What was your inspiration behind Stareable?
A Time Out New York article, “The Top 50 Web Series to Watch Right Now” sparked the idea. It occurred us (my co-founders, John Langhauser, and Alex Menglide and I) that amazing web series or “Indie TV” were being created every day across user-generated streaming platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, and new media companies like Vice and Refinery 29. However, creators needed help driving discovery and gaining real financial support. I started reaching out to creators and interviewing them, hoping to understand their problems and the broader landscape. I realized that there was a huge untapped opportunity.
I think television is the second great American art form. And if nothing else, the past few years have shown us that what we see in the media informs what we think and who we are as a society. I want to elevate talented creators that reflect a broad swath of diverse perspectives, so that the media reflects who society actually is.
Diversity, to me, isn’t just some buzz word. I can remember the first time I saw a non-token Indian person on TV. It was in college and I was watching a shampoo commercial. Yes, we have nice hair, but it’s crazy to me that was happening only ten years ago.
Meanwhile, some of the best web series are coming out of communities that traditional Hollywood has left behind. Women in film, the LGBT+ community, people of color, addressing issues of mental health—all these stories that weren’t being told. It’s exciting and incredibly rewarding to try to elevate those storytellers so they can get the audience they deserve. We can make television a more inclusive, more representative medium.
How did you know it was time to go full-time with this idea?
We were growing the number of creators on the platform and had close to a dozen partnerships with fellow web series festivals. We were also getting increasingly positive feedback from web series creators, and had strong interest from friends and family who had seen our progress and traction and wanted to invest.
Meanwhile, we had fallen in love with working on the company and solving real pain points for creators. We looked at everything we had built and decided that if we didn’t make the leap, we were always going to wonder what could have been. I’ve never once regretted the decision.
This is your first time founding a company—what do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
Persistence. Everyone starts off with high expectations and a ton of enthusiasm, but it’s a bumpy road and there will inevitably be, potentially crushing, setbacks.
Being able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and react in a positive forward-looking way is crucial.
How do you handle risk and competition?
The best approach to potential competition is creating an amazing product that solves your users’ needs. The reason that we’re so focused on web series creators is because it’s the tip of the spear and allows us to build a foundation within a portion of the market before expanding to adjacencies. It also allows us to be incredibly focused on the specific needs of our customers; we are constantly talking to them to understand how we should be evolving and adapting.
What’s been the #1 challenge you’ve faced while launching your company?
One of the biggest surprises has been how insular and opaque Hollywood and the media industry can be. It’s something we struggled with a lot in the beginning. Every strategic investor we’ve landed has remarked on how impressive it is that we’ve built the relationships we have, coming at the problem as outsiders. I think that speaks to our hustle and determination as a team and how we’re solving for a real need. Now that we have those relationships, they have become a material moat relative to potential competitors.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
We consider ourselves to be the largest community of web series creators and our users have been instrumental in helping us grow and succeed. As a company, we think it’s incredibly important to democratize how television gets made and that starts with leveling the playing field for how creators can distribute and gain monetary support for their shows. Republic’s mission to democratize the angel investing landscape is part of the same ethos and really resonates with us.
What’s your team culture like?
My CTO and I are both Bridgewater Associates alumni and drank the Kool-Aid on Ray Dalio’s radical transparency. We believe that regular open feedback and honest reflection are the only ways to hold each other accountable and make the company better as we grow and scale. I end every meeting by asking if teammates have issues that need to be addressed and pride myself on taking criticism incredibly well.
What is your superpower?
I’m great at recognizing what is working and what isn’t, and acknowledging both in trying to figure out the best path forward. For example, we tried a number of organic and innovative marketing strategies—from podcasts to meet-ups, contests, a community forum, and referral programs—before we started to see the traction with the festival. I’m incredibly persistent in moving the chains forward and refuse to quit.
What’s your kryptonite?
I have a hard time walking away from an argument if I think someone is being narrow-minded.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I meditate once a day, drink a huge amount of water while at work and can easily consume pounds of fruit and nuts in one sitting if given the opportunity.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I boxed for many years, and try to tape up my hands and hit a heavy bag for an hour every week. There’s nothing like it as both cardio and catharsis. Afterwards I feel less guilty about indulging in my second favorite pastime, good food.
Are there any apps or gadgets that you can’t live without?
I have a meditation buddy and we use a habit-tracking app, HabitShare, to monitor each other. It’s made a huge difference in helping me create a daily meditation practice.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Find the people you want to work with for the next 30 years and start experimenting with what that could look like over the next five as co-founders, investors, advisors, etc.