In today’s digital realm, personal branding is more important than it ever was before. Competing for limited eyeballs, you need to make sure that your strategy is on point and your presence is aesthetically pleasing. Doing this right, is not easy and SelfMade is here to help. It’s a platform that connects you to professional image experts and social media strategists via a mobile app so that you can leverage the expertise of professionals seamlessly and easily to fuel your social presence. The conversation is no longer about whether you should have a personal brand but rather how you should be managing that brand. SelfMade provides the resources at your fingerprints that would normally be reserved for celebrities, large influencers, and large brands. Currently in private beta, the company plans to launch publicly later this year.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and cofounder Brian Schechter about the Startup and discussed its latest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Our Seed round was led by Primary and our Series A was led by FirstMark. Additional investors include: GGV, SV Angel, CrunchFund, Founder Collective, BoxGroup, and Marc Benioff.
SelfMade connects our members with professional image editors and social brand strategists through a mobile app, democratizing an experience usually reserved for celebrities and big brands.
Our goal is to help people break through the noise on social to grow their personal brand authentically.
What inspired you to start SelfMade?
I became fascinated by the fact that establishing a high quality personal brand is no longer an option, it’s essential. At the same time, I noticed that social media was having a huge impact on business and brand growth with Instagram being the hub.
The actual spark for SelfMade came while I was watching my girlfriend edit her pictures before posting them to social. It took her time, skill and creativity. I knew how valuable digital identity had become, and I was looking for a wedge. Photo editing, I decided, would be the point of departure for SelfMade.
How is it different?
There’s nothing like SelfMade on the market right now.
Building an authentic online presence requires time and resources that most people don’t have. We looked at the landscape of current social media support tools, and they generally consist of liker bots and deliver fake growth. Weʼve dissected what it takes to be successful on social and developed a tool that helps members create a unique brand and achieve their goals.
In addition, our technology sets us apart. My cofounder, Zach Lloyd, who was previously a principal engineer at Google brings high caliber technology leadership and vision to our team. We’re building an image processing pipeline that utilizes Computer Vision advances to support human editors in order to deliver pro-quality content at a fraction of the cost.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
SelfMade is creating a new market around digital style. Like any new market it’s hard to quantify.
That said, our members pay between $50 and $500 a month, and we have identified tens of millions of people who fit our target demo.
What’s your business model?
SelfMade is a subscription. We have 4 different plans that offer members varying levels of support based on their needs.
How has your experience at HowAboutWe influenced this venture?
The biggest one is having Zach as a technical cofounder. Having a partner who thinks deeply about the business while providing authoritative technology leadership is a game-changer.
I’m constantly applying lessons learned from HowAboutWe to SelfMade. In a sense, the idea of SelfMade came from my experience watching people struggle to represent themselves online, which we saw at HowAboutWe all the time.
I lead differently at SelfMade. With my first company, I think I tried to get people to focus on what’s working whereas now, I try to focus people on what’s not working so we can fix it.
What was the funding process like?
It’s very momentum driven. But even when you’re a hot deal it’s an all-consuming and challenging process.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Second time founders have a huge advantage. Not only do you have experience building a business, you have experience raising money. You know what works. You know what to say. Etc.
That said, it’s never easy. The biggest challenge for SelfMade, which may also be our biggest advantage, is that what we’re doing is very new.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
If we get it right we’ll create a new category.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re launching out of private beta later this year. That’ll be exciting. Beyond that, we’re keeping our roadmap to ourselves.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Don’t take advice from people who don’t intimately understand your situation. 🙂
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re gearing up for our public launch later this year, which is a big milestone for SelfMade.
From there we’ll continue to refine our offerings and build the suite of tools needed for people to grow their presence on social and achieve their goals.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
This one is outside of the city, but StormKing is an amazing day trip if you are looking to get away from the bustle.