LA startup 12 Society is spearheaded by rapper Nas (Nasir Jones) and he’s called on many of his influential friends from the hip hop, music, sports and celebrity communities to launch a “birch box” subscription startup with gadgets, toys and cool tech stuff. The monthly subscription box is curated by the stars and quickly had everyone in Los Angeles talking.
We’ve also reported on MoonShark a mobile gaming startup that was built as a partnership between the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Qualcomm. MoonShark leverages CAA’s roster of A-List celebrities to endorse, and build mobile gaming products with and around. Their latest project, Verticus is a collaboration between them and comic book icon Stan Lee.
Today we’re talking with Los Angeles startup Swagsy. This is a new online shopping and flash sales platform where the items that they are selling have been curated by a panel of “influential tastemakers”. Swagsy Co-Founder Grant Cohen, likens Swagsy to a flash sales site for things you would often times find in swag bags at A-list events. That’s also where the idea came from, as well as the name.
Swagsy’s curators recommend the type items from the top brands. From there Swagsy negotiates flash sale offers with the brands and manufacturers themselves, then their A-list tastemakers take to social media to help promote the brand, the item and the website.
No startup has tried to use celebrity power to back a flash sales model so far.
We got a chance to talk to Cohen in the interview below.
What is Swagsy?
Swagsy is a soon-to-launch social shopping community that brings together exclusive curated offers from great brands with influential tastemakers.
In layman’s terms, how does it work?
Our curators find cool brands who we negotiate exclusive flash sales with, then we bring the various swag to our tastemakers who choose the stuff they really like and share it with their online audiences who can access the deals through their page @ swagsy.com
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Miron Lulic – product expert and head hacker, who comes from the online start-up space most recently at Specific Media
Grant Cohen – brand and marketing guru, who comes from the digital brand advertising world most recently at Velti
Jamie Freed – talent manager to the stars, who comes from the universe of Hollywood talent agencies most recently Paris Hilton’s manager.
Where are you based?
Los Angeles, CA – home of celebrities and suntans.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
Better than its ever been! The LA scene has grown up immensely in the last year or two as a host of NorCal VC’s have begun pumping money into SoCal and a ton of tech incubator/accelerators have popped up around town, leading to loads of new start-ups and entrepreneurs coming together in a really fun, laid back environment
How did you come up with the idea for Swagsy?
It was born out of the concept of Swag Bags – whereby celebs get given bags full of free products at virtually every event in Hollywood. In these cases brands are giving away stuff on the hopes that the celeb will wear their clothes and get shot by the paparazzi or talk about their product in an interview, helping to spread the gospel to their fans. We aimed to bring that to the digital space, enabling brands, tastemakers and consumer to all benefit from the uniqueness of social media and eCommerce to close the loop in a way that everyone wins.
What problem does Swagsy solve?
Swagsy solves a few problems at once:
1) It enables Tastemakers with sizable social media followings to effectively monetize their online audiences without having to force feed their fans with a bunch of stale adverts
2) It helps smaller brands who have cool products gain widespread recognition without the upfront costs of traditional endorsements or digital media
3) It allows consumers to feel a closer connection to the Tastemakers they follow while giving them exclusive access to cool products on a sweet discount
What’s your secret sauce?
If we gave you the recipe then it wouldnt be so secret! Really its a combination of having an awesome user experience, a great eye for cool brands and a rolodex that opens doors to the best celebs.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
Its a big idea and many times its hard to effectively articulate the concept in a way that assures brands, tastemakers, investors, etc that we will be able to execute in scale – especially without having a live property to point them to just yet. Luckily we’ve been good enough at translating the idea to enough great partners that we are tee’d up nicely for an initial launch which should give us a great way to showcase our awesome site.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
We have an excellent Advisory Board that has been extremely helpful in various aspects of getting the business off the ground – from Tarang Shah and Clark Landry providing fundraising advice, to Jody Sherman’s expertise around launching an eCommerce site, Siqi Chen’s support in designing a killer UX, Greg Johnson’s insight to the world of celebrity and Stan Fields intros to some awesome brands.
What’s next for Swagsy?
We have just launched our Private Beta, with a goal of letting our initial userbase beat up on the site for a few weeks before we roll it out to the broader Public Beta – from there, just some simple world domination.
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