Editor’s note: This profile is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing series by Crunchbase News examining diversity and access to capital in the venture-backed startup ecosystem. As part of this project, we’re following seven seed-stage entrepreneurs over the course of several months as they build their businesses. Read our previous profile of Josh Fabian and his unconventional path to founding Metafy here, and access the full project here.
You can always count on social media to take your world down a peg or two.
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After 10 months of solid growth, and about a month removed from closing a $5.5 million seed extension, Josh Fabian watched Metafy, his online coaching platform for gamers, reach a modern-day, social media age milestone.
“We finally reached the hater tipping point,” joked Fabian. “So that’s been interesting.”
The so-called “hater-tipping point” is Fabian’s term for that inflection moment when something becomes popular enough to attract criticism on social channels.
“I think it’s a way for people to stand out, and also find inclusion at the same time, if that makes sense?” he added. “If you complain, someone is going to listen and maybe agree.”
Fabian said last month was the first time he really saw some people on Twitter — where everyone has their own megaphone — take shots at the coach-for-pay model of his Pittsburgh-based startup and suggest those coaches should do it for free.
“I mean, capitalism is here,” laughed Fabian, adding coaches can teach for free on the site if they choose, although that obviously is not the path most will follow.
Not going to change
Fabian believes the upfront social media presence both he and Metafy have will always attract some disdain from people who don’t completely buy the persona the company shows as genuine.
“We’re pretty genuine, and that makes you vulnerable,” he said. “But I never want our social media not to be genuine. I’m not going to pretend to not be me.”
He said he also understands that while some people use social media to complain, some also want to use it as a sounding board to get his ear. The importance of listening to users is also something he is figuring out more as a first-time founder.
“I think some people complain to get me to listen,” he said. “And, guess what, if you complain I’ll listen.”
Metafy recently added a selection of featuresthat give users the option to pick specific coaches based on additional skills such as which character they want to use, the language the gamer speaks, or even a certain gaming strategy they hope to employ.
“Those features came from our community,” he said.
Social media also has helped the company do the one thing many companies today are having a problem with — hiring.
Fabian said after Metafy recently posted an investor update, 70 people reached out to the 21-person company for jobs. In addition, the company is working with executive recruitment firm Hunt Club on some significant hires.
“It’s funny, each hire makes the next one easier,” said Fabian, adding he considers the company’s genuine social media presence and the fact he is building the company publicly as “the cheat” to helping find good talent.
“I just think it brings people to you,” he said.
In addition, Metafy also added 54 new coaches to the platform last month. The company vets each coach individually and now has nearly 550 coaches.
However, not all numbers are going up, Fabian admits. After 10 months, Metafy saw its first down month in May — something he’d been anticipating. “We knew it would come,” he said. “We were kind of expecting it.”
Metafy’s cash burn increased while gross merchandise volume (GMV) took a dip to $56,401 from $76,615 from April.
A variety of issues contributed to the drop, including some coaches being able to finally attend in-person events — and therefore not coaching on the site — as well as players using prepaid lesson packages they had bought in previous months.
“We are on track this month to beat May’s numbers, so we’ll see,” Fabian said.
Fabian instead seems more concerned with some of Metafy’s newer attempts to direct traffic to the site. It took out ads on sites like Twitter and Reddit, and while those ads had a good click-through rate, conversion into paid bookings did not pan out.
“Our conversion is not great, so we’re working on the landing page,” he said. “We’ll see what works.”
Regardless of the drop in sales, Fabian remains optimistic as the company continues to grow its marketing efforts and add new features to its platform that he believes will elevate and help define the company.
“I think the one thing we are seeing right now with what we are adding is that we are a software company,” he said. “We are not just a marketplace, and that’s exciting.”
Photo illustration by Dom Guzman
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