Meet Storyblaster, a New Story-Selling Software from Fellow Storytellers
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
Every creative has been there. You have an idea that you know has value, but you don’t have the time, resources, and social media savvy to relay that value to others. If you don’t have a benefactor in your back pocket, you’ll likely turn to crowdfunding. But to beat the odds and run a successful campaign, you’ll realistically need to spend a whole lot more time on the campaign than developing the actual idea. Enter Storyblaster, a new storytelling, story-selling software company started by three veterans from television, advertising, and tech.
Below, I talk with co-founders Maxine Lapiduss, Hillary Carlip, and Paul Bennun to learn why crowdfunding is such a daunting proposition, how each of their past experiences gave them insights into successfully launching an array of projects, and their goal for assisting creatives. “Our mission is to enable creatives, entrepreneurs, makers, and small businesses to raise money for their projects and products without having to rely on ‘higher ups’ to say yes for them to be able to succeed. We’re here to help people make their own success.”
Storyblaster is also currently hiring new talent on Working Not Working. “We’ve found incredible talent from WNW. With our commercial launch coming in January 2019, we’re now hyper-focused on sales and marketing, so we’re always looking for freelance content creators and producers—writers, video editors, graphic designers.”
Can you talk a bit about your respective creative backgrounds? Who are Maxine, Hillary, and Paul, and how did they get here?
Maxx: Hillary and I have been a couple for 26 years and worked-not-worked together during a bunch of them. I started doing standup at 14, went to CMU acting school, then became a TV comedy writer and showrunner, working on major shows in the ‘80s (Roseanne, Ellen, Home Improvement, Dharma and Greg). Hillary has been everything from a pro juggler and fire eater to a museum-showing artist, screenwriter, and bestselling author. We collaborated on her 5th book, where she had the vision to make it a multiplatform, immersive experience featuring 33 integrated websites she created herself, and multiple web series that I produced. I wound up creating a business plan to raise a million dollars from a sponsor so we could fund the project, and was asked to put together a panel for Ad Week. It was there, on his own panel, I met my second work wife—Paul Bennun, a brilliant oddball who co-founded the most successful multiplatform media agency in the UK called Somethin’ Else. He’s a mad scientist and adorable human, who was creating huge award-winning entertainment and tech projects and games for the BBC and big brands. After he and I met backstage for 15 minutes, we realized we were brothas from another motha so I business stalked him, until he finally Brexited to our guest house in Hollywood to make stuff with us.
How did your personal journeys in showbiz inform your transition into tech?
We’re all creatives who’ve had to figure out how to get projects financed. In ’99, Hillary and I started an online network for teen girls. We roped in Jennifer Aniston, and other high-profile women, to create a combo platter of Freeform meets Facebook before either existed. We were just 19 years too early. From that experience, I learned to raise money, pitch a business, create content for niche audiences, and become an entrepreneur, and Hillary continued to be a thought leader (and doer) on how artists can best leverage tech to support their creativity. At the same time, Paul was hugely successful with integrating tech and entertainment, as he comes from the digital and gaming tech world on top of being a world-class storyteller. At every step, we’ve all known that to reach an audience, great storytelling is essential. So, creating storytelling and story-selling software was a natural progression.
That brings us to Storyblaster, the new software company you’ve founded that’s an all-in-one social media solution for successful crowdfunding. How does it work?
Most of us know what it feels like when you have an amazing vision for a project or product, but it’s a huge challenge to get funding. Crowdfunding is a totally viable option, but two-thirds of campaigns fail—because it’s impossible to run a successful crowdfunding campaign without social media savvy. And because organic reach is a thing of the past, campaigners need to also find ways to reach their own networks and beyond to get contributions. With Storyblaster, we researched tens of thousands of campaigns from our partner platforms (Indiegogo, Seed and Spark, iFundWomen), and all their associated social media posts to find what tactics, intents, storylines, content, and tone result in trackable contributions; we then baked our findings into easy-to-use software. Our story-driven templates include daily guidance, strategy, and sample post content, so you simply Personalize, Publish and Promote.
What’s your mission for Storyblaster? What do you feel is missing and what do you want to take up and deliver?
Campaigners can either DIY their social, which is like trying to learn a new business on top of their existing one, or hire an agency that charges hefty upfront fees and up to 35% of the total raised. We’re bringing the expertise of an agency, and more, to the people for under $100. Our mission is to enable creatives, entrepreneurs, makers, and small businesses to raise money for their projects and products without having to rely on “higher ups” to say yes for them to be able to succeed. We’re here to help people make their own success.
You’ve used WNW to hire talent for Storyblaster. What kind of talent are you looking for? Are you currently hiring?
We’ve found incredible talent from WNW. With our commercial launch coming in January 2019, we’re now hyper-focused on sales and marketing, so we’re always looking for freelance content creators and producers—writers, video editors, graphic designers.
What do you look for in creative portfolios when hiring for Storyblaster’s creative team?
We look for a clear point of view that shows a unique way of attacking an idea. We love to look at, discover, and hire creators who are really gifted and commercial, but add in their own secret sauce to a project that takes it off center.
What advice can you offer to creatives looking to crowd fund personal projects?
Everyone should be clear on their message and the WHY of their story. Why are you doing your campaign, and most importantly, why others should care enough to support it and contribute. And everyone should understand that they need to set aside a budget for marketing so that their campaign can get out there to the right people. That’s why with Storyblaster, we put equal emphasis on both storytelling and story selling. Because if we help you tell an amazing story, it won’t matter if nobody hears it. Blasting it out to audiences that will contribute is just as important.