Featured Startup Pitch: Maestro Market applies the ‘sharing economy’ to expertise
Founder: Ian Shea
Headquarters: San Francisco (with an office in New York City)
Year Founded: 2009
Brief Company Description: Maestro Market is a unique and first-of-its-kind platform that connects people with their ideal experts.
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Maestro Market is redefining the way people find and connect with influential, exceptionally skilled people—‘maestros’—across a wide variety of areas in a way that is mutually beneficial. Through Maestro Market, users are, for the first time, able to connect directly with their ideal experts, or even their heroes, to learn a new skill, solve a pressing problem, get inspired, gift an experience, or indulge a desire. The maestros span a number of industries including parenting, writing, social media, food, and wellness. Maestros use the platform to share and monetize their expertise while platform partners are able to expand brand awareness, create new revenue streams, and develop deeper engagement within their online communities.
I conceived of Maestro while seated next to Scot Schmidt, a famous extreme skier, at a banquet dinner. As an avid skier myself, I was thrilled at this rare opportunity, and it occurred to me that such experiences don’t need to be rare at all. And so, the inspiration for Maestro Market was formed. It was my background in finance and management, however, which helped me build the site, and its team. I began my career as an investment banker at Patricof & Co., and then I was general manager at Replay TV, which I negotiated through two sales and a bankruptcy to a successful return to profitability and eventual sale to DirecTV.
Marketing/Promotion Strategy and Business Model
We are powering the platform through a unique and strategic blend of supply and demand partnerships. These include:
Individual Maestros – These are experts that come to the site or are recommended by existing Maestros and who apply to be part of the platform. As the company continues to grow and develops more awareness within multiple vertical markets, Maestro Market anticipates that this sector of the supply chain will grow organically.
Maestro Partners – Partners include publishing and magazine companies, sports teams, publicity firms, etc., and represent an opportunity for these brands or publicists that represent large groups of experts to help populate the supply chain, and to further monetize expert skills and content. For example, the digital content division of a magazine company may be interested in making their expert editorial team available beyond traditional content through one-on-one meetings, seminars, symposiums, etc.
Maestro and Consumer Partners – These partners will help to fill the supply chain and also provide demand while monetizing consumers in a new way. These companies already have a platform of experts and consumers that interact on their site. The issue is that they do not have the back-end platform to facilitate the type of service that Maestro Market can offer to their visitors. Take Evolver.net, for example—a site dedicated to social issues with 1,200 contributors and 250,000 unique visitors each month. They have the maestros and the demand and their audience has often asked for direct access to these experts. Maestro Market is helping them facilitate these unique and personalized interactions.
Consumers – For Maestro Market, consumers represent the demand side of the equation. As the company continues to raise awareness through a mix of SEO, marketing/advertising, and public relations, Maestro Market anticipates that traffic and revenue will grow as the company grows and its awareness spikes.
Consumer Partners – These are partners that help to drive demand—Pubslush, for example. Pubslush is a writing community of people that are aspiring authors. Access to the types of experts that Maestro Market has in the writing field is of great benefit to the Pubslush community. Partnership allows Pubslush to curate its own branded category of experts using the Maestro Market database and to offer this to its members.
Maestro Market is also working with a series of partners to deepen and enrich the level of engagement between its experts and their audiences in new ways. The platform provides a more personal dimension than existing social media platforms. The connections are tailored by the expert and matched to the seeker’s needs and desires. The platform also operates as a new monetization tool for the partner and its individual experts.
Maestro Market’s editors and content curators assist in building partner expert profiles and branded category pages. We also develop branded category pages and provide partner development tools to power connections on the partner’s site.
Current partners include: Pubslush, Mom’s Choice Awards, Go Girl Finance and many more.
From a revenue perspective, here is how the model works: Maestros charge consumers for their expertise and Maestro Market takes 20 percent. Partner splits are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Market Opportunity and Competitive Differentiation
The Maestro Market platform is based on what many are calling the sharing economy, which in its simplest terms extracts value out of something that people already have—in this case it is talent and expertise. This economic model is built on sharing, swapping, bartering, trading, or renting access to products or services as opposed to ownership. A number of companies have risen as leaders in this space, and include AirBnB ($1.3 billion valuation), Taskrabbit ($77 billion valuation) and Etsy ($700 million valuation). The sharing economy is estimated to be $110 billion.
The market for expert talent began popping up in 2011 with two companies making an initial splash in the marketplace. Clarity.FM gives consumers the ability to call an expert advisor and pay on a per-minute basis. Skillshare is a little different in that it allows experts to schedule and hold classes.
Clarity has made it easy to drop a widget onto a website that lets experts charge for their insight by the minute. Maestro Market differs in that the company is going for a broader spectrum of experts, and supply/demand side partners. It also offers a unique business and revenue model for partners that Clarity does not have. Skillshare on the other hand, is meeting-based and while experts could host classes through Maestro Market, the overall platform is more scalable than what Skillshare offers.
Funding and Current Needs
Maestro Market has raised approximately $1.6 million through a series of Angel investment rounds. The company is looking to raise approximately $3.5 million to help with partner expansion, product development, and community building.
Maestro Market – www.maestromarket.com