We recently wrapped our 2022 Everyday Economy Accelerator program. To celebrate this cohort’s graduation, we will be spotlighting each team on the NextView blog over the course of the next few weeks.
These interviews were conducted halfway through the 12-week program, and they provide a human snapshot into the minds of our driven, dedicated, determined accelerator founders. Real people, building real companies, which are really redesigning the Everyday Economy. So without further ado, let’s jump right in to meet Ingrid and Emily, shall we?
Company: I Have This Friend
Founders: Ingrid Hung & Emily Persky
“Emily and Ingrid have a very compelling thesis about a horizontal marketplace that allows for the opportunity to build repeat usages across different lifestyle occasions. Their backgrounds working at Instagram and USHG give them unique insights into how to work with both talents and consumers.” – Melody Koh
Get to know the business
Rachel Hodes (RH): What problem exists in the market that your business is trying to solve?
Emily Persky (EP): In today’s Instagram-perfect world we’re inundated with images of celebrities and influencers touting their aspirational lifestyles. What we don’t see are the teams of professionals who help them construct their beautiful dinner parties, stunning homes, and immaculate wardrobes. For the average consumer, lifestyle services like these are traditionally inaccessible due to exorbitantly high prices and a scarcity of resources to discover these services. On the other side of the market, traditional creative industries like these exploit emerging talent and pay them pennies for their labor. This shuts out those who don’t have access to supplementary resources or connections. To make ends meet hustling creatives often moonlight doing favors for friends, but that’s limited to their network. Together, they could solve each other’s problems, but these two groups are lacking a connecting force.
RH: How is your company planning to solve this problem?
Ingrid Hung (IH): By creating a marketplace that leverages the talent of skilled, yet up-and-coming professionals, we’re unlocking an entirely new market of services for lifestyle-loving consumers. Beyond offering disruptive and fair pricing, we’re becoming the go-to, trusted one-stop shop to discover and hire the talent clients always wanted, but didn’t know how to find and didn’t think they could afford. For creatives, we’re a premium, value-aligned partner to help grow their networks and portfolios, and monetize their passions. We provide an opportunity to finally get paid and work under their own name, which in turn frees them from the treadmill of constant content creation and allows them to focus on their trade.
RH: Who are your customers?
EP: I Have This Friend is for the enormous group that is shut out from the walled garden of Lifestyle Services. There is an overlooked and underserved middle market of high-earning consumers who care about lifestyle and have money to spend but no feasible options on where to spend it. They can’t afford to spend 10% of their $100,000 salary on Interior Design Services alone, but they would certainly be willing and able to spend a few hundred dollars. On the supply side there’s the vast majority of talent that has not yet made it as a principle designer, executive chef, or celebrity stylist, and would gladly take a freelance job that would pay 3-5 x more than their normal wages.
RH: And last but not least, why should the world care about this problem and how you’re solving it?
IH: The pandemic-sparked great resignation has resulted in a flood of new creators and freelance workers pursuing their passions. As a result, we’ve seen the creator economy explode and a gold rush of businesses built to help creators to grow and monetize. However, these tools are all tailored for creators who are focused on content creation and influencing as their end goal. There’s an overlooked sector of creators made up of service providers that see content creation and social media just as a means to gain clients so they can focus on their trade. This is an untapped market of “gig-focused creators”. It’s the subsect of the creator economy that is focused on service-based freelance jobs intersected with the subsect of the gig economy that is more focused on creative passions. We call this the Creative Gig Economy and it is made up of creative service providers who need tools to hone their craft, book jobs, and build their portfolios. Through this new market, we’re transforming historically inaccessible services to be simpler and less expensive, making them accessible to significantly more people in society.
Get to know the founders
RH: Founders, please introduce yourselves.
IH: We met in Mr. Gaskin’s 7th-grade civics class at our middle school in LA and have been best friends since we were 12 years old.
EP: But our working partnership dates back to when we were both editors on our high school yearbook.
IH: We even went to yearbook summer camp together!
EP: I went off to the University of Michigan for college and last year made my way back to Santa Monica after 4 years of working at Meta in Digital Marketing in Austin and San Francisco.
IH: And much to my family’s chagrin, I’ve stayed on the east coast and have lived in NYC since graduating from Penn. Up until starting IHTF, my career has been in hospitality- starting as Danny Meyer’s assistant at Union Square Hospitality Group and most recently leading the Food & Beverage portfolio at Endeavor Global.
RH: What’s your favorite thing about being an early-stage founder? And your least?
IH: At least once a week one of us will turn to the other and say “I can’t believe this is our life right now”. We get to work on a problem that we feel so excited about and meet so many incredibly interesting, smart, talented people. I love how endlessly dynamic the role is and how much we get to learn and see along the way.
EP: Getting to live in the mindset that everything is “figure-outable” has by far been my favorite part of being an early-stage founder. Every day we’re tasked with a new challenge to tackle, and whether it’s spending time researching on our own, brainstorming together, or leaning on the wisdom of our brilliant and expanding network, we get to be scrappy and shape an idea that we deeply believe will make the world a better place.
IH: Day-to-day life in this early stage can be incredibly stressful- filled with fires to put out and uncharted waters. However, I feel an existential weight lifted because I don’t feel the heaviness of telling myself “one day I’ll…” or asking “what if I…” because I am doing it! Daily, there’s a lot of stress in the uncertainty and a never-ending to-do list, but I feel fulfilled knowing this is exactly the problem that I’m supposed to be working on and that Emily is the person that I’m supposed to be working on it with.
EP: I’ve found it really difficult as an early-stage founder to learn how to take time to shut off. In the past when I worked at a large company where I knew the machine would continue to run with or without me, it was easier to really detach and relax during my PTO days and weekends. Now, it’s hard to even detach for an hour! It’s a great problem to have, but Ingrid and I know that it’s crucial to our creativity and longevity to proactively take time to detach and relax – so we’re working on it!
RH: What show are you watching right now/what book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
EP: My stereotypical answer would be that I’m reading The Cold Start Problem, but in addition my more fun answer is that I’m just about to finish The Maidens, a psychological thriller about murder amongst a secret society at Cambridge University that I can’t put down. Would highly recommend it!
IH: I’m late to the game, but I just watched Drive to Survive, the Formula One Docuseries on Netflix after hearing Lee and Aisling raving about it at our NextView kickoff dinner. Honestly, I get the hype now. The show has so many layers to it: politics, money, engineering, relationships, rivalries… It’s so fun now to follow all the F1 racing season live- I’m invested.
RH: What are you hoping to learn/get out of your time in the NextView Everyday Economy Accelerator?
EP: As first-time founders, it’s been so beneficial to learn the processes and structures that we need to have in place to focus and build efficiently. We’re hoping to walk away with a dynamic set of frameworks that we can continue to apply to our learnings and ideas, as well as a long-lasting relationship with our thought partners, Melody and Jack. Both of which will help to guide and dictate how we prioritize, test and iterate.
RH: Close your eyes and imagine where your business will be in five years. What’s the same and what’s different?
IH: Our mission is to empower the world’s most talented emerging creative service providers to connect with consumers who dream of these services at accessible price points; so in our vision 5 years from now, we will still be doing just that! What will be different is the scale by which we’ll be able to do it. We’ll have a much larger team that’s comprised of individuals who are connectors at their core. We’ll have built out many more tools and channels that empower creatives and enable sustainable and thriving careers. We’ll have established a high level of marketplace liquidity, and built a brand we are deeply proud of. All the while, we will continue to celebrate every successful connection made because at our core we know that everyone deserves to live out their dream life.
For more on I Have This Friend, be sure to follow them on Instagram and TikTok. And for more from Emily and Ingrid, be sure to connect with them on Twitter and Instagram.