Cape Town automated talent agency WECAST expanding to New York

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Cape Town-based automated talent agency WECAST is in the process of expanding to New York and Johannesburg after attracting thousands of users since its launch in March.

Founded in May of last year, WECAST went through several iterations before settling on a digital agency model in December, and launched its product in March of this year.

The startup is building what it says is the first digital and automated talent agency and job platform for on-camera talent.

“What we do is we help real everyday people make great extra income and be in “one-day-only jobs” in adverts and TV shows,” Jaryd Hermann, WECAST’s co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), told Disrupt Africa.

“We’re challenging the idea of traditional talent representation and making the first viable alternative to the restrictive and inaccessible modeling or acting agency. We’re taking away the need for the existing gatekeepers to jobs and reducing the costs in an industry that abuses the middle-man market.”

The startup, which hopes to become the homepage for the film and media industry in much the same way Airbnb has for travel, has seen strong uptake, having grown to 18,000 users.  It is also working with all the casting studios in Cape Town as well as many production companies and advertising agencies.

“Our booking repeat rate is just under 100 per cent, meaning every company who’s booked through us has booked again. We’ve seen “never-before” booked talent landing jobs for global brands, such as Airbnb, Gucci, Coca-Cola, Intersport, Burgerking, KFC and Pepsi,” Hermann said.

WECAST is now on the expansion trail, with the team presently in the United States (US) finalising a launch in New York.

“We’ve seen the demand here, and in all honesty the market size is much larger and more even more responsive to new technology. It also is the actionable next step for us in terms of our mission to work cross-city,” said Hermann.

“The goal is to connect talent globally to jobs, and work with international ad agencies and producers – building a global marketplace for people and jobs. New York is a fantastic space to start testing this hypothesis, as we will also be working with our marketing advisor from Buzzfeed.”

The startup, which will also launch operations in Johannesburg, has also rolled out a new product called WESPACES, which lets people monetise their homes, offices or unique spaces as shoot locations.

Charging 20 per cent commission on each transaction made through its platform, WECAST is already post-revenue and sustainable. Bootstrapped thus far, it has delayed fundraising in order to get as close to product-market fit as possible and secure dollar revenues, but did come close to gaining a spot in the last Y Combinator cohort.

“We got an invitation to reapply as we were in the top 10 per cent of the last interviewed batch,” said Herrman.

The startup expects success in its new markets given the global growth of the part-time acting and modelling industries.

“There is less and less talent looking for a full-time career, rather doing this as a side hustle to earn extra income. We’re solving for the flexibility that they need to do this that other agencies are not, and see the need for “per-job/on-demand” representation,” Herrman said.

“We’ve also identified trends in the type of person who is getting booked, and there is a huge shift from your classic good looking model or actor, that most agencies want to sign and represent, to your more everyday Joe that is relatable to an audience or has a unique skill. There is a huge spike in the need for “real-life talent” and we are perfectly positioned to connect these people with our customers and create a gig economy around this type of work.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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