Back in 2002, Alexander Torrenegra and Tania Zapata were recently married and had just moved to New York. He was freelancing as a webmaster and online marketing consultant for several clients; she was a radio hopeful who wanted to break into television, advertisements, as well as video games, and was working as a sales associate at Banana Republic. They often joked that their 35-square-meter studio apartment was so small they had to leave to let the sunlight in.
Tania’s voice acting aspirations got repeatedly mauled in the maze of casting directors, managers, recording studios, paymasters, and agents in the city. In fact, one so-called ‘talent agent’ charged her a thousand dollars for a photo shoot. To be a professional voice actor apparently, being beautiful was also a prerequisite. The agent never delivered—and disappeared with the deposit.
Tania was devastated and her frustration palpable. There seemed to be no way to advance her career in the voice-over business without pandering to the whims and abuses of the middlemen, but she was determined to find one.
Alex decided to help her. Together they started researching the processes involved. They realized that the advent of broadband Internet would allow them to create a website with simple algorithms—algorithms that could automate and replace what middlemen were doing. The idea of a global marketplace that could quickly connect established voice actors with potential buyers while also offering aspiring voice actors the opportunity to grow their professional careers, was such an obvious one. Well, wasn’t it?
They found nothing on the ’Net.
In January 2003, they started working on the idea. While Alex coded, Tania collated and compiled lists of email addresses—actors they would invite to join the marketplace as soon as the website was ready.
Alex diligently hammered his nights and weekends away on a keyboard. Tania worked whenever her crazy shifts at Banana Republic allowed some free time. To speed up the process, they employed a friend in Bogotá, Colombia to help code part-time.
On June 13, 2003—five months into the project—the website launched: Voice123. Because booking a voice actor was going to be as easy as 1-2-3.
Tania had collected over ten thousand email addresses. She started sending them out. They were hoping for a 10% conversion rate. To their surprise, the conversion rate was twice that. Voice actors loved the idea. Before long, they had thousands of voice actors ready to be matched with clients. On June 16th, they started running pay-per-click ads. A few hours later, a client posted the very first job on Voice123. Alex and Tania laughed and hugged and wept. The journey had begun and barely three months later, they had a functional marketplace.
To cover hosting, salaries, and marketing costs, they developed a subscription model and began providing Premium memberships in early September. By the end of the month, they had over $3,000 in revenue. The following month, Tania quit Banana Republic to become full-time CEO of Voice123. The appointment of subsequent team members started in January 2004.
Today, over 200,000 voice actors are registered in Voice123’s database, and millions of auditions have been processed. Thousands of actors now have flourishing careers in over 100 countries. Voice123’s client list includes companies like Pixar, the History Channel, Electronic Arts, and Pandora, to mention only a few.
The journey continues…