Creating the Substack for premium video creators.
Company: Gigs Live
Role: Co-founder, CEO
What drew you to this particular problem that Gigs Live is solving?
I’ve spent ~14 years in the media industry. My first job out of college was at a small consulting company – which was hired by NBC soon after I started. NBC kept me around after that project and I worked on a content management / analytics project for CNBC. There, I also worked with Google guys very closely to help launch Google TV, later Android TV. All of these projects gave me crucial insight into the consumer side of entertainment and media.
I then moved over to CBS, where I was hired as a Director – later becoming VP and then Senior VP. There, I helped launch a platform that’s now CBSN. My former boss and I really spearheaded the project; we knew we needed to build something built for digital natives – change the content & the distribution strategy. It was hugely successful; by the time I left, it was a 1 billion streams/year platform.
In terms of starting Gigs Live, I loved what I was doing at CBS, but I was frustrated that – at the end of the day – we were still at the mercy of how many views a video has, how many followers someone has. We want to change that. There is so much meaningful content completely overshadowed by the way platforms and algorithms currently work.
How do you feel you've grown personally in building this company?
As an executive at a big company, I’d definitely gotten used to outsourcing a lot of procedural work – I’d request a budget for a project and I might get some pushback but, often, I’d be able to get the money without too much work. But as a founder, you do it all – you create a budget, raise the funding, and execute on your goals. No matter how much you strategize, at the end of the day, it’s about execution – about you executing.
I’ve also had to learn how to triage – to determine which fires (of the many burning) I need to address first.
What’s the best piece of user feedback you’ve gotten so far?
User feedback has been really important. For example, we got this flood of calls from users who weren’t able to find the play button on the videos! We had tried to make it more subtle to highlight the artist’s photo instead but it was giving users a ton of trouble; they were like “I’m on the page but how do I play this video??” This particular feedback really humbled us and reminded us to think through the rudimentary, experiential aspect of the platform.
Also, when Daughtry performed live on the platform, there was a group in Johannesburg, South Africa that was tuned in and so excited. They were like “This is incredible, when is the next time Daughtry will be in South Africa??”
What’s been the most exciting milestone you’ve hit as a team?
Launching our custom-made platform. We’re a 4-person team who was able to launch on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, & our mobile apps – all within 3 months! I was blown away and incredibly proud.
Is there a specific source of inspiration that keeps you pushing through tougher moments?
The challenges of being a founder remind me a bit of being an international student at university, having to handle visa stuff, having to budget every dollar – on top of school work. So thinking about how I’ve managed to push through that time – and actually pay off my student loans by the time I graduated – is heartening.
My co-founder, Vaibhav, and I also love learning from new problems – we both have a ton of corporate experience but it’s exciting to face new types of hurdles and come up with creative solutions everyday.
Lastly, of course, remembering that we’re helping to connect fans with artists in different countries & enabling artists to keep performing keeps us going as well.
What was YC like?
I was initially skeptical about giving anyone 7% equity. But after I did some research on YC and its mentors, we decided to apply. A lot of the advice the mentors offer feels very basic but it’s fundamental. When you’re in startup mode, you tend to focus on complex problems, and complex solutions. They’re guidance was grounding and helped us figure out what to prioritize.
What’s a song or album that’s gotten you through 2020?
I like classic rock, typically. But for the last 3 months, I’ve been listening to this young group based in Jersey, A R I Z O N A, after they scheduled a live performance on our platform. I’m excited to see them perform on April 23rd.
Favorite emoji or gif?
The thumbs up 👍🏾. It’s saved me so much time haha.