Insights from Giggster Co-founder Hank Leber on building a location marketplace for creators & content production | E1196

Top Insights

  • Building a business on top of another platform is risky, as revenue can go to $0 overnight by no fault of your own
  • Adding simple and easy solutions to archaic industries and business processes can result in rapid adoption
  • Giggster filled their marketplace supply-side first: once there was a large volume of high-quality supply, demand generation was much faster and mostly organic
  • When all sources of revenue are on the line, even archaic industries like film production can adapt quickly
  • Since Giggster has been operating successfully before raising money, they know their unit economics and are comfortable putting together an aggressive growth plan

Guest: Hank Leber | @hankleber

  • Co-Founder & Head of Growth, Giggster (April 2019-Present)
  • Website:
  • Hank previously was CEO of GonnaBE a planning social media app (they presented at LAUNCH Festival). The concept of planning socially wasn’t embraced by users.
    • Lesson learned: if you put out your plans publicly and no one comes you look like a loser.

“You have an idea that everybody thinks sounds great, then there’s an ugly cultural truth somewhere that makes it not a real thing.”

Hank Leber

  • Hank also had a company called Vytmn which was a “growth as a service” tool built on top of Twitter
  • Twitter shut down one of their key features, the ability for to automate actions like DMs, which killed their revenue ($1M ARR at peak)

“… do not build on the back of another platform, if they can kill you, they will, it’s not your money. That’s their money that you’re stealing.”

Hank Leber

  • Hank and his Co-Founder Yuri Baranov were not from the film industry, they are tech entrepreneurs
  • How they discovered the market opportunity with Giggster:
    • Yuri is LA-based and lives in a nice house near the water
    • One day, a production scout knocked on his door and offered him $70K to shoot at his house over two days for CSI: Miami
    • The process included door knocking, clipboards, paper contracts and excel spreadsheets
      • this “business flow” was terrible for a $70K transaction, so Yuri told Hank about it and they started doing some research on the production location industry
      • After realizing the location industry had been run this way for decades, they started Giggster
  • Giggster is a two-sided marketplace for video production, meetings, weddings & events. Think Airbnb for production locations and events.
    • Larger clients would be Netflix, HBO, Hulu, large production companies, etc.
    • Smaller clients would be TikTokers, YouTubers, Vloggers, etc.
  • How Giggster differs from Airbnb and VRBO:
    • Short-term rental platforms do not allow production shoots because they require more overhead: insurance, more people per location then allowed, production parking, waivers, etc.
  • Giggster added a services element because some film production teams need higher-touch support (above $2500-$3000 a day) these services include:
    • Logistics
    • Permiting
    • Power
  • In California, you can rent your home for up to 14 days per year tax free
    • Giggster has some client who shut down their listing after being booked for 14 days for this reason

“What we’ve found is, chicken and the egg, locations matter first. As long as we have the supply we can generate the demand.”

Hank Leber on starting a marketplace

Giggster has almost 10,000 locations on the platform

  • In the early days, they filled the supply-side inventory by:
    • partnering with Hollywood agencies, who already had direct relationships with private property owners
    • they also knocked on doors for early customers
    • filling the supply-side first turned out to be a good decision, as it created an immediate flywheels with renters
  • Customers needed a lot of education, so Giggster built out detailed FAQs and comprehensive signup flows
  • Demand has been strong and scouts are now loading their locations onto Giggster
  • If a major client (Netflix, HBO, etc.) needs a location that does not exist on Giggster, they will hire location scouts to go find and matching location and on-board them
  • Giggster saw an opportunity to expand with cheap inventory from pandemic disruption (commercial real estate, restaurants, etc.)

” (Regarding Jason’s Syndicate), the money is actually secondary to the quality of the network.”

Hank Leber

  • Self-funded for 3.5 years while they figured out the business
    • Took ~3 years to build a solid base and infrastructure, and now they are seeing rapid growth
  • Yuri (Hank’s Co-Founder) told him to go try and land Jason Calacanis as an investor, so Hank started reaching out to mutual contacts and eventually got a slot in a Remote Demo Day session over the summer
  • Remote Demo Day format:
    • Seven founders pitch thousands of investors over Zoom
    • Pitches are three minutes each, with a two minute Q&A with judges after
    • After all pitches are finished, the judges vote on their top three and the audience members (accredited investors) vote for their #1 company in a poll
    • One day later, all 7000+ members of Jason’s Syndicate get an email with the recording and a sheet where they can pre-commit a dollar amount to invest
    • Any companies that receive over $200K in interest are syndicated!
  • Giggster was The Syndicate’s largest investment ever
    • According to Hank, the quality of the network of investors created additional value beyond the capital invested

  • Giggster collects 15% from the final host payout as a service fee
  • Daily rates for a shoot range $2-30K per day depending on how high-end the location is
    • the average is around $8-10K
    • Larger long-term deals will hit 7 figures
      • example: ABC renting a mansion for The Bachelor for three months
  • Production came back online quickly during the pandemic, the film industry was really aggressive and inventive about their protocols
    • Even in an industry resistant to change, all of the money drying up overnight caused people to change their minds FAST
  • Giggster holds production companies accountable and cares a lot about reputation.
    • Location marketplaces need to maintain a good relationship with cities & neighborhoods so they can continue to operate
    • Typically the professional production companies have outstanding reputations for taking care of properties, however, a new potential business model is more uncertain…

TikTok content houses are a new media business model

  • Sway & Hypehouse are the most famous TikTok houses

    • These are new media operations that have very different needs and filming styles than traditional production.
    • They don’t have big camera crews but are also notoriously crazier than a film studio.
    • It’s not cut and dry how to service these creators yet, so that’s where Giggster is attacking the opportunity:
      • They are working to pick the right locations (areas with more space and fewer neighbors), and figuring out the insurance needs to service these new smaller-scale customers

Scaling Giggster

  • The importance of network relationships and trust is key for B2B. Cold emails work worse in this category.
  • Since Giggster has been operating successfully before raising money, they know their unit economics and are comfortable putting together an aggressive growth plan

” [once] you get dollars in the door and deliver real value with product-market fit, adding money to scale is a math equation instead of trying to paint a picture and tricking people into buying your vision of the future.”

Hank Leber

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