Introduce yourself and tell us about Voices.com.
I’m David Ciccarelli, the co-founder, and CEO of Voices.com. Voices.com is an online marketplace connecting business people with creative service providers, namely voice actors, audio producers, musicians, and translators. Since founding the company, it has grown to over 1 million registered users from 160 countries around the world.
What problem is Voices.com solving?
Historically, hiring professional voice talent was cumbersome. Every stage of the process was problematic with little consistency from person to person.
The clients (buyers) had problems including finding the right talent for the job, communicating through agents and other intermediaries, booking expensive recording studios in major centers, and then traveling to those studios, negotiating terms, and making payments.
Similarly, the talent who worked remotely had trouble finding new clients with any consistency, winning jobs, and knowing that they’d get paid.
We’ve set out to resolve these problems with our online marketplace which is purpose-built for hiring creative professionals.
What sacrifices have you made to become an entrepreneur?
I mentioned earlier that I co-founded our company and I did so with my dear wife Stephanie. Stephanie and I have always worked together and raised a family while growing a company. The sacrifices were working for our company when friends were going to parties or traveling on vacations. We were juggling young kids and working on our business. Looking back, however, I wouldn’t change anything.
What is your marketing strategy?
We’re taking a more holistic view of marketing starting with brand awareness, user acquisition, custom activation, and customer advocacy. This cycle requires distinct content and programs for each stage of the customer journey. So, we’re becoming more sophisticated in our approach to both gaining new customers and retaining those who we’ve had the pleasure to serve in the past.
When it comes to tactics, we’re putting a much greater emphasis on audio and video content for our YouTube channel to complement the long-form written content that we feature on our blog and in our guides. While we have several podcasts, some of which have been running for more than five years, our video channel is just ramping up.
Tell us about your biggest challenges and how you overcome them.
One of our biggest challenges was discerning the right time to raise capital. While we were successful in taking on debt for working capital in the form of a $30,000 loan and then over time, scaling up to a $2 million loan, a key decision point was when to bring on institutional investors such as venture capital or private equity.
As a result of an annual strategic planning exercise, we uncovered an opportunity to acquire a competitor. To finance the acquisition and dramatically accelerate our growth it was clear that the time had come to bring on a financial partner.
After preparing the right documents to raise capital and running the process, we successfully raised $18M from Morgan Stanley. From there, we made our first acquisition and continue to grow as a leader in our space today.
What is your long-term strategy to grow the business?
For the last couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program. There I learned a great definition of strategy. The strategy is the integrated set of choices that positions a firm for superior financial returns over the long run. In short, the strategy is a choice.
Our strategy is what we call “Platform First” which is shorthand for building an online marketplace that enables our users to post jobs, get responses, hire, and make payments in a frictionless experience. This catchphrase states our key choice to build the definitive destination where work gets done.
What’s your best advice for new entrepreneurs?
My best advice for new entrepreneurs is to be intentional about the choices you’re making in your business. Don’t just fall into things or pursue the first opportunity that appears. Instead, be clear about how you make decisions and intentional when it comes to those inevitable forks on the road.
Common choices involve who to hire and when, when you should raise capital, from whom and on what terms or features should go into your product, and how you price for value. These all need clear choices that when you make the right choice it becomes tremendously encouraging.
Share your favorite quote with us.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Jeff Bezos who said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room. A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn a reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
David is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Voices.com. He’s a graduate of the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology and is currently attending Harvard Business School. David writes about his business experiences in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur.
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