How did Insense get started?
The inspiration was quite simple and came from our experience with advertisements in social media. While browsing Instagram back in 2016, we noticed a lot of advertising was just disgusting; the content was similar to banners from the early 2000s!
Anton, the initial founder of Insense, had his own social media boutique agency serving brands such as Uber and McDonalds. He worked a lot with independent freelancers and creators to deliver great creatives for organic and paid channels.
Some creative projects worked well, but many did not. The scale of 25 creators and over 50 projects made the process complicated at every step. He decided to build a platform to help other entrepreneurs, and presented this idea to me.
I was a mid-top manager at a payment company with quite a fascinating career path back then. At the time, I had grown to oversee 13% of net revenue of a $1B public company. Before joining, I analyzed the video ad market. I found it had a strong trajectory for growth because of the digital video segment. Ultimately, the most important thing for me was the belief of Anton. Me and Anton are brothers, and Anton still says that it was the best sell in his life :)
What’s it like co-founding a company with a family member?
Based on our experience, it has been great. Insense is not the first company we launched together. We co-founded another advertising company when we were students, and did the first small exit a year after the launch.
You need to fully rely on each other, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on them. We've had no cons so far. However, we are lucky that we have one more co-founder who is not a family member. He often acts as a mediator, and provides an additional opinion.
How did you know it was the right time to launch Insense?
The vision of Insense is to build a creator network that can speak loudly to creativity, and combines it with data. We have seen a huge need on the market to deliver better advertising to customers. Also, there is a rise in the gig economy, especially with new social platforms and apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. You can express your creativity with just a simple idea and an iPhone.
How do you handle risk and competition?
We definitely see competition, but think of it as a good thing. It means there is a big need in the industry. However, there is no player on the market that truly combines freelancer creativity and data-driven machine results for better performance. Also, we target mid-tier clients that are underestimated. All of our direct competitors work with enterprise clients primarily.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Supply & demand or the chicken & the egg in the world of marketplaces. The question: shall we start getting more creators to the platform, or find new marketers first? Also, there is the limit of resources, including time and investments. So, we focus on the most important and crucial things, and challenge a new hypothesis.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Yes, how to put your ambition behind your team focus.
Ambitions are always great, but focus is better. Especially at the beginning.
What’s your team culture like?
We call it the #insensefamily. We are supportive and do not settle. We care for our customers and teamsters, but are ready for honest feedback. We move fast, but strive for excellence. We enjoy the process and do Friday wake-surfing parties. We are family.
What is your superpower?
Working hard and always being open to feedback.
What’s your kryptonite?
When our customers or creators ask us to cancel their membership. We are always striving for excellence to deliver the best experience possible and when we fail, you start questioning what you can do better next time
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
When I need to concentrate I watch my favorite Twitch stream. That sounds weird, but it helps. I’m doing it now, for instance :).
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I love surfing and wake-surfing. It helps me to clear my mind and recharge my body. I enjoy both the process and the results. I am also a runner and did two half marathons for the same reason.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you were just starting out, what would it be?
Act even faster and forget about any concerns. Just do it and prove your vision.