Los Angeles is known for much more than the entertainment industry. A hub for startups, there’s no shortage of up-and-coming social and tech businesses.
Great businesses frequently come from the sheer virtue of working on something else. And no one knows that better than Angelenos. Two years ago, Kyla Brennan was working at a company in Santa Monica-based incubator Science, when she developed the idea for HelloSociety – a Pinterest marketing and technology firm that represents the most-followed users on Pinterest.
During her time at Science, Brennan realized that a lot of the traffic for an e-commerce site, Uncovet, was coming from Pinterest.
“It was this really highly converting traffic that was resulting in the majority of their sales; organic traffic coming from the fact that people liked their products and were pinning them. I looked into that traffic,” Brennan continues, “and realized there was a handful of people on Pinterest who accounted for the majority of sales.”
One instance she noticed: a woman named Victoria – “SF Girl by Bay” – pinned a set of pencils from Uncovet, and it sold out “like within an hour” after pinning it.
Brennan started reaching out to these really influential pinners, and began connecting them with some of the companies within Science, as a test.
“One pin would send thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – of unique visits, and it would result in sales that were so much higher than they were from Facebook and Twitter, and sometimes even from search. It was crazy.”
That became her business model.
“I’d reach out to the pinners and … would have them pin whatever they wanted. Then, we would track the traffic through these specialized UTM codes and figured out that it was resulting in real sales. So I just started cold-calling companies that I thought would be a good fit and asking if they wanted to work with some of the top Pinterest users. And that’s how it started.”
In a nutshell: “There are people who have massive audiences, so we take their huge reach and influence, and pair them with advertisers. We’ve now worked with almost a thousand brands, running campaigns through Pinterest.”
HelloSociety represents more than 300 “influencers” working with brands at this point.
“Pinterest has 70 million people on it, so 300 might not seem like a lot. But the power in that is that there aren’t that many people that have huge audiences on Pinterest. And you can’t build your audience the same way you can on Facebook. You can’t find followers. There’s really nothing you can do unless Pinterest has at some point identified you as a “Tastemaker,” and put you in the forefront when people are signing up. … So it’s a small group of people who have the influence, and it’s a group that is almost impossible to break into. And that makes them super powerful.”
One of the things Brennan loves about having a tech startup in Los Angeles – in addition to the near perfect weather – is that it’s easier to stand out.
“There just aren’t as many of us here as there are in like the Silicon Valley,” she says. “When you go to a dinner and you meet with people in San Francisco, a lot of times there are 8,000 others of you doing the same thing and everyone has sort of heard it. I think here, it’s still a new enough space that it’s easier to differentiate yourself.”
And then there’s the weather.
“I feel like I have all the same advantages that people do in Silicon Valley, but I don’t have to deal with the fog and the cold.”
There’s so much opportunity for growth. HelloSociety will be branching into Instagram and other image-based platforms soon. Brennan also hopes to eventually work in a closer capacity with Pinterest.
“For anyone who wants to start a business,” Brennan adds, “I would say you can’t be afraid to fail and you can’t be afraid of giving up a little bit of your life for it. When you’re starting a company, you have to be willing to make sacrifices and work harder than the next person because a lot of people want to be here. And sometimes at the end of the day, what differentiates you from somebody else is how much you love it and how hard you’re willing to work. I think sometimes when you are young, too, it’s hard to give up your social life for a minute. It’s harder to see the big picture, so you really have to sort of keep your eye on the prize.”