What They Learned: Maisie Williams and Dom Santry on Launching Daisie Worldwide

Published on
May 8th, 2019
Category
Interviews
Daisie opened its doors to the public today.
Last August, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams and film producer Dom Santry released Daisie — a LinkedIn for creatives-esque app — in private beta. Backed by Maisie’s influence and a mission to level the playing field for creative professionals, 35,000 people requested early access to Daisie in the first 24 hours after it launched.
Today Daisie opened its doors to the public, and is now available *worldwide* on iOS and the web. The platform lets people collaborate on projects in real time, chat with other creatives and build out their network of contacts in creative fields.
So what’s changed in the last nine months? We caught up with Dom and Maisie to talk about the challenges that high-profile press can bring, how they found their core users at art schools, their focus on the ‘messy middle’ of creative projects and why they're leaning into mood boards.

On the *aha* moment:

DS: I had been working in the film industry for about two years and went home to catch up with some friends from school who felt stuck in their jobs. They just weren’t meeting the right people and I felt that was incredibly unfair. So I took that problem to Maisie and told her how I think that something like LinkedIn for creative people needed to exist. Maisie really understood that problem because she had been asked throughout her career — “How did you make it?” and “How can I make it?” and “What can I do to give myself the best chance?” As an actress, she was in the right place at the right time and was the right person. So that was sort of the point where we were like, let’s make this a thing. And it was always going to be a tech product.

On shifting to a web platform:

DS: Now, we’re slightly moving towards being web-first and the app will be more of a secondary device. We just think that a lot of real creation, particularly with a career-focused perspective, comes from people uploading things from their computers and spending a lot more time on the content they’re pushing.
The realization was that people wanted to use this as somewhere to do real work and they wanted to spend time curating what collaborators could see. That isn't always achievable on an app.

On big takeaways from the beta launch:

DS: What we initially wanted to solve was just connection in creative industries; people didn't know the people they needed to know to break into certain fields. But another problem we’ve discovered along the way is that there isn’t a simple way to progress ideas through what we call the “messy middle of production.” Everyone is familiar with the process of getting an idea and putting pencil to paper. Then once your idea gets made, it goes on YouTube, a website, etc. The “messy middle” is that middle section where ideas come through things like email, WeTransfer, Dropbox, WhatsApp, or iMessage. We want to streamline all of that into one creative hub. So this second version is more of a space to promote collaboration, allow people to get feedback, allow people to invite others into their projects, and to show the creation of messy, incomplete projects.

On getting a ton of press:

MW: Just because you can generate a big hype around your product, doesn’t mean it necessarily helps. Sometimes you just need really targeted people, and that can be more important than creating a big storm. So that’s really what we’ve been working on with this second launch — we’re going in and finding those communities and really making something special for them.
DS: One of the biggest challenges for us is the special situation we find ourselves in, which is that we are always going to have easy access to huge amounts of people. We knew that this product was going to be seen by a lot of people and a lot of people were going to want to be a part of it, not only because of the following Maisie has but also because this is such a big problem for creatives. But we weren’t building this on a large scale. We were a team of five, we had one engineer, we were all super young and this was unchartered territory for us.

On new features:

DS: We discovered that the tooling needed around collaboration is really something that we can hone in on and build. So we created shared mood boards — they’re spaces to collaborate on ideas and share visual imagery. Then on top of that, we’re adding chat. So the user experience is split into real-time chat with your collaborators and an area for images. It’s sort of like visual-first group chat.

On finding Daisie’s core users:

MW: We went to a lot of universities and a lot of art schools. In terms of marketing — last time we were more focused around big articles in big publications, where now we’re trying to take the focus away from me and trying to find other creatives we love. So we’ve looked at people in film, fashion, music, photography, art, and literature that we really admire and profiled them. Now, instead of just me and my audience it’s those people and their audiences too.

On how they’ve experimented:

DS: With our beta, we had zero onboarding. We just wanted to see what people think the product is for. We sent out a bunch of surveys asking things like, “What is missing for you right now?” and “What do you need?” Then we took the people we were surveying and didn’t hold their hand because we wanted to see what the product communicated to them without any copy. We wanted feedback, but we also wanted to discover how people use the product with absolutely no direction.

On how they work together:

MW: Dom’s on this full-time and has eyes on everything, and I sit mainly in marketing, brand and culture. Dom’s really seen the huge picture for Daisie and driven it to where it is now. I think I’ve always been more of an anxious person anyway, so when there’s a big idea I’m there to ask all of the big, difficult questions. So it’s really great to have someone who can scale that back, and think through what’s really important. In that sense, it works really well for us. We can run everything by one another.
DS: Maisie asks the questions I always think past and she’s always challenging me. I think that’s so healthy — to have that person that questions everything and makes you think through all of the decision making.

On transitioning from actress to tech founder:

MW: I’ve learned how technology deficient I am. It’s a blessing in disguise. I’m a really creative person, but in terms of knowing keyboard shortcuts or navigating through a breadcrumb trail — I’m bad at that. There’s so many incredible tools I’ve discovered in this process, like Notion and Slack.
The stability of doing a nine to five is also lovely. The movie industry is sporadic and unpredictable. I’ve really enjoyed the structure that comes with working in an office, even if we do a lot of work out of the office. I really like the feeling of being on a team that is all working towards the same goal.

On what’s next:

DS: We would love to establish ourselves as the place for creative collaboration. We want to be the place people go to meet their people and get the opportunities they need to get a career in the creative industries. We also want to start to look into new territories. We hope to be fully established in London and then we'll move to the U.S. to reach more creative communities that already exist, but need the network effect.
MW: We want to branch out and also head to Berlin. When we originally launched, we had a lot of users in Berlin and New York. I think it’s exciting that we really did hit the creative scenes to begin with.
Published on
May 8th, 2019
Category
Interviews
Comments (1)
Analyser PRO - CTO
Great article Taylor, it is very important to make clear this kind of things happen: second launch, change of direction. Wonderful Arya still have time to develop Apps between killing Night King and escaping dragon fire :)
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