Making cash from the social mish mash
By Caitlin Sykes.
If you’ve noticed your younger Facebook friends have been a bit quiet of late, they may be increasingly hanging out in newer additions to the social media landscape. 
One of the latest hangouts that’s drawing growing crowds is messaging app Snapchat, and that’s presenting a burgeoning opportunity, particularly in the US, for a young Kiwi company. 
Mish Guru builds software that allows big brands and marketing agencies to better manage their Snapchat accounts. For the uninitiated, Snapchat allows users to send photos or videos to contacts, who can view them for a few seconds, or a ‘snap’, before they disappear. Mish Guru’s technology helps brands both manage their Snapchat content - giving them the ability to pre-create, upload, schedule and deploy their messages - and access analytics to track how their campaigns are faring. The Kiwi startup also creates content and manages the Snapchat accounts of some clients.
Mish Guru has been going for just over 18 months, making it one of the early players in the ecosystem evolving around Snapchat, which itself was only released four years ago. Mish Guru co-founder Tom Harding says while there are a couple of other companies playing in this space, none have the full service offering the Kiwi company has developed encompassing content creation, content management and analytics. 
After raising around $450,000 earlier this year in its first round of angel investment, led by the Auckland-based Sparkbox Ventures, Mish Guru has been focusing on sales into the US market, and Harding is now based in New York. 
“Not only is it a big market, but it has a high concentration of the brands and agencies we want to work with and a higher penetration of users of the app,” he explains. “Broadly, our target market is millennials - people aged between 13 and 27 - so we’re looking to partner with some of the more fun and playful brands that are big on social.”
The company, which now has a core team of five, had its beginnings in the Lightning Lab digital startup accelerator in Wellington, where its founders were resident, early last year. 
The team entered the lab with a vastly different company idea - to create customised 3D-printed horseshoes - but when they realised they weren’t going to get the traction they needed with that concept they began throwing around an idea for creating collaborative video content. They built a simple version of their idea using Snapchat, and in doing so realised they had happened on something with much larger potential. 
“We saw there was an amazing opportunity in the visual storytelling space where Snapchat was operating, but we saw some major problems with the way that platform worked and thought there were things we were doing with it that could make it easier for others to use,” says Harding. “We started talking to as many brands and agencies as we could to work out whether this was something they were interested in and had a lot of really good feedback. We only had five weeks left in the lab, but we decided that was the idea we were going to pursue.”
Mish Guru angel investor and advisor Ben Young, a co-founder of creative digital agency Young and Shand, says within 18 months the startup has built up customer case studies, got an initial foothold in the US, built their product on a platform that’s changing every week, and has early signs of revenue growth. 
“Mish Guru are in an incredible spot right now,” says Young. “Amongst teens, Facebook usage is declining year after year, and at a market level there’s a $25 billion disconnect between attention on mobile and advertising. Over 100 million people are active daily on Snapchat, and every brand and publisher is exploring how they leverage the platform. So you have these intersecting drivers with Mish at the middle of them. It’s very exciting.”
Written in conjunction with the Angel Association of New Zealand.
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