One of the buzziest shopping startups around right now was born in a Williamsburg apartment.
Rachel Tipograph’s Williamsburg apartment, that is. And this wasn’t your average laptop-and-desk setup. It was a full-blown video production situation, as the startup, MikMak, was creating hundreds of 30-second “minimercials” for brands.
“It just got way too crazy,” Tipograph, 29, told us over the phone. “I essentially lived in my office, so, I told myself, ‘It can’t go on,’ and that went on for a year.”
MikMak sets out to change the way you shop and consume ads. All the products are under $100 and nothing comes in sizes. From a jar of unicorn snot to Snoop Dogg’s chosen brand of vape pen, they have everything you’ve never even thought of, plus charming comedians as spokespeople, like Brooklyn’s own Akilah Hughes. See something you cannot live without? Swipe left to add it to your cart. Feels very Home Shopping Network for kids these days.
The startup, which has garnered press hits from outlets as wide-ranging as Wall Street Journal to AdWeek to Fashionista, closed a $3.2 million seed round in August led by Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerMedia. Tipograph has known Vaynerchuk for a few years now.
“When I left Gap as their Global Director of Digital and Social Media and started my company, I was like, ‘I gotta tell Gary about this,’ because if you think about Gary, he is a living, breathing infomercial,” she said, adding: “I felt that he would be a perfect investor and he is.”
Vaynerchuk joined the board after this most recent round. She said the two are kindred spirits, both “born sales people” who “move at the same pace.”
MikMak’s other investors include UTA Ventures and MX Investments, both in Los Angeles, plus Slow Ventures in the Bay Area and BRaVe Ventures in Manhattan.
MikMak gets a cut of sales done on their platform and produces content for brands, but their latest move is a subscription model for big brands who want to license their platform and tap into their distribution network.
Once Tipograph’s apartment became too crowded for the then-four-person team, they set up base at the Greenpoint Loft coworking space. Shortly after that, the team expanded, sending Tipograph on a mission to look for a bigger space.
“I literally went on Craigslist one weekend and went crazy,” she said. “Once I found our current space’s listing, I saw the space and immediately signed. It’s New York, that’s how you get things done.”
Located at 49 Bogart, a renovated factory in Bushwick, MikMak’s HQ is right above Swallow Coffeeshop off the L train. Speaking of coffee, Tipograph indulged us by sharing a few neighborhood favorites.
“Swallow Coffeeshop is essentially the second place we do our meetings at,” she said.
For business lunches, she recommends MoMo Sushi Shack. “I think the sushi is so fresh. Definitely a little pricey, but it’s very good for such an occasion.”
Another team favorite is Roberta’s, where you can enjoy wood-fired pizzas in their backyard or take it to go.
Straying away from the desire to have our third cup of coffee, we returned to the topic at hand. MikMak’s core team in Brooklyn consists of six people, but their team extends further than that with a large network of freelancers. Video production and app development are all done in house.
“My VP of engineering, Nick Herro, has been with me since the beginning,” she said. (Herro was previously a software developer at Manhattan HR software company Namely.)
We asked Tipograph if her team was still 50 percent women, but she said that has since changed. Still, she said she’s committed to diversity, especially on male-dominated film crews.
“I have a mandate to my team, ‘You gotta get more women in the video crew,'” she said.
Tipograph visualizes a future in the West Coast, but in Los Angeles, not in Silicon Valley. She plans to double the size of her team and then open an office in Los Angeles for several of their content outlets.
One thing Tipograph said she’s learned about the journey in starting her own company is how lonely it can be.
“I am a sole founder, so each decision is up to me and I’m 100 percent accountable for that,” she said.
She went on to explain that she is an extreme extrovert, so she didn’t have much understanding of how lonely the experience can be.
“It definitely has been the most difficult emotional adjustment,” she said.
Regardless, Tipograph is completely dedicated to MikMak.
“I’m committed to MikMak, so I want to take my company as far as it can go,” shesaid. “Generate as much revenue as possible and build the next great company that people want to work at. “-30-
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