This is the story of Alex Torrenegra and Tania Zapata and how they successfully launched Voice123 being part-time entrepreneurs. Check the original post here.
The year was 2002.
Tania and I had recently married and moved to New York City. Tania was working at Banana Republic as a sales associate. I was freelancing as a “webmaster” and online marketing consultant for multiple clients.
Tania wanted to become a professional voice actress and provide her voice to radio, TV, video games, etc. Excited at first, we quickly realized how complicated the casting process was for aspiring voice actors. We learned that most companies in need of a professional voice had to jump through many hoops to get there.
First, they had to go through a casting director. The casting director would then contact multiple talent agents. From there, the agents would contact several voice actors and ask them to go to a designated auditioning studio. The studio would send the audition back to the agent. The agent would filter out the best auditions and send them to the casting director. The casting director would also filter the auditions and send them to the buyer. If the buyer liked one of the auditions, they would then book a professional recording studio. All parties involved would meet in person for the recording session. If everything went according to plan, the client would then send the payment to yet another party called a “paymaster”. The paymaster would keep a portion of the money and distribute the rest to all the parties involved, including the actors’ union. We quickly realized that a system like this, with so many middlemen, was both inefficient and prone to abuse.
In fact, a so-called talent agent charged Tania almost one thousand dollars for a photo shoot to promote her. Apparently, being beautiful was a prerequisite for being a professional voice actor! The agent disappeared with the deposit and never delivered. We were devastated, and even worse, we were out a thousand dollars when times were tough.
Tania and I came to the realization that high-speed Internet could enable a website with simple algorithms to fully automate and replace the work of the middlemen.
We envisioned a global marketplace that could quickly connect voice actors with potential buyers while giving a fair chance to all aspiring and established voice actors to grow their professional careers.
The idea seemed so obvious to us, but we were concerned with the fact that nobody else had already done it.
Were we crazy?
Were we missing part of the picture?
Were we wishful thinkers?
We didn’t know, and we thought there was only one way to find out: executing the idea. But how?
I should now disclose that my passion is not entrepreneurship. My passion is tech innovation. If I had better mentors when I was younger, I would have executed on my passion in a much different way. I probably would have been a scientist or software architect instead of an entrepreneur.
For this reason, I seldom care about the business viability of an idea if it is technologically intriguing. In the case of Voice123, we didn’t even think about how such a marketplace could make money. Nevertheless, Tania and I decided to move forward with the plan.
In January of 2003, we started working on the idea.