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HashFame’s Founder On Solving The Creator Trust Problem No One’s Cracked Yet

HashFame currently operates as a directory for discovering and contacting creators. But Sridharan’s bigger vision is building an ecosystem of trust through features like ratings and reviews for creators and marketers. “The idea is how do we solve for trust or at least set expectations before users get into the space,” he says.

HashFame’s Founder On Solving The Creator Trust Problem No One’s Cracked Yet

Anirudh Sridharan left a career in India’s e-commerce industry to pursue what he saw as the next big opportunity – the country’s emerging creator economy. In 2023, he co-founded HashFame, a platform connecting creators and brands for influencer marketing campaigns.

The company aims to be an exclusive professional network, manually verifying all users before allowing them access to the free platform. Throughout HashFame’s evolution, Anirudh’s emphasis on staying user-focused has been crucial.

Journey From E-commerce to Influencer Marketing

Anirudh has spent years working in India’s e-commerce industry at major companies like Flipkart and Udaan. But he saw an opportunity in the creator economy that was starting to take off. “In China, the likes of Pinduoduo and the creative space in general are booming, and probably now is a space where India is always 10, 15 years behind China,” Anirudh said.

That realization led Anirudh to establish HashFame, a platform that connects creators and brands for influencer marketing campaigns. “I had a firsthand view of how influencer marketing [and] how creators…there’s this whole ecosystem around creators. There are agencies, there are brands, and there are talent management,” he explained.

The entrepreneur says he “was just fascinated by [influencer marketing]” and looked at it from the point of view of e-commerce, where the objective is to eliminate middlemen. But, as he notes, in the influencer marketing space, “it is the middlemen that drive the business and take it forward by adding some sort of value to the chain.”

Building Trust in the Creator Economy

Currently, HashFame operates as a directory for discovering and contacting creators to work on campaigns potentially. But Anirudh says the bigger vision is to build trust between creators and marketers on the platform. 

“We aim to [add features like] ratings and reviews…so let’s say Google as an example. You go to a restaurant, you really like the restaurant, you rate it on Google…In a similar space, do we get to rate creators? Do we get to rate marketers? And is that going to solve the trust problem? In a way, we feel that is going to be the first step towards doing that,” the commerce specialist says.

According to him, “The idea is how do we solve for trust or at least set expectations right before [users] get to the space. If you double-click on trust, there are multiple other things, right? I might be a really good creator to work with…but I may not stick to the timelines. I may not be okay with multiple retakes or multiple re-edits. So there are multiple layers to trust.”

Curating an Exclusive Creator Community 

Anirudh sees HashFame evolving into a professional network for the creator economy, with a focus on being an “exclusive community for creators and marketers working in the space.” A key distinction is that HashFame manually verifies users to ensure they are legitimate creators or marketers before allowing them on the free platform.

”The first and foremost step is we don’t have any gatekeeping mechanisms per se, but I mean, gatekeeping mechanisms, we are free to use platform,” the company’s co-founder states. “The only gatekeeping mechanism we have is to verify whether you are a marketer or not manually. We manually verify your creator or not because we don’t want everybody to come in.”

Building this trusted ecosystem of verified users hasn’t been easy. Anirudh cited motivating his team amidst creator economy startup failures, deciding on product trade-offs, securing funding, and driving distribution as key hurdles.

Staying User-Focused and Adapting to Change

For Anirudh, listening closely to invaluable user feedback and adapting accordingly has been crucial to HashFame’s development. 

Initially resistant to including creators managed by agencies, Anirudh changed course after “overwhelming feedback” from users wanting that integration. He admits being initially wrong about excluding talent-managed creators from the platform. “I was initially hesitant because I was not sure how the [talent] agencies…would react to it. But to my surprise…almost all talent agencies were open to this idea.”

“Building something from scratch is about holding on to a position and then understanding why you’re wrong, then changing your position and not being emotionally attached to it,” Anirudh says.

It’s a lesson that reinforces one of Anirudh’s core principles: “Keep your eyes fixed on your users. We have a lot of good-intentioned advice floating around the internet on how to scale start-ups, how to find PMF, and so on. These were given by people who did the work ground up by getting their hands dirty through execution and will remain contextual for a bit. Instead of parroting their principles, for each one trying to build their vision, we should try to be close to our users to understand what their needs are. Only then will we be able to find the moment of truth for our business. That is a crucial lesson I’ve learned from trial and error.”

Anirudh also emphasizes the ability to remain flexible and embrace ambiguity has been vital. “The first thing I learned is if you have a [plan]…things don’t go according to the plan because there are way too many moving pieces out there that you should be comfortable with the ambiguity part of it…That’s something that I keep iterating to myself and to the team so that we don’t lose sight of where we are going,” he says. 

Creator Independence and Brand Authenticity

For the future, Anirudh sees two major industry shifts on the horizon for the creator economy:

Creator Independence from Platforms: “What I see happening is creators getting independent from platforms. I see that as the next major piece that happens because it’s currently a matter of platforms controlling the game,” Anirudh states. He envisions creators owning their audiences directly rather than being beholden to platform algorithms.

Brands Prioritizing Authenticity: Anirudh believes brands will re-embrace the authenticity that originally drew them to influencer marketing. “Brands will also come to realize that…authenticity is the first reason why I came to influencer marketing. But now, if you look at a lot of influencer marketing that goes around, it’s super artificial, and it looks plastic.”

These two forces – creator independence and brand prioritization of authenticity – could reshape the dynamics between creators, platforms, and brands in the years ahead.

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David Adler is an entrepreneur and freelance blog post writer who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship, travel and the influencer marketing space.

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