Ever wished you could get a personalized message from your fave celeb? Now you can! Learn about Cameo and Greek-American Co-Founder & CEO Steven Galanis.
Meet Greek-American Entrepreneur Steven Galanis of Cameo
Steven Galanis, 30, grew up in Glenview, IL, just north of Chicago. The son of Themis and Teddi Galanis, he attended SS Peter & Paul Greek Orthodox Church. He traces his Greek roots to Sparta. He is the grandson of the late, well-known photographer Spero Furla, founder of Furla Studio.
From an early age, it was evident that he’d be successful. At Glenbrook South High School, Steven was the goalie of the state champion hockey team. He was also captain of the varsity football team, class president, and an award-winning debater. He attended Duke University, where he earned a History degree with a minor in Economics, as well as a certificate in Markets and Management Studies. At Duke, Steven started his first business.
Along with fellow Chicago Greek Zach Maurides, he founded Spartan Entertainment. Steven explained.
“We ran all the nightlife at Duke. About ⅓ of Duke students were part of our network. With one message we could tell them where to go.”
Their company was successful, but after graduation, it was time to move on. Zach remained in North Carolina, and founded athletic software developer Teamworks. Steven returned to Chicago.
Back home, for four years he worked as a options trader. During this time, he also teamed up with his uncle, film producer George Furla, and produced three feature films and a TV show. His heart wasn’t in trading, and his next move was to LinkedIn, the professional networking site.
“That was the best move. I worked in sales for 1-½ years.”
During this time, his Uncle George connected him with Martin Blencowe. Also a film producer, Martin was an NFL agent. Then, in October 2016, Steven’s beloved yiayia passed away. Everything changed — in more ways than he ever anticipated.
Cameo Co-Founder & CEO, Greek-American Steven Galanis (center) with some of the Chicago-based team. IMAGE: MARIA A. KARAMITSOS
The road to Cameo
Martin Blencowe flew in for the day, to attend the funeral. Steven drove him around town, including a requested stop at Trump Tower for a drink prior to returning to the airport. They spoke about many things, and then the NFL agent shared a story.
“He showed me a video. His friend Brandon, who worked for Nike, got Cassius Marsh of the Seattle Seahawks to make a quick video of himself congratulating Brandon’s friend on becoming a dad. The guy posted it on Instagram, saying it was the best gift her ever received. We thought it was an incredible idea. Then we started dreaming about how we could do this.”
He couldn’t get it out of his head.
“My friends said that if I spent that much time thinking about it, I better go do it, so I did.”
He left LinkedIn in January 2017 and started to put the pieces in place, including applying to 1871, Chicago’s technology & entrepreneurship center.
“I knew that if you wanted to start a tech company, 1871 is the place to do it. I applied, and in February 2017, we got in. Martin & I were on our way.”
One of their first tasks was to recruit Coder Devon Spinnler, who became a co-founder & CTO.
“We started talking. Selfies are basically the new autograph. This sparked some serious discussions about where to take this.”
Their first thought was to sign pro athletes to the platform. Devon had another idea.
“His roommate just happened to be Cody Ko, a huge YouTube star and social media influencer. Devon thought people like Cody would be the biggest drivers of the business. He was right. Reality TV stars are really popular too.”
Steven’s brother Jon is the Director of Operations. He is also the one who coined the name Cameo. The team sold their first video on February 22, 2017.
How it works
To book a Cameo, visit the website and sign up. Then select the celebrity you want to create the video. Fill in details about the message, where to send it, and then pay. The celebrity has 7 days to accept or reject the gig. Once the video is made, it’s emailed via the platform, directly to the recipient. Unless marked private, videos also appear on the company’s website.
The idea has caught on. Today, you can book a Cameo with any of about 1400 celebrities. Some of the more well-known ones are Dennis Rodman, Tori Spelling, and stars of the Real Housewives reality shows. The most-popular Chicago-based personalities are Showbiz Shelly, ESPN’s David Kaplan, and legendary Blackhawks player, Bobby Hull. Popular Greek-American comedian Andy Milonakis is a favorite as well. Prices range from $30-2500, with most cameos going for $25-50. Celebs keep 75%.
“This is not about the Kardashians and Drakes of the world. This is for the other 99% to engage with fans in a personal and authentic way. Our tagline is, ‘Personalized videos from your favorite people.”
When the video is received, you can even film and post a reaction video to the website.
“When I saw the first reaction video, I knew we had something here. We could see how this product made people feel. It’s pretty awesome.”
Cameo now has 11 full-time and 5 part-time employees — most in Chicago, with three in L.A. — and it’s growing. Recently, they launched an app to make this easier and faster for members.
“We also will introduce the concept of ‘Producer Credit’. When you book a cameo and write the script for the influencer, you can also get tagged social. It will help you gain traction with the shares as well.”
Steven added that this was a great way to provide the ultimate fan experience. Who wouldn’t love a personalized message from their favorite celeb?
Guidance from above
Is it ironic that now three generations of the Furla family have made their living through the lens? His grandfather started his photography business (that’s still in existence) in 1945, and then his uncle went into the film business, and now there’s Cameo. Steven doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think it’s irony. I truly believe my grandparents are watching and guiding from above. Why else would this have happened as it did, right after my yiayia passed away? I’m grateful for the guidance. Plus, with the amazing parents I have, I have overwhelming encouragement. We’ll continue to grow Cameo, and live up to that legacy.”
With tenacity, flexibility, knowledge — and divine guidance — this Greek-American entrepreneur is poised for continued success.
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