Monday, July 7, 2014
#besomebody: How A Hashtag Became A Movement Became A Startup
Inspired by his travels across the world, Kash Shaikh started sharing his experience on social media with the hashtag, #besomebody (www.besomebodyblog.com). After stints at Proctor & Gamble and GoPro, Shaikh soon realized he had a bigger mission--to turn what was a hashtag into a global movement. We recently talked to Kash about his new Austin startup and vision for the future.
What's the story behind Besomebody?
Kash Shaikh: I went to school at UT Austin, and spent ten years working for Proctor and Gamble, the largest consumer products company in the world. I worked on social marketing and communications for a bunch of their brands over that ten year time, including Old Spice, Tide, Pantene, and many other billion dollar brands at P&G. The last two years at Proctor and Gamble, I had a new role, which was to lead digital marketing for social, in all of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. I spent two years there on the road 85 percent of the time. I visited 43 countries, and trained offices and launched products all across the world. It helped me a lot on the professional side, and helped me advance and grow at the company, and it really changed my life.
There's something about travel, because you go so far, and see so much, you really learn more about yourself. I was really inspired by the people I met, and experiences I had, and cultures I was interacting with .Something about world exploration leads to self discovery. Because of that, i started writing about what I was inspired about, because one of my passions is writing. Because of that, I'd post these on social media, using the #besomebody hashtag. It became a personal mantra of mine. It was the perfect time, as I was just getting over a breakup, and getting back to the gym, and trying to figure out who I was and my purpose in life. I was inspired by the travels across the world, and started sharing #besomebody on Twitter back in 2009 and 2010.
So what happened then?
Kash Shaikh: Because of that, I started getting some following from that. I created the #besomebody blog, where I was sharing the real, raw experiences and emotions I was feeling from traveling all around the world. It was personal things, it was relationships, it was what unites us as people. Something crazy started to happen, which is people around the world started to use the #besomebody hashtag to share what they were inspired by, and what they were motivated by. There is power in words, and the term, #besomebody, really connected with people around the planet. It started to grow into an organized community of people, who were adopting that as both a mantra and lifestyle. As it was starting to grow and bubble up, I went to lead social marketing at GoPro, which as you probably know just had an IPO. When I went to GoPro, it was just this one story cottage on the Pacific, in Half Moon Bay. Now, it's a complex of three buildings of 75,000 feet, with an IPO. It was incredible to see how we brought it to that point.
What did you get out of those two different experiences?
Kash Shaikh: At P&G, I learned about brand building 101, and the fundamentals of marketing and scaling at the size of big companies and at the scale of big brands. At GoPro, I learned how to build a brand from the bottom up. It was grassroots, and I learned about the power of content to build a brand for you. People knew that Gopro stood for amazing photos, and knew that the camera created from them. There's a lot of passion for th ebrand, and passion from Nick Woodman, who I now consider a good friend of mine. We had a great employee community we built there, which is when I started growing Besomebody as a side project. About that time, I had this crazy idea and vision for building a brand and platform that no one had built before. It inspired me to see people connecting with #besomebody, and the cool thing about that hashtag is that it's abstract, but intuitive. It means something different, gives people a feeling that is both personal and passionate--which is the epitome of brand building. As a brand, you want people to love you, and how you make them feel. As I was building the community at GoPro, I figure out we were hamstrung by having a physical product. My vision here, was to create a brand and platform, and instead of starting with the product or service, start with the passion, the content, the community, and the grassroot experience. So, I left Gopro in March of 2013 to build this platform and model over the past sixteen months.
So where are you now?
Kash Shaikh: We're now the fastest growing, motivational movement in the world. I've been going on college tours around the country, and I've spoken at over 100 high schools, building a grassroots community which think sand feels #besomebody as a badge of passion. Along the way, I realized that the world isn't organized by passion. Whether it's our educational system, or our 9 to 5 jobs, they all suck the passion out of us. The technology of social search and algorithms aren't centered on passion. It's not rocket science. Why not create a single platform, to connect people about their shared passions? That doesn't exist. That goes full circle to where we are today. We're now the fastest growing ,motivational movement of over 4 million people in 180 countries wit our content, who want to go "all in" on whatever it is they love. We're building a mobile platform to enable people to explore, discovery, and reach whatever they are passionate about.
What does that platform and community offer to users?
Kash Shaikh: The platform we're buildling enables people to explore and discover their passions. It's a mobile platform on iOS, and lets them type in their passion, whether that might be graffiti art, surfing, kayaking, or other passions. They can explore the content streams that feed their specific passions, and browse beautiful photos and videos. It also lets you find people across the street, or across the state who share their passions. There's nothing that exists that does that now. I have 3,500 Facebook friends, and one of my passions is writing. But, from Facebook, I have no clue how many of those friends also love writing. There' no way to search based on passion. We think it is a game changer, to allow people to connect with experts--who we call passionaries--to teach them new experiences. Those experts will help decide what those experiences are, where they are, how much they are, and the marketplace will determine the value.
We're all living within an economic revolution, the sharing economy, the peer to peer economy. That economy is headlined by such amazing companies as Airbnb and Uber, which have enabled people to monetize their personal possessions. Airbnb allows you to monetize your home, so if you have a five bedroom home and three bedrooms are not being used, you can make money off those rooms by putting them on Airbnb. Uber enables people to sit at home, and make money as a Uber driver, by giving people rides. Airbnb has turned every house into a hotel, and Uber has turned ever car into a cab. What we believe, is that we're primed for the next economic revolution.
I personally believe that it's not your house, car, or clothes or jewely or any toy in your closet or thing in your garage which is your most valuable asset. It's what you love, your personal passions, and what you wake up every day dying to do, which makes it so you can't sleep at night. We want to help you take that most valuable asset, and help monetize it. Right now, it's likely what you are doing is not the thing you love, because nine out of ten times you can't make money off what you love. We believe that shouldn't be the case. There should be a platform that enables you to make a living, doing what you love. I know there's a massive market for it, because I spent a yera and a half, and traveled 75,000 miles talking to hundreds and thousands of people, who were frustrated because they're not doing what they love, and because they don't know how to get there. They're defined and confined by the educational system, which doesn't enable or empower them if they don't fit into the boxes of the school system. There are very talented people out there, struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck, who could be sharing what they love with kids who would love to learn from them. Our goal is to connect them all via their shared passions, so that everyone wins. I call it the passion economy. The student wins, and the expert wins because they get to live their passion every day, and make money off it. That's the dream. #Besomebody wins, because we've been able to put them together. We'll also take a small transaction fee between the people and the passionary so we can continue to build and scale. We believe if we can prove that, we can create the next, economy revolution, the passion economy.
For a very early stage startup, you managed to get a big, media company as an investor. How did that happen?
Kash Shaikh: We have a perfect, strategic investor with Scripps. They're a media company, a content company, and a community building company, which is why the values of their company fit so well for us. We realized early on that we were not looking for a traditional venture capitalist or investor. We were looking for a strategic partner who shared our vision for a single platform for passion. They bring many assets and intelligence to the table, which will enable us to grow and scale quickly. Scripps has a history and heritage in storytelling, and more importantly, they are one of the best companies and experts in building local communities. Our goal, as a seed stage startup, is to start by proving the passion economy here in Austin. I believe that Scripps will be a perfect partner to enable that. If we're able to prove that, we'll be able to provide that passion opportunity in year two, three, and four, across the world.