How We Built A 3D Media-Commerce Platform That Empowers Creators [6716% User Growth YoY]
Hello, my name is Mateo, Co-Founder & CMO of Mav Farm. Mav Farm is a 3D model of the real world, allowing users to create, watch, and shop the latest geo-located video and product drops. Mav Farm turns marketplace consumers into stakeholders by providing anyone with the tools to earn and build a media and commerce business.
To date, Mav Farm has reinspired over 30,000 emerging and established content creators, businesses, and their consumer audiences to collaborate more directly, economically, and less intrusively than paid ads, e-commerce subscriptions, and payment processing fees combined.
Our platform has grown its user base by 6716% year over year, with $2.6 Million in gross merchandise volume.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2015 with degrees in Film/Media & History. Honestly, after graduating, I was a little lost. I knew I was interested in media, internet culture, entertainment, etc., but I couldn’t pinpoint where I’d fit in within the industry.
I started interning at a company called Jukin Media, which focused on the production and also distribution of content, specifically in the YouTube space. I quickly understood the ins and outs of production.
Still, more importantly, I saw the power of user-generated content as well as the broken model of advertising on the internet. But I was still relatively new to the workforce and was more focused on understanding company hierarchies and landing my first salaried position launching a business.
Derek, the other Co-Founder & CEO (a good friend of mine from college and roommate at the time), was a content licensing and business development professional for startup VOD streaming services. He had a lot of experience working with different business models and also found a broken, inefficient, and privacy intrusive advertising system on the internet.
In the fall of 2016, he brought the idea and vision of Mav Farm up to me - to rid the internet of advertising as we know it by creating a platform that bridges media and commerce and allows anyone to be a creator, producer, and marketer - and asked me if I wanted to jump onboard. It was all history from then on.
We initially focused on the outdoor market. The video content was appealing, the technicality of the products benefited from visual content, the young community was very engaged, and I understood the market.
After a couple of meetings with executives in the fashion space, we realized that it was only a matter of time before the entire fashion market would adopt shoppable video and would start shying away from traditional methods of advertising on the internet. Hence, we decided to expand our focus from the outdoor community to the entire fashion/apparel market.
We would rather have 10 users come back every single day and love our product than have 100,000 users come one time and never return.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Both Derek and I are not technical founders, so we had to look around the world for someone to build an MVP, or as we like to call it, MLP (minimum lovable product).
In 2017, we raised some money from family & friends and angel investors and designed to go into build mode to launch our two initial products: a shoppable video app and a back-off we call Mav Farm Enterprise for brands to manage their inventory, manage sales, collaborate with other brands and creators, etc.
To speed design and production up, we decided to work with an agency that would spearhead all of our development initiatives.
This agency model did NOT work for us. Development costs were expensive, people working on Mav Farm would drop in and out of the project, communication was inefficient, and we simply needed more ownership of the product.
We tried this for a year or so and soon realized hiring was the most crucial part of building a company. We HAD to create systems that would attract the best talent in the world, and that would build the company culture we wanted.
We started hiring, and by the beginning of 2018, we had an in-house technical team from around the world that Derek and I had hired. We were and still are a completely remote company, so we had access to talent worldwide.
Derek became very proficient in digital product design, so I acted as the head designer, and I managed all product development processes. The quality of our product increased exponentially.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We never really had an official launch. The product has been constantly evolving, so thinking about development through official launches would’ve been counterproductive.
The first year was focused on designing, building, testing, and iterating. We are a design-focused company, so much of our time was spent testing new ideas around navigation, video consumption, shoppable through video, etc.
We’d see our competitors put a lot of money into marketing and have these public launches that would attract hundreds of thousands of users in a single day. That was never really our approach. We would rather have 10 users come back every single day and love our product than have 100,000 users come one time and never return. So that’s what we focused on with our first 1000 users. Retention, engagement, word-of-mouth growth, and keeping our LTV/CAC ratio greater than 3:1.
As a founder, you always want to work on everything simultaneously and expect the product to be perfect after every release. That’s not always the case. It is very important to create product development systems that prioritize features based on feedback loops, increase team engagement and create meaningful work.
We took it upon ourselves to make everyone a product owner, not just a company stakeholder. It was crucial to hire team members willing to help with planning, feature ideation and specs, product management, OKRs, and hiring.
Quickly, our ecosystem went from .show, the shoppable video marketplace, then added Mav Farm Enterprise, our business backend, and eventually mav.farm, our geo-drop marketplace. This ecosystem was built through team engagement and collaboration.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our ecosystem has grown its user base by 6716% year over year, with $2.6 Million in gross merchandise volume.
The most important aspect of attracting and retaining customers is building a high-engagement product users love so much that they will refer to others.
With social apps like Mav Farm, network effects are baked into the apps themselves, whereby the sharing of a user’s investments and rewards reinforces their retention, engagement, and referral.
For example, one of Mav Farm’s core features is collaboration management. Brands and sellers can create custom collaborations with users (brands, creators, users, publishers, etc.) already on Mav Farm or invite new ones through the collaboration workflow.
Systems like this are implemented alongside every feature we build to make our viral coefficient (k-coefficient) greater than 1.
While building a loved product, we focused just as much on distribution, which I’d emphasize is different than marketing in that distribution is the point of sale/acquisition for the customer, and marketing might just be where they became aware of the product/service/brand.
For Mav Farm, we utilize our customers to help distribute our products by embedding video players and products on their site… or by sharing videos and collaboration requests through SMS, email, and social media.
For example, we created a shoppable video player that could be embedded on any site on the internet. Publishers and brands could capture sales from their content, and at the same time, we would get free distribution wherever this video was placed. It provided free customer acquisition, brand awareness, and access to hundreds of thousands of new “users” that never even had to land on our apps.
We’ve barely spent much, if any, on performance marketing for a couple of reasons. We’ve used it more as a tool to understand channel costs in our market rather than to drive tangible results.
Firstly, it's expensive, especially in fashion and apparel. Secondly, it’s boring and inefficient. Our research shows that young consumers are becoming overly sensitive to overt selling on the internet, and a lot of them already have ad blockers.
Thirdly, we wanted to curate a high-quality marketplace, and many of the brands we work with don’t like placing themselves next to other brands on self-serving ad platforms. A lot of them don’t even spend on performance marketing anyways. When we promote ourselves, we are also promoting them.
Recently, we’ve been putting more time and effort into creating content that educates users on the Mav Farm and gives them fashion news, trends, and discussion topics. We’re also working on a content series where we bring young designers, brands, and creatives to chat about their journey, inspiration, creative process, etc. Remember, when users open social media apps, browse the internet, etc., they look for content, not ads.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Mav Farm has reinspired over 30,000 emerging and established content creators, businesses, and their consumer audiences to collaborate more directly, economically, and less intrusively than paid ads, e-commerce subscriptions, and payment processing fees combined.
Our ecosystem has grown its user base by 6716% year over year, with $2.6 Million in gross merchandise volume. We take, on average, between 2-12% of GMV in sales from the commission.
Finally, we’re always looking to work with new brands, new publishers, new creators, new designers, and more on creating unique experiences and helping build their businesses in creative ways. If you’re interested in collaborating in some fashion, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Perhaps this is obvious to other founders or company leaders, but the team/employees are the most important part of the company. Managing people isn’t straightforward, and you’d be surprised how complex communication can get, especially with a fully remote team.
There is no cookie-cutter process for team management. Every company is different, and it is important to listen to team feedback on how to constantly improve. Everyone needs to buy into the process, but processes get stale as companies scale, so updating these to meet current needs is also essential. People work differently. Some people like working in isolation, while others need a little bit more guidance. Both are important.
Finally, it's very important to get the team involved in the hiring process. It can be argued that it's the most important job in the company. They are the ones who will be working alongside new team members, training them, and creating new friendships.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Hooked - Nir Eyal
- Made to Stick - Chip Heath
- Contagious - Jonah Berger
- Crossing the Chasm - Geoffrey Moore
- Growth Hacker Marketing - Ryan holiday
- NFX network effect resources,
- Lenny Rachitsky’s Substack,
- a16 Marketplace resources,
- Ben Thompson’s Stratechery
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I could probably talk about advice and learning all day but:
- Listen carefully to the data but don’t get blindly married to it - The data doesn’t lie and it is paramount to making informed decisions, but there’s no data without an initial leap of faith.
- Always think about your next fundraise - Obviously, this depends on the business, but a successful founder once told us that raising money is a full-time job. It's annoying but true.
- Look beyond the hype - There is always a new trend, a new conversation topic on Twitter, and a new theory that certain businesses will fail and others will succeed. But like #1, it’s important to watch closely without becoming emotionally attached. It’s easy to get clumsy by trying to react to your surroundings.
- Your team is the most important - Without an engaged team there is no product.
- Focus on a product - Without a good product, there is no customer.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for people to help us grow. Please go here to see all open positions.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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