How Success Happened for Steven Galanis, Co-Founder and CEO of Cameo
On Cameo's fifth anniversary, Galanis' lifelong understanding of the power of connections led him to success.
Steven Galanis knew from the beginning that he was not cut out to fulfill someone else's vision. Known as "the Mayor" since kindergarten, Galanis has always had a knack for bringing people together – something that would be core to both his first entrepreneurial venture, Spartan Entertainment, and his second, Cameo.
Before Cameo, the entertainment industry gated access for fans, forcing them to line up backstage for an autograph, attend meet and greets, or just be in the right place at the right time. With Cameo, Galanis and his team have created more than four million magical moments in people's lives by connecting talent to their biggest fans in a frictionless, digital experience.
Celebrating the company's five year anniversary, Galanis shares his entrepreneurial journey, the magic of connections and why you should always bet on yourself before someone else does.
The College Hustle
Although he carried this entrepreneurial spirit with him from childhood, Galanis' first taste of business ownership came at Duke University. Galanis realized that the events on campus were exclusive to various clubs and fraternities. This sparked an idea for Galanis. Along with his business partner, Galanis wanted to create events that anyone could attend, bringing people together and fostering connections. From this conviction, Spartan Entertainment was born.
The duo partnered with local bars to host events for all Duke students. Noticing there wasn't a night that athletes could attend parties, the duo threw events on Wednesdays to allow student athletes to follow the 48-hour sobriety protocol prior to a game. From there, the business grew into t-shirts, DJ equipment rentals and even a hot dog stand. To this day, Wednesdays in Durham are still the biggest day for parties and their legacy is weaved throughout the campus.
Galanis graduated from Duke in 2010, smack in the middle of a recession, but had a blossoming passion for creating and owning a business of his own. He was simply waiting for the right idea, the right opportunity and the right time. After landing a job with the Chicago Board of Trade, Galanis learned quickly that he didn't want his success to be tied down by someone else's decisions. He wanted to be calling the shots.
The "Magic" of Connections
Galanis understood the importance of creating connections at an early age. An athlete and sports lover, Galanis' family always had sports memorabilia displayed in their homes. One particular picture remains the most treasured.
Galanis was 8 months old when the Lakers won the 1988 championship. On vacation with his family in Hawaii, his grandparents spotted Magic Johnson and insisted that the basketball legend take a photo with infant Galanis. His grandmother plopped him on Johnson's lap and snapped the photo. After quickly developing the photo and running back, Johnson wouldn't sign it. He was on vacation after all.
Years later in Chicago, Magic held an event signing autographs and Galanis was asked to attend by some friends. He pulled Magic aside, and showed the photo from decades earlier. While Johnson barely recalled the moment, this time, he signed the photo.
Related: 5 Keys to Making True Connections
Betting on Yourself
After his grandmother's funeral, Galanis was driving with his friend and future co-founder Martin Blencowe. Blencowe, an NFL agent at the time, showed Galanis a video of his client, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Cassius Marsh, congratulating a friend on the birth of his son. Galanis thought back to his experience with Magic, and looked at this video, and the pair got thinking: the selfie is the new autograph.
After bringing on former Vine star Devon Townsend as a third co-founder, the team developed this idea further with the mission of creating connections between the world's biggest celebrities and their fans. After starting the company as a side hustle with Blencowe as an NFL agent, Galanis, a senior account executive at Linkedin, and Townsend working as an engineer, they had to take the chance on themselves and quit their jobs.
Cameo officially launched in March 2017 and it couldn't have gone worse with a website that didn't work and no site traffic. That is until their first purchase: a father requesting a video for his daughter. He sent back a reaction video of his daughter crying tears of joy and, in retrospect, this was the moment that changed everything.
Fast forward to 2022, Cameo has a $1 billion valuation and more than 50,000 talent on the platform. Galanis plans to continue to diversify Cameo's business into more experiences — merchandise, Cameo Calls, Cameo Cares, Cameo Pass and Cameo for Business — all in service of fostering the most authentic connections on earth. And, Magic Johnson now sits on their board.
Related: Why You Have to Bet On Yourself
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