While working as a band manager, Rebekah Campbell came up with a new and innovative way to connect music artists to their fans.
Despite being just a year old, Posse is considered one of the leading tech businesses in Australia, even attracting the interest of Google Maps founder Lars Rasmussen.
Campbell speaks to StartupSmart about how she did it.
So how does Posse work, exactly?
A band sets up their own posse and they are able to customise the page, and set tasks for their fans, whether that’s increasing Facebook likes, Twitter followers or posting links.
They link to existing content and tickets and encourage fans to go out and promote them. When people click through the links, we track them.
A band can say to their fans “join Posse and if you get four people to buy tickets you get into a sound check for free”.
Do this and fans go crazy and the bands can save money on advertising their gigs. It’s not like MySpace – it’s not a place to listen to music or comment on someone’s haircut.
It’s about promoting a band and connecting their fans to them. It’s about going from 300 Facebook fans to 5,000 Facebook fans.
We have emerging artists but also people like Ministry of Sound and Jack Johnson. Fans feel like insiders. It’s a win win.
What gave you the idea for the site?
I was working as a band manager for a band called Evermore. They were touring and their Perth show didn’t sell out.
We spent a lot of money on posters, which were so expensive. I thought, “this is crazy”. You want to reach a couple of thousand fans but hundreds of thousands of people walk past a poster without caring.
I realised we needed to get to the passionate fans. I emailed the Evermore database and said that the top five fans who managed to sell tickets to their friends would get to watch the band from the side of the stage.
It was very successful and I wondered how to do this online.
How did you raise money for it?
I put in $100,000 and a friend, who was a booking agent, put in $30,000. We then managed to raise $250,000 from friends.
We proved the concept then raised more money. We got $758,000 from Commercialisation Australia and then $1.5 million from 21 different investors.
How was the process?
I probably had 1,000 meetings every day, all around the world, staying in cheap hotels. It was really hard, but I did a lot of public speaking that gave me good contacts.
We managed to get investment from EMI in the UK which gave people confidence. I had contacts in the music industry and it was a clear problem that they all knew needed to be solved. Every start-up needs to solve a problem.
It was a long and tricky process, and it probably aged me by 10 years, but I learnt so much along the way.
As a non-tecchie, I could identify clearly the problem that needed to be solved. A lot of tech companies can’t do that. But I needed to surround myself with the right people.
I realised that the difference between a superstar tech team and a good tech team is the difference between Facebook and a shipwreck.
I bought the domain name in an online auction. I bid $5,000 and then the auction went public and someone outbid me.
My alarm went off at 2am so that I could get up and bid again. We kept getting outbidded, which extended the auction by 15 minutes each time. In the end I spent $28,000 for a domain name for a business that was just an idea in my head. I could’ve put that towards a house.
I did it because it was the perfect name. It isn’t confined to music, it’s short and it’s easy to remember. It also gave me a kick in the pants to get on with the idea.
How do you monetise it?
We charge 2.5% on gross sales. People buy the tickets directly from a ticket provider, we don’t do that. The average event spends 20% gross on marketing, while we are just 2.5%.
Did you make any mistakes along the way?
Yes, of course. I outsourced to India and was managing it in Sydney, which was the wrong move.
I then met Lars (Rasmussen) at Tech23 last year and he came along and saved me. I had a coffee with him and he told me what I was doing was all wrong.
He introduced me to Alex North, who was one of the top guys from Google. He joined and built a super-smart, young team. I think we have the best tech team in Australia.
What are your future plans for Posse?
We are focused on music at the moment, but the idea can be applied easily to other areas. We will be introducing other products from October. We’ve just gone online in the UK. This time next year, we’ll get further venture capital funding.