Discover more from Consumer Startups
🗞 Capture life, one story at a time
+ 3 interesting Twitter threads
Hey there! Welcome to my email newsletter. My name is Leo Luo, a student entrepreneur at the University of Michigan. I write about founder stories, trends, fundraising, and unique behaviors in the consumer startup space.
Just started using Twitter recently - follow me @_leoluo
↺ What you might’ve missed in the last two weeks
09/06 - Story of Hyprr (decentralized social media) + Latif Peracha (GP @ M13)
08/30 - Story of Muze (creative messaging platform) + Klima (carbon offsetting app)
🍽 Today’s menu
Startup story - Artifact (Personal podcast with the people in your life)
Twitter threads - 3 interesting Twitter threads I read this past week
What I’ve been reading - 5 cool articles about VC and startups
Who’s ballin’ this week - 8 recent developments/fundraisings in B2C
Jobs - full-time jobs & internships opportunities
Feedback - help me to write better content for you
🔥 Startup Story
Capture life, one story at a time
(Image credit: Unsplash/Sam Rios)
Artifact (YC S20) makes personal podcasts with the people in your life. Once the customer chooses the subject, the Artifact matches a professional interviewer from its marketplace to interview guests and then produces an NPR-quality podcast. It helps people to capture important stories in their lives. For this week’s startup story, I had the pleasure of talking to Ross Chanin, CEO and Co-Founder of Artifact.
It all started when Ross lost his grandfather. He immediately wished he had spent more time learning his grandpa’s life story, especially the early days before he, and even his parents, were around. Feeling frustrated and at the same time wondering if this feeling was more universal, he began to think of ways to solve this problem for the future – not just for himself, but for anyone who felt the same frustration he did about someone or something in their lives and wanted a better way to capture those memories.
🤔 Framework on why starting a company
“I am 38. Starting a company at this stage is not about wanting to do something but it’s something you must feel compelled to do. I want to feel a deep sense of authentic pride when I explain to my daughter what I do for work. I and all my co-founders feel this way about Artifact.”
❓ Early questions
“Why hadn’t I done anything to learn more about my grandpa’s life?”
After talking to friends and family, the root cause seemed to be that Ross found it difficult to engage in deep conversations with his grandfather – the types of deep conversations in which he might have learned the things he so desperately wanted to know.
“How can I solve this problem?”
Ross went on to have what he called a “parade of bad ideas”. This included 1) a text-based app that asked people to fill out the information on their lives 2) A phone number you called to answer questions from a bot (you essentially spoke into a void).
He continued to try out different ideas and got continuous feedback from family and friends. Most got shut down immediately.
Ross eventually settled on the interview format after his co-founder George said, “I know 100 audio journalists who could do this right now”.
🚀 Product iteration
Stage one: MVP
Artifact’s MVP is a product built for Ross’s aunt, Cindy. They interviewed Cindy’s best friends, learned about how they met and what they loved the most about her. After the interviews, the audio was edited, and Artifact’s first personal podcast was born. They had two insights:
Personal podcasts can create emotional resonance. In fact, Cindy cried when she listened to the audio.
The delta between the audio input and the final output is extremely large. They were on to something.
Stage two: Feedback loop
After proving the value hypothesis, they started to iterate on the product with more friends and family. These iterations focused on a central question - “what would you want to capture if you could access a professional interviewer with the click of a button?”
After more customer discovery interviews, Ross and his team realized that there could be different types of Artifacts - ranging from reunions to birthdays.
🚗 Go-to-market framework
Ross and his team are using Tesla’s strategy for go-to-market strategy. They are currently “the Roadster or the Model S” stage - charging $175 per episode. For now, they are targeting families with more disposable income, but moving forward, the goal is to move to “Model 3” - a lower price point meant to appeal to more people.
💪 Creating a moat
Artifact, at its core, is a marketplace, matching interviewers with guests at scale. The goal is to create a network effect. Ross and his team are constantly getting structured data from interview feedback to improve the matching algorithm.
In addition, they are also seeing the potential of making Artifact into a social platform, which could encourage people to return to the content more often. They’ve had customers asking for certain engagement features, such as commenting and adding pictures to certain clips of a podcast.
Check out Artifact!
💬 Twitter threads
People sharing their favorite business articles
Why Austin Rief decided to quit his IB gig to pursue Morning Brew full-time
The harsh reality of trying to break into VC (written by my good friend Josh)
👨💻 What I’ve been reading
How to create a wellness startup that excites investors (Shout out to my mentor Jonathan from Lionbird)
Bessemer’s original investment memos on companies like Pinterest, Twilio, Wix, etc
What It Takes to Succeed at a Top VC Firm (interview with USV analyst Dani Grant)
10 Crazy Things I Did to Bootstrap My First Company
The S-1 Club | Snowflake and the Data Blizzard
🏀 Who is ballin' this week
In a startup reprise, Courtne Smith launches NewNew, a social network based on shared content
Carbon Health to launch 100 pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics across the US
Greenstop launches its cannabis vending machine in California dispensaries
Ribbon Experiences lands $1.2M Seed for live, recorded Event platform
Silk and Sonder lands $3.6M Seed for monthly women’s mental health program
Curio, the curated audio platform for journalism, has closed $9M Series A funding
The Pro’s Closet inks $12M for pre-owned cycling site
S2G Ventures diving into new $100M fund for oceans and seafood
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