“Adaptability is built into our culture.”
GingerSnaps: You’re an artist by training, and now a tech entrepreneur who comes from a creative, rather than a tech or business background. And this isn’t your first incarnation. You started as a creative consulting firm which you led for a number of years.
Analisa: Catch&Release was born out of the consultancy I started, with customers and a service I was already providing. I was already generating revenues. I was able to bootstrap the company for two-and-a-half years before raising outside capital, and it allowed me to hire key executives, like a seasoned COO, early on.
GingerSnaps: How did your business change when you refocused on building a product, a technology platform? What shift did you have to make?
To promote Pantene’s SHE, a search engine that combats gender bias, Townhouse created a powerful spot using authentic, archival footage featuring real women from around the world. Townhouse sourced most shots themselves and used Catch&Release to clear and license them. Watch the video. Check out other Catch&Release client stories.
Analisa: The challenges are very real in transforming from services to a product company. The upside to starting with a services model is customer testing, being able to be inside our customers’ day to day, and learning their needs and pain points. That customer-centricity was a real benefit in developing our product. But it was a monumental shift in the way we generate revenues, from being paid by the hour for our time to being paid by the unit for our product. That shift reverberated throughout the entire ecosystem of the company and our customers. Everything changed, from our business model, pricing, and marketing, to how we talk to customers, how we sell to them, and how we hire. It was exciting but dramatic, too.
GingerSnaps: How so?
Analisa: There is a common theme among service-oriented startups. You optimize for the project at hand, and solve a customer’s challenge, and then move on to the next one. You’re geared toward the maximum return on that one interaction while ensuring your margin and satisfying customer interactions. It’s more like farming, where you’re tending a plot of land with seeds already planted and growing the business customer by customer. Shifting to product mode, now you’re ripping out plants, buying up more acreage…it’s a whole different sense of urgency. We’re not just optimizing by project, but optimizing for an entire market. It’s like going from a micro view to a macro view.
GingerSnaps: How did your background in the arts prepare you for running a business?
Analisa: I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug. As an artist, you’re tasking yourself with coming up with something from nothing. You’re building a body of work, and putting yourself out there. In art school, you’re always getting critiques and feedback, and having to defend your position while listening to that feedback, and not taking things too personally. Being an artist is a bit like being self-employed. You’re working for yourself and it’s up to you what you do and don’t do. I started a company because I was interested in building a team, creating something new, and recruiting people to do it. You can do that as an artist, but it’s all about the artist. I wanted it to be more than about me. I loved the sprint of the production world, being surrounded by so many talented people, buzzing around and collaborating and making stuff together.
“The early-stage investors we raised from are visionaries themselves. They’re taking risks just like the entrepreneur is, and they have to believe and support the vision.”
GingerSnaps: You mentioned your business was already pulling in revenues and making a profit when you started to seek outside capital. Why venture capital?
Analisa: You can’t go hyper-speed from a picnic blanket to the universe without investment capital. And we got to $3 million in revenue on services before seeking outside investment. I needed outside investors when I made the commitment to shift from a services model to a product and tech model. But our revenues, while good, were not that exciting to investors. I had to show that [our] revenue was not the sole indicator of the market opportunity. The future is servicing customers by technology. So it wasn’t apples to apples. They are completely different businesses. I was pitching a completely different model than what the business up to that point was. I had two hats on, and knew I had to paint a completely different picture of the future than what they saw in our revenue traction.
GingerSnaps: What was your process for raising capital? Did you have a network in place you could tap into?
Analisa: It was like following a trail of breadcrumbs. Especially for a first-time founder like me who never fundraised before. First, I asked, do I know any wealthy people? Maybe I know one? Who do they know? Then, it gets more targeted. One of my colleagues had a friend who worked at a tech startup. I didn’t know any other CEOs in tech. That wasn’t my network. I was an artist, a graduate in art theory. I had a broad network of museum curators, artists, art writers, that was my world. It started with meeting those tech people and asking them, how did you do it? Through those introductions and conversations, I started developing my pitch deck. My first one was 20 pages long, all tech, it was like a thesis. It was the most ridiculous pitch deck ever! But I got feedback on it, and made it better over time. Once I felt confident with my story and plan, I then road tested it with actual investors. I looked to my network, to introduce me to ‘friendlies’ who could give me their perspective. I also met someone early on who came on as an advisor, and had experience fundraising. He educated me a lot about the sales process and the psychology involved. It’s the same in fundraising, it’s a process.
GingerSnaps: What lessons have you learned in pitching to potential investors?
Analisa: I had to adapt to the people I was meeting, and sometimes tone down my excitement about being able to present to them. My advisor pointed out that they should be excited to meet me, too. They should be selling themselves to you, too. It’s a dance. There’s a supply and demand component to entrepreneurs and VCs. I had some leverage in those conversations because I had the company and the vision. When I was pitching and taking a meeting, I’d prioritize those I had a good connection with. With GingerBread, for instance, I met [GingerBread Capital Partner] Ita Ekpoudom who came to an event we held in New York. It was a fabulous evening, over 75 people showed and it was a cool way to mutually vet each other. She was in the room with our customers, saw me present and she contributed to the quality of conversation and intellect in the room. After that night I thought, this is going to be a great fit for us.
GingerSnaps: We think so, too! Why is it important to have women investors in your cap table?
Analisa: Having women represented in every stage of this process — founders, executives, board members — is important. It’s important to have different perspectives at the table. People who come at challenges differently. It’s not to say that a group of men don’t bring a range of perspectives, but the more diversity you can have at the table, the stronger you’ll be.
“You have to be extremely persistent, and stay recklessly optimistic about the potential for your vision.”
GingerSnaps: What advice do you have for founders who want to raise investment capital?
Analisa: You have to be extremely persistent, and stay recklessly optimistic about the potential for your vision. Every lead is a lead, and you have to follow every one to the end. And you have to be a little lucky. Not everyone has the luxury of choice in fundraising because you have to raise the money in order to keep the business going. There were a few times I was close to taking money from people I knew I might regret later.
GingerSnaps: Can you share some pitch tips?
Analisa: There’s a great saying, ‘When you want money, ask for advice; when you want advice, ask for money.’ When you’re fundraising, start the process before you actually need the money. Get your pitch deck and position together, and then road test it. Because it takes longer than you think.
GingerSnaps: What are your ultimate goals for Catch&Release?
Analisa: We want to continue to build our product that makes the entire Internet licensable. And that people in the creative ecosystem are using Catch&Release as their main source for imagery and video. We want to be the platform that makes the transaction of that content possible, and makes an entire new economy possible for the creators of imagery and video.
What’s behind the name? How the art of fly fishing inspired the naming of Catch&Release.
“Powers of 10” on YouTube.