Anyone who has worked a stint at a production house or creative agency will know how enormously chaotic managing projects and talents can get. And this disorganisation may throw a project’s development cycle out of whack, causing repercussions, especially when up against a time crunch.
Singapore-based startup Staragent was formed to tackle this problem. Co-founders George James Parel and Rohit Jha first brainstormed the idea of developing a platform to serve creative agencies in 2015 after conversing with a friend in the industry.
Their friend described how existing project management systems were inadequate and archaic in her company (a leading Singapore-based creative agency). For example, information on casting models was stored in word documents and kept in alphabetic folders; definitely not optimal when scaling the database.
Using cloud solutions
Jha, with his expertise in big data and building web products, and Parel, with his design and marketing skills and connections with digital agencies, put their heads together and first built a basic cloud-based SaaS platform which provided central data collection, automated onboarding, and KPI monitoring.
They claim the beta software worked successfully when it was deployed in their aforementioned friend’s agency. With that in mind, they decided to launch the product — available on both web and mobile — commercially, while bolstering its features to tailor to the complex needs of the creative industry.
“Staragent is not a company HR CRM software. Yes, you can add and manage people (models/talent), projects and clients through it. But, this is where its similarities end with traditional HR CRM or traditional Project Management tools,” says Jha in an email interview with e27.
“It has a powerful and extensive onboarding form, created after talking to many leading talent agencies, which captures over 50 different features and parameters specific to this industry,” he clarifies.
As a result of these extensive consultations, the Staragent platform implemented features such as a custom intelligent media management module to organise and manage model pictures from photo shoots, and an event booking module for audition reminders and blocking shoot dates for talents.
In addition, it also has a comprehensive analytics function which provides custom performance and revenue analytics. For example, it can display a list of top performing talents, and a breakdown of a particular talent’s revenue from television, film, live events so agency owners can make data-driven decisions.
The entire platform is stored in cloud, so data is not only easily retrievable, it can easily be backed up, thus, preventing loss of information if local hard disks fail. Additionally, hosting on cloud means scaling costs will be relatively low.
Staragent generates revenue through a monthly subscription model that is tiered based on the number of people, projects and talents within each agency.
“Because we are so confident about the benefits of our platform and usually projects in media & entertainment span more than a month, we are giving the first six months as free so that agencies can really understand the improvement to their existing operational techniques. The current pricing is our first iteration based on our early customers and their feedback. As we grow and bring in new product features, we plan to continuously optimise the price,” says Jha.
Staragent’s commercial platform went live just two months ago and has already onboarded four high-profile agencies from across the world including UK, Netherlands, Singapore and the US.
Jha says more business deals between other agencies in these countries as well as India are in the works.
“Based on our current and prospective client pipeline, we are estimating revenues of S$150,000 (US$110,000) to S$200,000 (US$147,00) in the first year (while maintaining our first 6-months free offer). These are our most realistic and grounded expectations without considering any external sources of funding later in the year to support rapid scaling up,” adds Jha.
Scaling and moving forward
Currently, besides Jha and Parel, the company only has three other employees — all engineers. Staragent has plans to ramp up hiring and is in talks with experienced B2B candidates with extensive media and entertainment industry exposure to speed up expansion into new markets.
“We are also planning to expand our sales offices accordingly in major cities in these markets to have boots-on-the-ground. Simultaneously, we have a well-defined product plan for the next year where we want to continue to build valuable features for our clients. For example, an audition/casting management module and a custom celebrity management module,” says Jha.
With regards to external funding, Staragent is looking to raise up to S$500,000 (US$367,000) to fuel these hiring, tech and expansion costs.
Jha says the platform already tackles many pain points in the talent agency industry, but there are many other issues that remain to be resolved.
“There are still major challenges ahead to solve — how to protect talent/models from the huge number of scammer agents/agencies? Is there a better way to source talent, like finding talent from social media & video sites through machine learning & sentiment analysis, rather than hosting local casting or modelling shows? Can we help agencies across borders collaborate and manage creative projects by pooling in diverse talent & resources? These and many other tough questions are what we want to continue addressing this year and next. I strongly believe that if we have this vision then we might as well tackle the toughest problems or else we are just like any other average company in this industry,” Jha concludes.