Drew Giovannoli

I am an entrepreneur, a musician, foodie, travel enthusiast and eternally interested in business strategy. After working in consulting for 2 years, I joined the Techstars Austin staff for the 2013 program, and now work as the Marketing and Operations Manager at Fosbury.

I received my B.S. in Economics and Entrepreneurship from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. I also spent 4 months studying in Milan, Italy at Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

Contact me at drew.giovannoli@gmail.com



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Posts tagged "photoplay"

Hi all, 

I wanted to share my new Social Event Promotion company PhotoPlay Events. I’ve talked about it a little bit in past posts, but now that I have a couple successful events and a landing page up I’d like to introduce the product. 

PhotoPlay Events helps to “Engage Crowds to Deliver Value” for bars, sports and concert venues, any any business holding events. It works by holding a social photo contest, where any photo submitted to a chosen @username gets pulled into a contest gallery where people can view and share your photos seen in the BlackFinn contest we had.

How does this help?

Exposure: Every photo submitted through twitter reaches hundreds, potentially thousands branded with your name. This your customers are organically showing all their friends the great time they are having at your event inviting them back for more. 

Sales: You can easily direct what people are taking photos of to encourage sales of high margin items. Or, direct people to donation or merchandise pages with custom headers.

So if you’re holding an event soon, or are interested in learning more - message me at admin@photoplay.co. 

What do you think?

I am happy to share with you my clarifying vision of PhotoPlay Events.

I have not been murdered or mugged yet, as my friend Rachel’s has warned, but have formed some incredible relationships through a site named Meetup.com

Meetup.com is a platform that connects people with similar interests by location. Complete strangers can meet up with interests that range from age 50+ singles nights(have not attended), to volleyball (attended), and entrepreneur meetups (attended). Is meeting with strangers is dangerous? Nah, and we tend to meet in public places so at least I have that going for me.

I found this site shortly after arriving in Houston, TX and not knowing anyone I could talk to about my passion of building new businesses. I had searched the web and stumbled upon Meetup.com where I found a group called “GroundUp.”  This entrepreneur group that met for coffee and networked with each other, swapped stories and problems merely looking to help each other out. 

I highly recommend meetups if you:

  • Like free pizza
  • Want to find people who are into your interests
  • Really want to immerse yourself into a community, beyond college and work colleagues 

At my first meeting, I was fortunate to meet a ton of people, including lawyers I’ve called on for help, a super connector who knows everyone in the community for any need, a 40+ year old entrepreneur who was launching a video site similar to my own, and many more. Some had launched products, and some just had ideas, but it  was really a wonderful experience to be around people with the same love of entrepreneurship that I have. From this group I gained new friends, a ton of knowledge, a small beta group for the launch of PhotoPlay.me, and I still look forward to going when I can.

Recently I have been on the search for a technical co-founder. The biggest reason being that I am looking to increase the speed at which I can change and improve my products, and more recently because incubators like techstars show much more preference to teams with a solid technical foundation.

How does this relate??

Instead of going to just entrepreneur meetups, I started going to technical driven meetups discussing MYSQL database, Android Development, Python coding and more. I know little about the technical side in these areas but by going to their meetups, I was able to learn enough to converse somewhat intellectually, and meet people who might be a good match. 

I love meeting people with totally different experiences and stories than me, but by nature, they are hard to meet. How do you meet new people??


Also I am still looking for people with technical background in Twitter API to talk to for hired jobs and/or potential partnerships! Please contact me

I must briefly jump months ahead in the PhotoPlay story to tell you about the spinoff project I am super excited about called PhotoPlay Events. It applies my original theory that there is a huge opportunity with the development of media creation on mobile phones (holy shit Instagram), and applies it to a B2B strategy.

PhotoPlay Events is tool that encourages fans to capture the best moments of your event in photographs, engage them in a contest, and create massive viral excitement. 

So you’re in charge of promoting an great event, whether it’s a concert, sporting event or charity and you have two goals in mind.

1. Raise $$$ in the form of either ticket sales or donations.

2. Explode awareness about your event

Why not collect photos from the people who love you most, and have them share with thousands on social networks. Have sponsors pay for the contest and prizes, and place a button that links to your ticket sales/donations.

How does it work?

Pick a keyword like #Astros, or #Lollapalooza

Then promote a photo contest with that #hashtag during the event

Leverage sponsors of the event to bring in great prizes (as sponsors of the contests, they’ll also help you promote it

During the event, any photo that is tweeted with that hashtag will be pulled onto an online viewing gallery on the events website

People will vote for photos in the contests, filtering out garbage and showcasing the best.

So far you’ve:

  • Engaged your audience, having them participate in a game
  • Generated thousands of photos, filtered publicly for popularity
  • Sent thousands of photos to twitter with your #hashtag, creating massive awareness

Do you have interest an in startups? Click comments below and let me know what you think! Any questions, recommendations, or know someone who might be interested? 

**Also - if you know any computer engineers with experience in Twitter API and HTML5 please share my story and contact me. I am actively looking for hires and partners.

"God" designed my logo, and I feel like he did a really good job on it too. God was actually the skype name of the first contractor I hired for work on oDesk.com, and his work came at $11.11 an hour from Sri Lanka. This is the story of using a freelance web developer named “GOD” to create the PhotoPlay logo in the late summer of 2011.

I am not sure how I found oDesk, but I remember surfing through the site and thinking I had found heaven. Skilled programmers, designers from around the world, willing to work for wages that I could afford making my dreams of a technical startup a reality! I have come to understand the many pitfalls of using outsourced work for both myself and the freelancer, but it was a way to get started and I was excited!!

To post a job on oDesk, post a job description for what you need. You then can make your post public or private and can then invite anyone you want from the search option to submit a bid. I wrote the following post:

The overall thought for the logo is 4 polaroid photo graphs that together make up the picture of a smiling monkey - as if the photos were dropped and different parts of the body fell together perfecly.
monkey = play, polaroid = photo. (july 19)

In this case I knew exactly what my logo to be; a cartoon version of the monkey that I found on google images. I then choose an artists whose cartoon stylings I liked, and at a rate I (thought) was comfortable with and I was off to the races.

I suggest narrowing your selection down to 3 contractors and do Skype interviews. See how they interact, see how skilled their English is, see if they are creative and flexible. If it is financially possible, I have heard it is a great idea to actually hire multiple contractors for mini projects before hiring them for full time. **Finally, recognize what time zone they are working in because if they are in Sri Lanka or India as mine have been, your work day will start at 11:00pm. 

Working with outsourced talent, I have found that you get exactly what you ask for, and only exactly what you ask for. This means that if you forget to tell them what kind of colors you want, the size, font, and placement of words, you will get whatever they come up with. This may sound obvious, but working with local talent they might ask you how to address these variables, they might have valuable industrial experience on how to best approach your idea.

Paying $11.11/hour you are not going to get $100/hour work, but I had limited funds and I needed to get started. What I learned in this process is that agreeingto pay hourly is like writing a blank check. Regardless of whatever hourly rate they give you, you are putting no contractual limit on how long they can work. Do yourself a favor, demand a fixed price estimate that, agree to something that you’re comfortable, and don’t create another “Mr. Macintosh.”

What you $ave in cheap outsourced labor, you more than make up for in your time. 

Update - I forgot to mention that God and I talked primarily through Skype Chat. The best part about working with God on Skype is that he often posted status updates that went something like “God is busy.” I know he has lots of people to tend to, but I was paying by the hour. “God is looking for a Goddess" is another one of my favorites. By his Skype picture alone, God was a 6’4" Sri Lankan Body Builder with straight dark hair down his back - not sure why he was having trouble finding a Goddess. 

Overall it got the job done. I was there every step of the way, making sure that I got what I needed. I recommend people use outsourced work to get started, to test markets, test ideas, and test customers.The final take-a-ways that I learned are, to outsource you must:

Know Exactly What You Want

Know How Much You Can Spend

Take Time to Find the Right Contractor.

Accept that what you save in $$ you will pay back in personal

* find people with great skype names - it makes for a better story :)


Have you hired a friend, a professional, or outsourced talent??  What do you think is best? 


I will start with the ideation phase for PhotoPlay. We will get into monetization strategies, marketing and more, but lets start with the origin. (I do find origin super hero movies to be the best anyway)

PhotoPlay.me was registered on July 5th, 2011 with the idea that the development of mobile phones with high quality cameras would increase the amount of photo sharing. My test email to the PhotoPlay account read, “The First Social Sharing, Social Network based on Game Dynamics,” but the idea in my head behind the (poor) public pitch was, “A Twitter for photos, with game dynamics.”

Now YOU have an idea, where do you start??? Here’s 6 things I did, and what I might do different. 

1. I shared my idea with Everyone. GOOD

Probably annoyingly so and this is good! Because your idea is not a million dollar idea, in fact I most likely wouldn’t give you a dollar. What I would pay for is feedback from friends family and anyone who will listen.

  • No one is going to run out and steal your idea, because no one has the passion that you do. 
  • It will help you form an idea as they ask you questions about it.
  • You will be told the idea is stupid, and that it is brilliant. Neither is right, so look for actual feedback to continue your search.

There were were social networks before Facebook, touch screen phones before the iPhone, burger restaurants before McDonalds. The secret sauce is execution of a validated idea.

2. I did a mediocre job at researching competition. Bad

I get scared. I don’t do the research I need to because I get scared that this “brilliant” idea I came up with is already being done. I’m afraid its being done better, faster, and by a bigger firm with millions of dollars in VC funding, leaving me hopelessly searching for that next “brilliant” idea. 

Here’s the truth, your idea can be brilliant but like a rough draft of an essay it needs revisions. Go out and see what is available. At this point in PhotoPlay's growth it's competition on the B2B side are firms like Strutta, Wildfire, and others, and B2C competition is anything from Pinterest to the Instagram app. As I’ve developed a better understand of the photo sharing industry, I can better understand what I can bring to the table that is a unique value proposition.

3. I did NOT validate my idea. BAD

Unfortunately I didn’t stumble upon "The Lean Startup by Eric Reiss" until probably October 2011, but what I needed to do was build a prototype as quickly as I could and share it with my potential customers. What I ended up doing after reading the book was set up a Tumblr account (great blogging platform that you’re reading this on now). I couldn’t have people just share photos but I could try out the idea of a contest with the photos by posting the contest theme and having people submit photos to my blog. This TOTALLY changed the focus of the site due to its popularity. Lesson - read the book, validate your ideas.

4. I bought a domain and set up an email. GOOD

Domain Fees ~$7.00. Feeling like I was making progress PRICELESS. In addition to feeling super cool about owning the domain, it give me something to call my project to make it tangible, and gave me a more official communication medium. (helping with #1)

At the time I was in Navi Mumbai, India and hoping to obtain local outsourcing, I tried to make connections with skilled talent to no avail. This left me to turn to oDesk.com, a freelancer website to contract or contribute work in an unbelievable amount of areas. 

5. I did NOT immediately incorporate a company. GOOD

In the past as soon as I feel like I had fully formed my idea I would run out at spend $200+ on getting my LLC and Tax EIN number. As my very wise grandfather has always told me, an LLC is the cheapest form of insurance for a company so that if you run into legal trouble with the business, the opposing party can only sue for the assets of the company and not personal assets. 

That said, until you have done #2 (validate your idea) and are required to enter into any contract, save the money for something more useful.

6. **How will this make money?

Ask yourself this question important - but this blog post was focused on getting you started and not about validating the business potential of an idea. We can spend a lot more time going into that, but PhotoPlay as the exploration of

**I currently have a full time job and was comfortable starting PhotoPlay validating the gap I saw in a growing “social photo sharing” space with a vision of future monetization. If you are in the position of needing $ right away:

  • Find a product or service you can charge for from day one. 
  • You probably should check out  Linkedin and network your way into a job to support you as you build your business.

Today’s question: What other important questions should you ask, and actions should you take when just starting an idea??