Staying tenacious and agile (even when something’s working)

I don’t know how today’s guest is still standing. Chad Newell is running a company that has pivoted so many times for so many different reasons.

The tenacity and the agility it must have taken to stay with it fascinates me. We’ll find out how he did it in this interview.

Chad Newell co-founder and CEO of which lets teams find and hire the top creative freelancers to produce visual content seamlessly.

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Chad Newell

Chad Newell

Chad Newell co-founder and CEO of which lets teams find and hire the top creative freelancers to produce visual content seamlessly.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I don’t know how today’s guest is still standing. Chad, to be honest with you, Chad Newell is running a company that the pivots that you took to me are the, the interesting things.

Because Chad, you had a business where you, you found a way to get photographers online. Actually even going back before that you had a business which was doing Fatah, which was, well, you know what, let me do this. Instead of me telling you, I’m going to say this to the audience. This is the guy who found the model several times and still had to pivot and pivot and change and start over.

And he kept on going. And as a result today, he’s got a business that’s doing incredibly well. I invited him here to talk about how he did it, why he pivoted what happened during those pivots. And we’re gonna talk about some of the challenges of it. And I got to tell you, Chad, frankly, is an entrepreneur.

Who’s, who’s gotten things to work at times. It’s fricking exhausting to say it worked. Now I’ve got to move to this other thing and then bring the same level of energy to the new thing. I want to hear how you did it.

Chad: Well, yeah, it’s either tenacity or insanity. I think it’s probably a little bit of both. We’ve

Andrew: You know what it’s also agility it’s I have tenacity. What I think I also sometimes have to do is just let go of the bone and decide whether it’s the bone that I want to eat or the thing that’s on the side. Um, and you’ve been very good about doing that. All right. I should introduce Chad Newell is the founder of snap wire.

It’s a marketplace that connects talented visual creators with businesses and brands that need on brand content, custom content. Basically, if you need photos taken. The idea that I had actually chatted here is the better way to explain it. Chad and I were kicking around this idea that maybe what I want is, uh, photos of the offices of the top hundred startups in America.

Well, I can’t fly around there. I can’t take a photographer and fly to every one of those places. I go to snap, and they’ll set me up with a team of people who will take those photos. I get it up on my site and suddenly I’ve got photos that look great for my site. Right? You’ve managed the whole

Chad: Yeah. Snap art does, you know, visual content at scale where you have lots of, lots of locations or lots of things to document or we’ll do custom content library, story arcs, where we need to build a story around visual content, either in stills or video. And, um, the story starts way, way back.

Andrew: Yeah, take me to the, the very first business that you created was.

Chad: A company called media bakery. That was out of the belly of Getty images experience. When Getty images is how old I am, when Getty images decided to enter the online stock photo space, they bought a company called the image bank and the image bank was a transparency business. Believe it or not that had yet to go online and not too many businesses for a line at the time, but Getty knew that businesses would need to go online.

And as a stock photography agency, you typically had to have a. Paper catalog to tell art buyers what it is that you actually had to offer. So the idea of getting rid of the paper catalog, which was expensive to produce and bringing that online at 72 DPI files was a novel idea. So it was actually one of the first industries to actually enter the online area even before Amazon, but as Getty and it just bought this company, it sort of launched a career in visual content for me, where it was clear that we were the redheaded stepchild at the visual content space.

Nobody really wants to use stock photography, but at the end of the day, you have to, because you can’t afford custom content. And so maybe even as part of my story where I sort of resented the idea that I was a stock photo slap, if you will not there’s anything wrong with that, but I would literally be pulling slides, the kit to show art buyers.

What I thought was a good image of the

Andrew: this was still, this was roughly what year?

Chad: this was at the end of the nineties. So this has been a right when the internet was launching. And this was probably 96 70 around that

Andrew: And so most of them were, were offline buyers.

Chad: Yeah, well, make the whole industry was offline because the internet didn’t really get finally adopted until the late nineties.

And you know, that, you know, we, we, uh, we took the business online. It was in the footage division and it was a good start to the visual content space. And then somewhere along the journey, you know, I bounced and I jumped and I got into management and my wife and I started our own stock photo agency called media bakery in 2000, which is still an operation by the way.

But it, it was the idea of offering an image archive to fifth Avenue buyers, you know, our agencies essentially, and, you know,

Andrew: What does that mean? An image archive to these buyers?

Chad: No, it’s not a stock photo archive is, you know, is, uh, is an app is a large repository of photo assets and video assets of which you can license the rights to use, to support marketing collateral and initiatives.

So instead of flying to the Taj Mahal to go take a photo of it or a video of it, we’ll have it in a library and you can license the rights to use it commercially so that your brand or business can tell the story

Andrew: How is that different from stock photography?

Chad: That is Dr. Parker. That is the definition of stock

Andrew: Okay. And so that, so what did media bakery do? That was different from say good Getty at the time.

Chad: you know, we just had different market reach at the time. It was sort of, uh, and this is a little bit off topic as to what Snapchat does, but it’s part of the story. You know, it just, it had a custom sort of a, a boat, a boutique bespoke sort of, uh, level of service. We would sort of give, you know, a class high quality, uh, white glove service to our buyers.

And that mattered back then. And I’ll tell you what, one thing that.

Andrew: who is buying at the time? Okay.

Chad: Creative directors of art buyers at H at, at ad agencies, you know, TBW AHI

Andrew: It was still mostly offline magazine, that type of customer.

Chad: It was a lot of print back in the early two thousands, but then the shift happened, right? Like I think the birth of the DSLR camera and the mirrorless camera for the photographers to not have to go, you know, digitize their transparencies and people can start taking photos and automatically uploading them to places like Shutterstock and Shutterstock, I think led the way for a transition that visual

Andrew: we get into that, um, I’m sorry. I w I’m fascinated by this because what I remember happening though, was as more businesses were going online, they did want stock photography, stock photography was novel enough that if a website had it, it felt like they did their own production, their own, their own photo shoot.


Chad: Yeah,

Andrew: And so the, the industry exploded, it went from a handful of big businesses that needed stock photography to now. Every website was a potential customer. Did you feel that.

Chad: Oh, for sure. And it was the, uh, it was good timing for us to launch a stock photo agency back when the birth of the internet afforded businesses to tell, you know, to have a presence online and yes, the most affordable solution to that was the licensed, the rights to stock photos. However, back then, you may not know this.

You know, you actually had to pay high dollars for an image. I mean, he was in the hundreds of dollars per image to license the rights for a royalty-free photo, or if you wanted to right. To manage photo to control rights, and making sure that nobody else had the rights to that photo, it was in the thousands and

Andrew: And so, and what did you see when, when you created media bakery, was it that you saw that more online businesses would need stock photography? Or did you just see that there’d be more, more supply because of DSLRs.

Chad: It was big. It was due to knowing that, um, more supply was coming through the ability to enter an offer. An agency was going to become easier than the threshold. The bar was going to be lower to enter the market as a distributor because of the birth of the DSLR camera. It was the first. Wave of democratization of photography.

There were several waves of it and certainly the cell phone affords us to all become one today. But back then the first wave was the, you know, the birth of the DSLR

Andrew: So it was the supply that was most interesting for you, but you also understood that demand was growing, was growing and you created a place where you would get the supply, sell it. And then if I’m understanding right media bakery only paid the photographers after they got paid. Right.

Chad: That’s right? Yeah. You liked the brand license, the photos, or the agency license, the photo. And then 30, 45 days, 60 days later, the photographer would get paid.

Andrew: Okay. So this is the business. That to me, this is you did it. You nailed it. You were ahead of your fricking time. Chad, how big did it get?

Chad: It

Andrew: Well, before we get to w what, what, what happened next? How big did you get.

Chad: It’s in the millions of dollars in top line revenue. I think we, you know, we were a small boutique agency, so it was a small team to it. We didn’t have a lot of, um, I would say we didn’t have a lot of pressure to be a big agency. We, you know, living in Santa Barbara, it was more of a lifestyle centered, driven sort of initiative.

And, you know, I was very proud of what we

Andrew: More than a million a month in profit, a year in profit. Would you say that.

Chad: Yeah. Back in the height in the high

Andrew: you were doing good. So before we get into the challenges, give me a sense of like how good things were when you finally made it. You’re a person who started out as an intern in the, in the movie industry, right. You just built

Chad: Yes, I did. Yeah. I started at new line cinema as an assistant.

Andrew: And so then when you finally make it, give me a sense of what’s one thing that Chad treats himself to, what does Chad get to benefit from all this hard work,

Chad: Oh, we bought ourselves a house at the height of the market.

Andrew: What’d you like about the house? What was the special thing that made it feel worth?

Chad: have to be able to buy a home in Santa Barbara, California at any particular time in life is a certainly a rarity. And so we, you know, I think it was, you know, as a kid dreaming of living in the city that I went to college because I went to PCSB and it was from Northern California, small little town called Lodi.

I’m sure you’ve driven through it on your way to snowboarding or skiing one day. But it was, it, it was, it was, it was nice to arrive at this sort of milestone, which I was very, you know, stoked to have gone to.

Andrew: All right, interrupted you earlier because I wanted to understand that, but you started tell us about Shutterstock. What was the change at Shutterstock brought to them?

Chad: Shutterstock did something fundamentally different. They introduced a new pricing model to the stock photography agency, uh, arena, where you could go and for one fee have access to. Not just one photo, but thousands of photos in the early days and millions of photos as it went on through time and that change, it was still licensed under a model called royalty-free, but that change in price and access fundamentally changed the industry.

And everybody began racing to the bottom from there, and it was really John orange or who saw the vision of providing a portal of, of. Of a portal to lots of assets, but then providing that same portal to other photographers, aspiring photographers and professional photographers. Those who actually could take images quickly and upload them quickly to his website were earned extraordinary amounts of income as, as earners for producing photos on a meet, you know, in a medium, which they love to practice.

Andrew: And, and the, the way that he would pay them was how, what was, was it per download? Because he was

Chad: a pro rata basis on per download based on formulas. And so somebody might pay X dollars a month. And then if your images were part of the download pool, that that person had access to it, you’d get a pro-rata, uh, payment for that. But I’ll tell you, one thing that did happen was the birth of the DSLR camera at the birth of the mirrorless camera, which I think are two different distinct things that afforded this first level of democratization that afforded everybody come on to these platforms.

And we missed it at media bakery. We left that. Th that opportunity on the table, we didn’t focus on the suppliers on the photographers. We ended up focusing on the people who could supply as images through business partnerships, like Getty images and back then Corbus and other. There were 192 image partners at media bakery that supply us photos because they are the ones that have direct relationships with photographers and we left it off the table.

So that regret actually ended up into the rapid decline of the video bakery business and its revenue over the course of two decades.

Andrew: you had to, you had to buy from them. They were going to sell for a higher price than, than the individual with the DSLR would. And why couldn’t you started talking to our producer about this? You couldn’t switch to that and go direct to the guy or the woman with the DSLR because.

Chad: We just didn’t have the infinite technical infrastructure to tell you the truth. We didn’t invest it. You know, we bought a house, we didn’t invest into the engineering resource and building a team and having the technology to build a community. And that’s really where. The snap wire story started, you know, like I, that regret, I think, um, manifested for quite a long time.

And it was only until 2012 when we saw the birth of the mobile phone and at the DSO in the photo, the photo that. The phone could capture, even though it was a very low Rez photo that was only as good as posting on social media for 600 pixels. We knew that that phone would actually increase in its power and produce ultimately the same sized photo that a mirrorless camera could produce.

And that’s when we knew that we had to get into this game and capture the attention and the aspirations of the aspiring photographer who was going to start their journey on Instagram. But eventually fall in love with the medium of photography, because back then, in 2012, it was just filled with photographers.

There were no brands or commercials on that thing, you know, and they then, uh, would traverse into their own first digital cameras. And we wanted to be there right there, right there when they started becoming, uh, hashtagging brands and did that whole behavior. We just saw that and just knew that if we could somehow get in front of them to give them a chance, to feel like a pro, that we’d have a pretty good chance of, of having, uh, a pretty good.

Andrew: John orange, by the way, became a billionaire. From what I understand, he was new York’s first tech billionaire from Shutterstock.

Chad: Yeah, just fine.

Andrew: Did that hurt watching him do that?

Chad: No, I was really proud of what he did. I, you know, even though you’re technically competitors, you know, and, but just to see the growth and his focus. Yeah.

Andrew: and still media bakery, it was still profitable. And you, it looks like made a sharp break. 2013 is the last year that it’s on your LinkedIn profile. But 2012 is when snap wire comes on. How, how hard was that to say, you know what? I’m actually going to step away from this thing

Chad: Yeah, it was pretty calculative. I mean, we were really dedicated to making a hard, I was really dedicated to making our heartbreak against the business that I founded to go chase this opportunity and, um, It was like every leap of faith. It was scary. You talked to friends about it. You can’t imagine what the outcomes could look like, but, um, literally after drawing it out, let several times the ecosystem that I was having in my head, I ended up meeting an investor named Alan Morgan.

He was previously at Mayfield and, um, was a general manager at idea lab. And I literally pitched him this idea. And, you know, I thought for sure it was not going to be received well, but he really took an interest into it and said, I think you actually have something here. And so that kind of began the possibilities of raising financing against an idea.

And he helped help me do that.

Andrew: And once you raise money, they don’t, the investors don’t want you to hang on to this business.

Chad: That’s right. Yeah, you do have to, you know, and it’s, you know, you have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that you’re a hundred percent focused on the successful outcome,

Andrew: Right. Let me tell you about my first sponsor. It’s outgrow. I told you before we got started that they’re there they’re a quiz company. I don’t know that that’s the best way to put it. Let me tell you what outgrow does by telling you what you could do with outgrow. So imagine it’s nap wire. There are people like me who say, you know what?

I wonder what it would cost to get photographers, to take 50 photos in 50 States, you know, whatever it is. Well, I could come to your site and hit a button and get a quote. Isn’t it, a human being to give me that quote

Chad: Yeah. Yeah. Someone would give you a code. Yeah.

Andrew: now, man, I didn’t. You said, you know what? There’s some people who just want instant answer just to get a rough idea.

If you wanted to do that, you’d go to outgrow you create what I call the quiz, but it’s it’s, I, I don’t think that’s the right phrase for it, where you ask people a set of questions and then you kick out a temporary quote, a thing, an estimate, and you say, this is what we think it’s going to be. If you want something that’s more accurate, our people will follow up with you.

And the beauty of that is if someone’s just kicking this idea around, not sure whether they even want to get into a conversation or not just trying to figure out, does it make sense for me to even think about they would come to your site, they would use the outgrow form. They would get an estimate and you would get their contact information.

So you could follow up with them and say, I see, this is what you’re interested in. Would you like to get on a call? I think we can help you a little bit better, right?

Chad: Yeah, totally. Yep. I could see that lead gen. Yeah. And that maybe has some AI or some algorithms associated with it based on rules that you set.

Andrew: It really easy to do that. Exactly. To set all that up. And then it becomes a tool that’s on its own. It doesn’t even have to be directly related to what it would cost a snack bar, or it just might be what would it cost to hire photographers all over the country to do this? So people use it just to get an understanding of it, and then it funnels traffic to you.

It can even survive on its own domain.

Chad: actually.

Andrew: All right. So if you want to try this, or maybe your marketing people, how many marketing people now do you have at your company? Five. If one of the five people wants to try it, tell them to save money by going to outgrow dot. Dot co slash Mixergy. Everyone’s on

And they’ll let you try it for free. See how effective it is and see if it is something you’ve been liked doing, just play around with it, get the results and decide if you want to continue from there. All right. I’m really grateful to Al outgrow for sponsoring. All right. So now, now you’ve got this new idea.

You got investors who are backing backing you and the original new idea was. More of a content site. What was the, what was the model there?

Chad: Well, you know, from my background, having the ability to create an ecosystem for aspiring photographers, you know, having them, everybody wanted to shoot for a specific brand. Um, and I had the history and the experience of building out stock photo libraries. So it dawned on us that if we built this comprehensive sort of social slash commercial site where people could upload photos to.

Photo contests that we’re actually mapping to real stock photo needs. They would actually have a real reason to submit a photo that was basically asked of them to go shoot and, or having their archive. And that if selected, we could rapidly grow a stock photo library and

Andrew: That’s so

Chad: those.


Andrew: So smart. Look, anyone if you’re discovering that people, for example, now during COVID face masks are the thing. You know, that your clients are going to need more photos of face masks. You say, Hey, we’ve got a contest. Show us your best face masks situation for, and do they win a prize? Do they also get a percentage of the sale

Chad: Yeah, there’s a little bit of everything here. I mean, in the original Snapwire concept and it’s still alive today and in what we’re calling our community, offering anybody in the world can sign up to be an aspiring step art photographer. You can download our apps off of Android and Android or iOS, and you can create an account and submit photos to these photo contest.

And you’re gonna start to traverse this points and leveling system. And if you submit a photo. Um, you’re sort of held in purgatory until we see that photo and say, Oh, that’s a good photo. And we’ll nominate that photo. And of course the best nominate photos rise to the top of the feed. But as soon as your photo is nominated, you start to earn these points in those points.

The more you earn traverse you through these levels, and there are five, but as you start to have successes and successes are defined by nominations and also photos sales and the photo archive library itself. And. Other activities such as likes and people commenting on your content. Um, you start to traverse through these levels and ultimately you get to this pro level of which if you arrive there, you can be invited to participate on a one-to-one assignment in our professional marketplace.

This other platform that we have of where brands and businesses want to work with, you know, Andrew and Andrew alone to go shoot content because they like his portfolio

Andrew: Until that point. I can understand why somebody would want to rise up. If you want to be a professional photographer. This is a clear path towards that. Get paid professional status until then, if you, if your company sold their work, did they make money from it or were you able to profit from it?

Chad: Yeah. I mean, it would go into the stock photo library and someone would find their photo. We automatically tag these photos with, you know, tags and keywords using artificial intelligence and other kind of whizzbang things. But once the photo sat in the archive, someone could find it. But the keyword search.

And if they came across the photo that matched their knee and they licensed your photo, you would earn a royalty and basically a pro-rata portion of that photo sale. And in our model, it was 50%. So it’s relatively a high payout by comparison to other companies, um, just worth noting that most companies pay less than 10% on what the list price is for a photo.

And we would pay up to 50%.

Andrew: Okay. So this made total sense. Now you’ve got, uh, you’ve got a pipeline to get lots of creative work. You’ve got a way of engaging the community before they become good. It’s like you found the rising stars. Exciting. Where did you get the photographers? How’d you get them to come in and participate in this.

Chad: funnily enough, people look for opportunities to sell their photos all the time. And so as an entrepreneur in the end, you know, in the marketing world, SEO and se as the MBA was, the intent was relatively low line. So we were quickly, quickly built our community. I think a month, one in 2012, you know, I think we got to somewhere to.

20 or 30,000 registered users who wanted to play the game and it quickly grew to 250,000 users by your 16 and by 17 or 18, we were damn near a million. And I think we’re way over a billion today. So it’s

Andrew: so,

Chad: there’s a lot of people who raise their hand at want to go do this.

Andrew: by the way, this is amazing. So again, Entrepreneur gets something in the works. Another time you’re going to tell us about a pivot before we get into the pivot. Why is it that I can go into the internet archive and see what the site used to look like? Did you change your name from Snapwire

Chad: Yeah, we did. We were snap wire dot R E, and then the way back time machine, if you go to step wire dot, are you going to way back time machine? You’ll see some early iterations of the

Andrew: got it. Snap. Y WWI. Got it, got it. This was like a thing that was popular at the time. Ah, now I’m seeing all your changes. Got it. Okay.

Chad: Yep. And so we, you know, we, um, we decided to make a domain change for SEO purposes and other marketing initiatives, um, when we replatformed and we replatformed last year

Andrew: Before we get into the replatform. Why did you replatform you set wait, actually, one more thing. Did you charge a monthly fee? Did you, did you do the Shutterstock formula?

Chad: We do we, uh, because it’s still alive and it’s still there. You can go and license the rights to a single photo, or you can subscribe and licensed the rights to packs of photos, essentially. And so you could subscribe to get access to the stock photo library offering for sure. And one thing that we built in this early version of snap wire was this.

Like I said, I promise that you can work one to one. Once you got to the pro level and you know, you kind of fake it until you make it so early on, we didn’t have that many pros. And so we never really worried about what this one-to-one relationship would look like because we had some time on our hands to just figure that out as we got there, well, ended up early on.

People levitated to that and said, Oh, that sounds absolutely amazing. You mean, I can actually put in a request for a custom stock photo. Sure. Let’s let you try doing that. And so we created the ability for the user community, the buyer user community, to put a request out for a stock photo in the form of a photo contest.

And funnily enough, we would have individuals say, Hey, and I’m using this to be a little bit exaggerative, but I’d like to have a. Elephant balancing itself on a beach ball and Tahiti, and my budget is $10. So you had this like misalignment of, because the stock photo buyer is used to buying photos for dollars, not thousands of dollars.

And it just, we ended up having a really hard time getting the buyers to understand. Yeah. When they ask for custom content that there’s a production associated with that. If it’s not already existing and that’s going to cost a higher price. And so we tried all kinds of UI tricks in the forum, but we really struggled.

I mean, we really struggled to launch this early version of custom content on a one-off basis. Okay.

Andrew: Okay. And then you were starting to say that you had to replatform. When did you realize that this wasn’t going to be the model?

Chad: I think we realized when this, as I described it, wasn’t working with the one-off photo basis, but it was, you know, it was a happy accident. One day when Google called us and said, look, we see that you actually have. A lot of photographers in a lot of different areas. And we want you to take pictures of exteriors, of points of interest for us, for the carousel at these locations.

And can you guys go do it? And of course, as a young scrappy team, or like we can do anything. Of course, yes we can. And we ended up being forced to realize that the tool that we have well, it’s. Produces and it had Fords any brand or business to launch the infinite number of photo contests, but each or a photo contest, not really a production for one Oh one specific photo.

And I think the fundamental change was, is when a buyer wants to have a photo, a photo. It is. Centered around a specific workflow that is associated with one image on a website or one image in an email it’s when a buyer sort of looks to produce a set of photos that that is effectively a production. And so our model shifted from one-off asset assets to doing shoots in what we call those shoots today or creative briefs.

So that’s what was the initial. Um, impetus for, for replatforming. And we did that, you know, again, a couple of years later after that first ask from Google, uh, just last year, because we realized that we wanted to build a more robust offering, a rebel robust tool set around this assembly line that exists today around content production.

Andrew: You couldn’t just say Google ads for this. There must be hundreds. If not millions of companies out there that want this. Anything that Google does. It’s just was a unique thing. You had to figure out what was similar that other businesses would want. From what I understand it was going through alchemistic accelerator that helped you figure that out, right?

Chad: Yeah, the Alchemist accelerator, I think, uh, I think Google was the first, like maybe we. You know, it’s stock photography, certainly as a business solution, but it’s much more of like a prosumer business solution. It’s not really an enterprise solution. And I think when Google knocked on the door, it made us realize that we’re actually an enterprise solution.

Meaning there are lots of enterprises that actually have to tell their story at scale. Then Google was just the first example to illustrate that. And by the way, this was in 2017. And guess what happened also at 2017 brands and businesses realize that they had to have a relevancy on social media. So what was four content pieces a month for a big brand, like PepsiCo became 4,000 content pieces a month for them.

And so they either had to turn to their expensive $4.2 trillion advertising agency industry to go get that content produced at scale, or they had to go build those teams in-house. And so the trend line became lots of brands of businesses started to develop. In-house creative teams to go literally scale and produce all these visual assets for social media, because they had suddenly had to live in those channels.

Andrew: You need to create that many images because they were on Instagram, on Facebook, et cetera. And they wanted, I don’t think this is a great example because Coke does something different on Instagram, but say a company like Coke might want a beach photo of their bottles. Right. They might

Chad: But their product was in the image. Yes. Right? It was, it had to be authentic. It had to be in the image

Andrew: Not photo-shopped

Chad: not Photoshop. And that’s a different. You know, social media taught us authenticity. And when brands and businesses sort of needed to have to be beholden to the same sort of standard, they needed to produce content differently.

And so that’s sort of what led to the rise of lots of visual assets for these people and affording us good timing to have our services and our platform being a tool set for them to go get that done.

Andrew: So how did being in an accelerator help you discover that?

Chad: Yeah. You know, um, Happy accidents happen. And I think when of the rounds of financing we were looking to accomplish, one of the investors suggested that we sort of relook at what we’re doing and provide an opportunity to look at going into accelerator. And to be honest, I didn’t think that was something that was a fit for me.

I was in Santa Barbara. I had a family. There’s no way I could go to San Francisco. Alchemist is located North up in the Bay area and. And I just can’t tell you how grateful I am that I ended up, ended up going into the Alchemist accelerator before all the disciplines that the accelerator taught us. It taught us enterprise sales cycles, how to build a customer advisory board, how to fundraise.

But to specifically say how to build a pipeline for, for VCs, how to pitch, how to create a pitch deck. And there’s just this infinite amount of learning lessons and pattern recognitions from sales, all the way to fundraising. And when you’re a young company trying to go to market, that’s a snap word has been trying to go to market for a very long time.

And finally did, was able to go to market. Um, you just need that. You need that discipline and acumen.

Andrew: What a customer advisory board, how were you able to do it with enterprise customers?

Chad: I mean, the, you know, the simplified version of that is to say, Hey, Mr. At large brand, you know, we see that you’re an expert in your field. We’d love to have your advice and counsel on helping us grow and shape an offering that you would think that your division would have benefit from. And, you know, just that simple.

Discipline of making sure that you have a customer advisory board of which you can lean on, but then also offered them a pool of, you know, create a pool of shares for them to tap into, gives them, um, equity in to just at least it just, it’s a shaping it’s the, it shapes their mindset significantly. You’re not suddenly selling them something.

You’re actually soliciting feedback for them to participate in, build a solution just for them. And they’re vested with shares.

Andrew: Right. And how are their shares different from the investor shares who put up money?

Chad: They’re not by structure. They’re exactly the same. Maybe they are treated as a non-stock option purchase agreement versus, um, the stock option purchase agreement.

Andrew: Okay. So first customer after this new approach was who are, what type of company?

Chad: Uber came to the table. And then I think we were in the Alchemist when Uber actually came to us for a large scale project as well. And then it started to unfold to alcohol brands and, you know, it just sort of evolved from there. You know what I mean, 2019, we landed a deal with and that was quite large.

And these, these large scale location-based. No door dash then eventually came in 2019. We were the number one vendor to produce all the visual content for every menu item and door dash has archives

Andrew: Can you give me a sense of the types of photos, companies like that are looking for? Maybe you could take one that you can talk about publicly.

Chad: Yeah, We were hired to go do travel guides at the city. And the scope of work was to, was to shoot exteriors and interiors of restaurants, museums, and other public places so that the app had visual content that was shot in a specific way that would drive conversion because stock photography doesn’t drive as higher as high as a conversion as what you custom shoot it because you can match it aesthetic.

Oh, collectively against all the images in Berlin, we’re going to look and feel the same. And that is very different than sort of sourcing that from a stock archive where you have, you know, maybe 300 different photographers shooting, 300 different styles of images to help tell that story. It’s a much more cohesive driving it much more conversion.

If you have a small set of photographers shooting off of one creative brief to make sure that the aesthetic is matched and right and tight. Does that make sense? And that’s sort of the magic of stamp wire.

Andrew: So Chad, how do you pull that out of a customer? How do you get the right information from a customer to be able to create an aesthetic that photographers all over the world? Weren’t coordinated, weren’t talking to each other can recreate, can live up to.

Chad: It all starts with the brief and that’s when we replatform. That’s what we decided to do is to make sure that there was this one centralized record of truth that had all stakeholders collaborate and articulate around their visual, creative needs. And that is typically in any agency, brand or creative department, a creative brief.

And once the creative brief is identified and other stakeholders approve that, then you can release that creative brief and use it as a training. Tool for the creator to go create that content. And so you can set the aesthetic, you can set the shot list, you can set so many things that are important to the brand in that creative brief.

And that becomes the one document that drives the aesthetic. And we’ve done that now in our platform as a way as a tool set so that the assembly line associated with creating content is optimized. Provide stakeholder, approvals, and ends in efficient as well.

Andrew: I, um, as a software company, because so much of what I’ve seen is about how to coordinate, how much do you think of yourself as a software company versus a matchmaking company?

Chad: I see us as a tech enabled marketplace. That’s kind of how I see ourselves. So are technology enabled through the tool sets that we’ve built around the marketplace? And making sure that these efficiencies exist for these brands and teams. And, um, but certainly we’re nobody without our creator marketplace and our creator community.

And it’s beyond matchmaking because our, while our software and our technology matches somebody to a specific need based on their skill sets and also what is being requested. Um, we get involved, we sure we curate and we make sure that. Our customer success managers are ensuring success as this knee travels through the assembly line.

Andrew: I don’t want to talk about my second sponsor and I’d like to bring you into this because my second sponsor is a company called HostGator, which hosts websites. My site is hosted on HostGator. Um, but it also could host. Uh, marketplaces. Chad, if you were thinking about a marketplace today, what, what ideas would you kick around for a marketplace?

So maybe somebody who’s listening to us might say I’m going to run with that idea on hold. Yeah.

Chad: Uh, FinTech.

Andrew: What FinTech marketplaces do you think

Chad: Well, I think marketplaces have enormous lift to the participants in the marketplace when you provide a payment solution. If you think about it, enterprises have procurement teams and suddenly you have to have approvals and contracts and you have to have each and every vendor in the marketplace is connecting two sides and you can try to get out of the way.

Right? Well, if a marketplace could connect two sides and help facilitate payments, I think that you are building a

Andrew: you’re saying any marketplace that connects and facilitate payments, it’s not enough to just connect it’s the payment process that needs to happen

Chad: I think it’s just it’s it’s juice. I mean, it’s juice that can really provide a lot of value to the marketplace. And it’s something that Sapphire invested in and does that we facilitate the payments.

It’s important for us to control payments and the facility of the paints book to the supply side, into the bikes.

Andrew: And I think, um, I’d love to see more people run with is a marketplace for. Like for teachers who are either going to do one-on-one teaching or are going to do pod based teaching where right. We have a teacher for five kids, you need somebody to help find the right teacher coordinate. I would even suggest that one of the things that we’ve discovered is because so many people have gone to homeschooling.

Now they might be more open to doing digital nomadic families. If they could find a right teacher. Right.

Chad: Totally. That’s really clever.

Andrew: So make it easy for me to find a teacher in a different country speaks English or whatever language we need. In addition to the local language, she just has to help facilitate the zoom, set the zoom sessions.

And then on top of that, add extra. Alright,

Chad: I really liked that by the way. And you

Andrew: give kids, is that why you’re identifying with this? Yeah, me

Chad: And we all, as parents, we want to teach them a depth, a depth of culture that you can’t quite do today. And I really liked that idea.

Andrew: I wouldn’t even suggest yes, I would want this for, for my kids so that we could become more, more free, more location, independent as a family. I’d even say sometimes as a family, when we go away on a trip like spring break, summer break. I don’t want my kids with me all day and they don’t want to be with me all day.

I’d like to find a teacher who can say, here’s what we’re going to do today. Drop them off at the museum. I’m going to do a museum day with your kids tomorrow, drop them off at this other thing at this park. And we’re going to do a park day and maybe you get a couple of families together, but you bet I want that vetted.

I want that person really, um, Uh, to be bedded and to also be watched potentially, but there’s something there. Give my kids an experience that is more than they would get in a classroom, but not the same thing that I would want out of, out of travel.

Chad: I do. I really think that’s very strong like that. Just

Andrew: to me, people. Yes. It’s like what.

Chad: kinda like you take tutor beats, uh, you know, I think there’s another website that affords you to find travel guides, like, like, um, when you’re going to travel

Andrew: Yeah. You know what it is? It’s um, there was a period when rich would have a black car driver and Uber let’s use the overused word, democratized it by making it available to more people. And then it went from black card or something even simpler. We now all have our private drivers. There was a period when only the rich had governesses.

I feel like the governance, if you watch these old movies, you could see she taught the kids in some, what was it? Harriet, the spy. I loved that movie. She taught Harriet by taking her through the neighborhood. Right. Give everybody access to that. And I think we’ve got something. All right. I’ll close out the ad by saying, listen to me, people, if you are, I always have to close it out by saying, listen to me.

I guess I’m from New York. Where are you from? You grew up in California. Lodi. You said right? Okay. I always have to talk like a new Yorker. Listen to me, people, if you take that idea or any other idea, and you want to run with it, go to When you do, they’re going to give you a low price platforms that are just so easy to build on, but also easy to take to someone else. If you’re not happy with them, that’s how confident they are, that you’re going to like their hosting and you’re going to love what they do for your business.

And it’s an inexpensive, if you use my URL limited time. Go to, and they’re going to go even lower than they have before locking that price right now. So you can start creating your ideas, you’re, you’re kind of entrepreneurial. I would’ve thought that your photography I’ve got photos of you where you look so freaking cool.

I was a little intimidated talk to you. Um, but were you an artist or an entrepreneur or a combination of both growing up?

Chad: I was a creative kid for sure. But I was always sort of the entrepreneur. I mean, this is coming from a kid who he and his brother would do paper routes. We would stop off at our neighbor’s house, pick her flowers and try to sell the flowers back to the same neighbors. So it worked out obviously clearly out of empathy.

She was wise enough to know that we had just destroyed her garden, but, um, at the age it gets, we were cute. I don’t

Andrew: But that’s chutzpah. That’s a set of, right. It’s, it’s tough to get kids to even go and talk to an adult and buy, you know, go get the pizza from the pizzeria without having an adult go speak for you to, for you to say, I got these flowers you want to buy. Where did that come from? That, that guts, the

Chad: You know, I think, uh, I think I probably have two grandparents, my second generation immigrants, I think like they, they were sheep herders and grape growers, you know, they just had to make it their way, like from Italy, you know, it was just my dad.

Andrew: up on the house where your dad, your family would talk about, um, the types of things that they did to get by the things that they did to sell? Yeah. What’s one of the stories you remember.

Chad: Um, one of the stories I remembered that my great-grandmother lived in, uh, in Stockton, California, which is just South of Lodi. In a hotel of which the sheep would be herded in the hotel to keep the hotel warm, just like they do in the Basque country. And they had a restaurant upstairs and they would feed all the sheep herders and it was dirty and gross and grimy.

And it was third world brought to Stockton, California in the early 19 hundreds. You know, it was just the way that they knew how to make a living. They made that living there. So

Andrew: Ask is that where they’re from the part in Spain?

Chad: It’s between France and Spain. Yeah,

Andrew: I, um, I dated someone from there. She was just as hotheaded, new Yorker, like, as I am, is that a cultural thing? It seems like it, she was very proud of that being part of our culture.

Chad: guess. Yeah, you certainly have some bigger TF for sure.

Andrew: What’s the artist part of your background? Like how did that express itself?

Chad: It came, honestly, it started out by just saying, you know, uh, Ted traveled Europe had gone to the Basque country, came back from there as a kid after college. And I was like, you know what, I’m going to go into the movie business. And so I held the boom oppor. That was a boom operator for a guy named Roger Corman, Roger Corman studios, which was like B roll movies, B movies I’ve done in Venice.

And I kinda got bit by the production bug more than actually the visual art part of it. But yeah. That led me in an interest to go learn how to shoot films and make commercials. And I just really loved the medium of doing that and, uh, bought myself a 16 millimeter camera as a kid, maybe would make commercials for jewelers around San Francisco.

And it was just a blast. They I’d get my friends and they’d be, and I had started. Right. I didn’t realize it was doing gorilla productions, like real based productions, but I called grill really affordable scrappy productions. And it turns out that’s exactly how and why our community is successful at producing this visual content today on standpoint is that they’re effectively these young, aspiring creators who are just hungry to create and they’ll do almost anything and everything to kind of get that job and get it done and do it within a price point because it’s mostly driven by passion that, um, That really echoes.

I think by youth, when I, when I was doing it,

Andrew: I see them on YouTube. These, these photographers will talk about just like we entrepreneurs. We’ll talk about the first dollar we made and how we got the first, like real perfect. They do videos talking about how they made the first dollar by selling stock photography or by finding this online gig. And I hate to say it.

I get really excited and wound up in their story for some reason.

Chad: Right. Yeah. Um, and that’s kind of why we existed, you know, it’s like why we, we, uh, while we were so successful in onboarding so many creators in the creator community side of things so quickly, I think is that we were really aspirationally driven.

Andrew: You raised money. We talked a little bit about it, but part of it was equity. Crowdfunding. What was that process like?

Chad: It was pretty hard. Um, we were, um, we were one of the very first companies under the jobs act to test the waters. Believe it or not. It’s a campaign thesis that is related to equity, crowdfunding. And early on, there were so many unknowns. We, uh, had been approached by, um, start engine and we funder, but I think SeedInvest was the first company that came out to us and said, Hey.

I think you’ve got a good community. You have the good chops to go and do this. And, um, a lot of energy and effort was put into generating campaigns to our own community, to have them invest. And you know what? There was a lot of interest. I mean, we raised like over $13 million of indicated interest for people who said, yes, I want to invest in what you’re doing.

And I think the shortcoming of crowdfunding is, is that you really have to get it right when you’re trying to determine what the price of the shares are going to be in to make sure that the audience that you’re talking to can afford that. And I think we got it wrong. The very first crowd funding exercise we did, we offered it, um, our shares at $600 a share, I think, or $600 investment, um, to aspiring photographers who can barely.

You know, for coffee,

Andrew: Uh, so you’re saying you should have made the, you should have reduced the

Chad: that threshold way, way lower

Andrew: maybe more shares, lower price per share so that there’s more participation. Uh,

Chad: that on this second equity crowdfunding campaign that we did with we funder and it was much more successful.

Andrew: We fund, or you did $184,000.

Chad: Yeah, by contrast, I think it was a hundred something and change on, on start engine, but the number of investors and you, you know, you look at different metrics for, for raising money. Um, and by the way, this was bridge money by definition, right? This wasn’t the big money that we raised in our series. A, but you know, this was money to kind of get us through our transition and our pivots.

And so, uh, it was important. Uh, it was important part of our life when we did this.

Andrew: So I, I see a start engine, $168,000, roughly. Um, but that’s like what one angel investor would put into a business.

Chad: it was a lot of, it was a lot of work for a very little proceeds, but I’m telling you, we didn’t, we couldn’t go to the angel network. Right. We had, we had done that already. So we, we still were needing more runway to prove out our model and, um, You know, necessity is the mother of invention. And, and for me, we were sort of seduced by the big opportunities of big financing by financial raises.

And we were obviously disappointed at the numbers that we ultimately yielded and proceeds, but I think the. But the, uh, the dream of having it be a much more successful outcome. Was there any, you know, you go today, there are very few companies that raised large, large amounts. Most of them are in this a hundred, $165,000 range.

So that’s the lesson on crowdfunding.

Andrew: Crowdfunding has not worked. I mean, not it hasn’t hit its potential. What has is these like angel list funds where one, one person raises a big amount of money and then goes, invest. It’s weird that that’s, that that took off more than people banking in a

Chad: Yeah, I think it was just part of the journey. You know, I think that they had to go through this crowdfunding thing to see how the syndicates would actually unfold and how they would work and be successful. Uh, but you’re right. Yeah.

Andrew: I wonder why I would think that there’d be more of an appetite for investors to say, I get this one business. I love this business. I’m going to bank on it. As opposed to I like this investor, I’m going to bank on him and it’s usually a him and give him 20%.

Chad: I think when you’re, you know, you’re going to invest in crowdfunding because you’re that passionate about the product or service for sure. And that’s why I think if you look at crowd funding portfolios, there’s a lot of bars, liquors, things like that that are tangible things because you you’re, it’s like a supportive way of getting access to the product or service, right.

But a company like snap wire, you kind of want to lead, you know, you just people that are investors are invested. People wanting to invest will find comfort in a lead investor. And I think that’s why these syndicates work.

Andrew: can we, can we talk about your co-founder in the business?

Chad: Yeah, I’ve got Ryan Duane or my original one.

Andrew: There was one that’s not there anymore. Right?

Chad: A guy named sky Gilbert joined me when we first started our journey early, early on. And, um, and shortly after we kinda got going, you know, we, we part ways and, um, and it was a, it was a tough boy. You talk about things that kill startups. I mean, losing a co-founder that’s right up there with them, like the risk.

Oh, dying was high there. I think just by morale alone, nobody wants to break up or not move on.

Andrew: Yeah, if that person’s leaving, if that person’s out for whatever reason, then what the rest of us don’t know.

Chad: totally. So at any rate, um, that was a really hard time and, um, it provided a lot of doubt, but I was convicted on the idea and convicted to make this thing work. And this is what the insanity tenacity sort of comment again, you know, we stuck with it.

And today I, you know, I’d probably a little unusual I’ve incorporated another new co-founder whom I absolutely adore Ryan Duane. He’s currently the co-founder and COO of the business and together he and I and another team member had entered into the Alchemist. So we kind of got retrained and retooled altogether.

In 2017, we move into the program and, um, came out with this sort of new focus on the enterprise and have been building the business together ever since.

Andrew: Your wife, are you in business together? I know you guys started together.

Chad: We started media bakery together. I’d met her actually way back when I was a kid pulling transparencies at the image. Um, yeah, we built that media bakery business together. She runs that media bakery business today. Um, but yeah, we, we don’t, she’s not involved with the business then snappers business.

Andrew: And you’re together still

Chad: So we’re still together,

Andrew: for a second there. I said maybe I should have checked beforehand.

Chad: right? Yeah, no, we survived. We survived. She was very supportive. I mean, if you can’t, I mean, talk about entrepreneurs. I think Alan Morgan told me, I think, you know, there’s a quote by Reed Hoffman. I think this is right. Which is like, you know, being asked to choose between the marriage and the, the, you know, the startup don’t ask.

It’s just like, just don’t ask me that question. That’s a really tough one. And so it’s a challenge to be in a relationship and to build a business and she’s been nothing but supportive in so many ways that I just couldn’t be here without her support.

Andrew: It’s easier though, to not be in the same company all day and be in the same house all day.

Chad: Yeah. Yeah, that is, I mean, certainly it was hard, but you know, we met in the workplace and so I think we were a little bit of, you know, easy, easier at it. We joked around that we had been married when we were married at five years. We’d been married for 50, but there’s a lot of days and time that we had spent, uh, spent together.

Andrew: You like being married in, uh, Santa Barbara has gotta be hard. Everyone’s beautiful there. all right. This has got nothing to do with nothing, but I took a look at sky’s business. I guess. He’s he’s running hitch now. It’s part of Rainmaker labs, Scott, this beautiful carafe, which I guess it’s like a water bottle graph.

Anyway. Really nice design.

Chad: Yeah, he’s an exceptionally talented designer. And, um, I would say that the designs that he, um, made, um, for, for snap RS, uh, early mobile apps are still in place. And then the community side are still in place. Uh, his original vision. And the

Andrew: I gotta say.

Chad: the product was exceptionally talented.

Andrew: EV usually when I go through the internet archive and take a look at people’s sites, there’s like horror shows in the past, but we’ve overcome them. No, your stuff is so good. Like throughout. Yeah. Hi and everything that I’ve seen going back in time for you, Chad is just, I could see it an aesthetic.

I can see a care for design. I told you when you and I connected you had the right headset on you, weren’t just going to use whatever piece of garbage Mike came with your computer. You’re good to go. You care about this stuff. And I appreciate that. All right. For, for people who want to connect with your company right now, snap is the place to go.


Chad: correct. Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Are you guys big on Instagram? Should we send people there?

Chad: we’re, uh, we’re Instagram as well, handle the step wire. And you know, the best way to connect with us is through the demo request site. We’re servicing brands and businesses all over the world to produce customers will content and be happy to introduce you guys to our solution. So

Andrew: All right. And I’m going to just follow you guys on Instagram right now. I just found it and I want to thank Sue sponsors who made this interview happen? The first one, if you’ve got an idea for a website or you already have a website, get the right host for it. And that is HostGator that’s who hosts my company here at Mixergy.

If you want them to host your site, get the best price available from them. And frankly, get tagged as a mixer Jeep supporter by going to And if you want to create a calculator, a quiz, anything like that, that will help you get your leads, but also be functional for your audience. Go to

That’s out. Chad, thanks so much for being here.

Chad: Thank you, Andrew. Enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me share my story.

Andrew: Thank you for doing it.

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