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Cameo: the unicorn company that connects fans directly with more than 40,000 celebrities

By Endeavor Greece Oct 6, 2021

Can you imagine your favorite singer or actor you were in love with, in your teens, or even the athlete you used to admire, creating a personalized video message exclusively directed to you? The Greek American entrepreneur Steven Galanis has not only thought of it, but he has literally made it happen by creating Cameo –a startup founded in 2016– that has already evolved into a unicorn with a $ 1 billion market Cap. 

Cameo is an online marketplace (also available as Cameo app) that puts fans in touch with more than 40K actors, athletes, musicians, and other celebrities. Every user can hire them to create personalized videos or messages that can be offered as “gifts” for special occasions, by paying from as low as $1 to as high as $2,500.

The year 2021 has been a milestone year for the company, as it secured a $ 100 million funding, it doubled its manpower, and reached $ 100 million in sales. Steven Galanis talked on Outliers, Endeavor Greece’s podcast series, whose media partner is moneyreview.gr, and shared a number of useful tips for new entrepreneurs that he himself learned in his early years in Chicago. 

A “Spartan” in the USA 

Steven, who grew up in Chicago and permanently lives in Miami, does not speak Greek, but he knows Greece very well. As his father originated from Sparta and his mother has roots in Tripoli, Steven used to spend every summer in our country visiting his grandparents. They passed down their love for history to him, and he dedicated his studies to it. 

His first professional step was to work as an option trader on Wall Street. He held this position for 5 years, although it did not offer him any real satisfaction or joy. After that, he tried to enter the business world by founding Sparta Entertainment, a film production company. He soon discovered how good he was at fundraising when he managed to raise $ 1 million within a single day for a Baywatch remake, which he urges us “never to watch.”

His work experience at LinkedIn

The foundation for everything he achieved later on, however, was laid out by his work experience on LinkedIn. “I will never forget my first day there,” he points out. The manager welcomed the new employees by saying: “Welcome. In two years’ time, not one, of you will be doing what we hired you for today. We know it and we support it. So, start thinking about what your dream job is and find someone better to take your place in your current position.” This culture of promoting the employees’ careers, in other words,  providing them with a motive to seek promotion is magical,” he says and this is the mindset he wants to adopt at Cameo. 

The “hustler,” the hacker, and the hipster

Today Steven has been recognized as one of “Hollywood’s Top Innovators” of 2020 by The Hollywood Reporter, a “40 Under 40 ″ honoree by Crain’s Chicago Business, and as the” Innovator of the Year (B2C) “by Chicago Inno. What is his most important quality though? Approaching the right people, promoting an idea, and persuading them. He has had this gift since he was little, and he earned him the nickname “the mayor” when he was in kindergarten. 

His co-founders, Martin Blencowe and Devon Townsend, are completely different from him, as they have other talents. This, according to him, is absolutely necessary for a team to succeed. 

A founding team requires three different personalities: the hustler, the hacker, and the hipster. The hustler’s task is to “sell” the idea and create the necessary enthusiasm about it. The hacker has to find a new, innovative way to leverage the existing systems so that they gain a strategic advantage. You need the hipster in order to foresee what will be cool in the future. The three founders of Cameo meet exactly this description. 

The 5 elements of success

When asked what it takes for a company to succeed, Steven Galanis chooses to pass down the advice he himself received from the legendary investor Kleiner Perkins. He had pointed out that five elements are necessary: 

  1. To have a product in demand and to identify the target market.

  2. To have a world-class management team. Top executives should not only cope with fierce competition, but they should also shape the new leaders, in other words, hire people that are better than themselves in certain aspects.

  3. All employees have to be aware and understand the company vision and values.

  4. Employee loyalty: everybody should be motivated to do their best.

  5. Funding: To be able to raise the necessary funds for the development of your company.