I recently learned about a new app called Special Guest. I’ll admit that, at first, I didn’t think much of it. It looked like a way to book entertainers, or if you were an entertainer, a way to get listed so people could find you. But, out of curiosity, I dug a little deeper and found that it is more robust than that. If you are speaker — or are looking for speakers — this app can help you out, too.
“Think of Special Guest as America’s Got Talent in your pocket,” says Kristopher Jones, co-founder of the app. “The idea is to make it easy for anyone, anywhere to hire LIVE entertainers, while making it easier for talent to get discovered. The only distinction we make in the app in terms of the type of talent that we focus on is ‘LIVE.'”
So, in addition to what most people might immediately think of when they hear the term “live entertainment,” such as musicians, singers, magicians, dancers, actors, actresses, impersonators, and the like, you can also find photographers, videographers, authors, and speakers. “In short,” says Jones, “if you are ALIVE and have a talent, we’d love you to create a profile in the app.
Unlike so many other booking websites I’ve found, Special Guest is 100% FREE to talent. There is no sign-up fee and no monthly or ongoing fees, either. This can be great news for emerging speakers who are just getting their feet wet and may not have the kind of funds to subscribe to these other services.
Special Guest Helps Unmanaged TalentAccording to Jones, 95 percent of talented people are not managed and struggle from one gig to the next to get paid on a consistent basis. “We feel that the booking process disproportionately favors managed talent and it shouldn’t,” he says. “We also believe that there are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of talented people that don’t get paid on a consistent basis to do what they love to do (entertain). This is a problem shared by all talent – not just comedians or musicians or professional speakers. So we decided to launch an app that helps to solve the problem for all types of talent.”
Special Guest is the brainchild of Jones, entrepreneur, investor, and app developer, and Damon Wayans, Jr, whom you might remember from the sketch comedy show In Living Color (or am I dating myself!). They met through a mutual friend and Wayans approached Jones ” on the basis of his idea of building an app to make it easier for talented people to get paid gigs,” says Jones. “I began building the app for him and later we joined forces as business partners. We’ve since raised $1.5M in investment capital and appeared on Apple TV’s first original content series called Planet of the Apps.” Jones has been using technology to solve problems for 20 years.
Special Guest Has Legs
There are some pretty high-profile people backing this app, including comedian/actor Kevin Hart, comedian/actor Marlon Wayans, actor Wilmer Valderrama, and many more. “Our goal with the app is to provide an opportunity for non-managed talent (i.e. up and comers or independent) to get discovered and booked,” says Jones. “In addition to discovery, the app handles all the other (sometimes backbreaking) elements of the booking process from in-app messaging, to the legal agreement, to getting paid.”
“At the end of the day someone, someday is going to build an app that democratizes the way talented people get discovered and booked,” says Jones. “Uber (and Lyft) built a car service that put tens of thousands of people to work as drivers and made it super easy for consumers like you and me to find a driver. AirBnB built a platform that empowered anyone with an apartment or home to lease it out for money. We think Special Guest has the ability to democratize the way talented people get discovered and booked. We think it’s a really big idea and we have the right investment partners to build something special. However, just like Uber and AirBnB, we need our users to love the app and tell all of their friends to use the app.”
Currently, the app is only available for the iPhone. If you have an Android (like me) you’ll have to interact with the app on your computer (which I find easier to do anyway). I signed up today. It was a fairly easy process. You can view my profile here. If you deiced to sign up, too, please share your experience in the comments below.