd of Nobodies to support the journey at every stage and share in the upside.
Global perspective: From the very beginning, we’ve been a globally distributed company. We believe there is a tremendous amount of human potential going to waste. The next blockbuster idea probably won’t come from Silicon Valley — it’ll come from some kid in Mumbai or Lagos or Port-au-Prince.
Our vision is to be a major player on every continent, bringing opportunities to underserved markets and presiding at the forefront of positive global impact.
How has the startup studio model allowed you and your studio’s companies to navigate the pandemic?
We actually started at the beginning of the pandemic. The backstory is that I’d had some health issues going on in my family in 2019. We beat it and came out strong (very grateful for that!), and I had an epiphany where I felt like there’s no more time to waste.
I’ve always dreamt of doing something like Nobody Studios, and I decided to go for it. Then, when the pandemic set in, that made me the most annoying guy in 2020, because I was on fire with this idea! Everyone else was like, “What’s wrong with you, man?! The world’s coming to a frickin’ end.” But ultimately it allowed us to resonate with some fantastic people who also felt a call to do something different and more meaningful.
Our first newco, Parentipity, is a platform that pays parents to share their tips. It was inspired by the plight of parents navigating lockdowns, remote work and school, and all the challenges that entailed. So in many ways, our origin is very much tied to the pandemic, and it allowed us to get a fast and successful start.
How would you describe your studio’s approach to developing new ideas? What services do you offer your startups?
We’re what we call “frugressive”: frugal + aggressive in our pursuit of new business opportunities. It’s about being time-and-capital-efficient as we quickly and relentlessly test and develop new ideas. We believe startups are getting too much money upfront they don’t need, and it’s ruining them. We’re all about being lean and de-risking early-stage companies before significant funding.
Our approach is also “crowd infused,” meaning we engage the crowd at every stage of new company creation. It’s NOT about just doing whatever the crowd wants, but it is about inclusion and interaction with people to power our work at the scale and speed we need. That includes finding ideas, surfacing the best ones, and sourcing the right talent to bring them to life and refine them. It also includes funding them through crowdfunding and turning up the noise through our network of influencers and everyday people sharing with their networks.
As for what services we offer, we own our companies, and we nurture them from within. That includes full support for ideation, testing, scaling, talent acquisition, legal, financial, regulatory, and anything else that’s needed to prove out early-stage companies and get them on solid footing for rapid scaling.
How do you source your clients, and how do you decide which ideas to take into your studio for further development?
We don’t have clients, but we do bring in co-founders to help champion our newcos. How we find them comes down to telling our story and sharing our vision with anyone and everyone we can.
We have a very strong and growing network and an aggressive influencer strategy, so we’re meeting and talking with well-connected people all the time. Those conversations open new doors to talented and passionate people.
One recent example is Ray Leonard Jr., son of boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. He found out about one of our newco ideas for an event talent marketplace, loved it, and after some dialogue has signed on to be its CEO!
But it’s not just about well-connected people. A skill set we’re building into our leadership team is to recognize that, yes, we have experience and knowledge, but we can’t let our prejudices get in the way. There are so many new ideas out there and some of them will be from non-obvious founders or articulated differently than we might expect. Our job is to recognize the brilliance.
What does the studio’s level of involvement look like after the business has launched?
Launching is just one step in our “frugressive” innovation process — that moment of getting an MVP into the market. From there, it’s all about testing and tweaking to see if it works and how we can make it the best product possible.
We have specific KPIs a company has to meet before we seek major funding or move to an exit. And if it does meet those criteria, we stay involved long enough for it to spin out on its own smoothly and successfully.
This is actually one of our superpowers as a studio. We can focus on tweaking the dials and making sure the company is on a solid growth trajectory before seeking significant funding. This means founders are making the right decisions at the appropriate time. And it means we’re bringing VC’s de-risked businesses to invest in and support for growth. It’s a win for all sides and results in a stronger business and better experience for all involved.
What unique benefits does the startup studio model provide entrepreneurs?
From what we’ve seen, there’s more than one startup studio model, so I’ll speak to Nobody Studios’ case in particular. We feel there’s a ton of benefits for the right kind of entrepreneur — someone who’s multi-passionate, flexible, humble, and isn’t married to their one idea. A few of our benefits include:
- Support: We offer mentoring, systems, tools, connections, and resources that most entrepreneurs struggle to get access to.
- Capital: I feel bad for some of this generation of new entrepreneurs because they’re confusing fundraising with the victory. We don’t start our newcos with millions of dollars, but we provide them the right amount of capital to get going.
- Diversified equity: While we retain most of the equity in our companies, we also provide our founders and team members equity across our entire portfolio.
- Talent: Access to talent is the major battleground for business. We’re plugged into some incredible talent pools, and we’re also able to shift talent around our companies as needed to create the right fit at the right time.
How do you find your co-founders/entrepreneurs?
We are fundamentally people-first and crowd-infused, and that fuels our co-founder attraction process. I talked about our network and influencer strategy, but really we’re open to passionate people from anywhere.
An interesting example: one of our newco co-founders was an Uber driver I happened to get into a lengthy conversation with on an hour ride to LA. He dropped me off at the meeting saying it was the best conversation he’d had in 6 years as a driver.
Three hours later when I left my meeting, I called a car to take me home and got the same driver! Turns out he waited outside the entire time. “No one else is driving you home but me. We need to continue that new business idea conversation.” One thing led to another, and now he’s got a company idea in our first-stage idea hatch.
Again, it’s really about telling our story to anyone who’ll listen, and keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities and partners.
Do you have a budget for all process stages? (budgets for exploration, implementation, launch, post-launch?
As we mentioned, we’re frugressive (frugal + aggressive) in our company creation. We have ruthless internal hurdles for investment decisions to make sure we accomplish what one ought to in the pre-seed stage.
Take one of our first companies, Parentipity. We built it in five months and launched in 14 languages in 20 countries…for $78,000.
In the startup world, that amount would typically cover the first pitch deck. For us, this is closer to how it should be, and we intend to do far better. In fact, all of our ideas go through a pre-evaluation “Idea Hatch” to quickly find out if they have potential before we do any kind of build.
Something that helps keep us lean and honest in our budgeting is that we embrace humility and curiosity. It’s not about competing for funds or defending an idea that is ungrounded. It’s about sharing, testing, learning, and getting better, so together we can find out what works and what doesn’t, as quickly, effectively, and inexpensively as possible.
What is your approach for sourcing funding?
We believe the culture and economics of business creation need an overhaul, and we’re building the mechanism to do it. In line with our crowd-infused strategy, we’re about to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign — the first venture studio we know of to do so.
This is something we’re excited and passionate about because it gives anyone with a few hundred dollars access to be a venture investor with us. And when people invest, they get a stake not just in one company, but across our portfolio. So, we have a lot of upsides.
People sometimes hear we’re doing this and ask, “If your idea is so great, why can’t you just get investors?” And the answer is, we’ve gratefully received angel investment from a number of incredible people, but that’s not the be-all-end-all of what we’re about.
We don’t want to be just another venture operation that’s only for the wealthy and influential. We want everyone to have the opportunity to join us on this journey, and have buy-in, so they’ll want to help us succeed. It’s a win-win on a massive scale.
TO WRAP UP…
According to Nobody Studios, the coming years will be very challenging for many companies and organizations that are not prepared to move at the new speed of change. This is a very exciting and unique approach to the startup studio model, which has seen tremendous growth and change over the past few years. We’re very excited to see what’s in store for Nobody Studios and the rest of the industry, and we hope you enjoyed this interview. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and make sure to follow us on social media for more information around startup studios! Until next time!