Office Hours: I’m the CEO and Founder of Stan – fan engagement for the future. I’m Denisha Kuhlor. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Denisha Kuhlor and I’m building Stan, a future of work platform empowering creatives to offer better fan experiences by leveraging data to serve their fans at a micro and macro level.

Before Stan, I was a relationship banker at Silicon Valley Bank where I worked with startup founders and emerging managers across the United States and abroad.

Ask me anything about the future of work, improving fan experiences, being a relationship banker, startups, writing, fandoms I am a part of, stan culture, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @denishakuhlor!Elphas – please ask @denishakuhlor your questions before Friday, May 10th. @denishakuhlor may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Denisha - you're so inspiring and I love what you are building with Stan. Could you speak a little on funding your startup (eg boostrapped / self funded vs accessing outside funding like vc)? Did you start working on it while at SVB and then left when things were picking up? And then can you speak about your experience if you raised venture funding? It's so hard for founders these days to access capital.
Hi Kayce - Thanks so much. Yes, I would love to speak more on funding. Before starting Stan, I wrote a substack blog of the same name, where I was able to build a following of investors, artists, and people interested in the intersection of music and technology. I wrote that blog for three years and explored many different topics, subsequently building an audience of people who were thinking about fandom the same way that I was and potentially interested in investing in the space. My first check came from an angel investor who was the fifth subscriber to my blog, after that momentum - I subsequently raised a ~$500k pressed round from two institutional investors and some VCs. Leaving SVB was a difficult decision but I ultimately decided to make the jump because I couldn't stop thinking about different ways to improve fandom and although I was writing about fandom extensively it only grew my desire to begin iterating and testing solutions that could be viable in the market. The market for venture funding has definitely changed drastically since I raised however the biggest advice I have is approaching investors that are interested in solving the same problems as you are, and have the same theses around how the world is involving. Additionally make sure you qualify your investors (check size, stage, ownership targets, making sure your startup is viable for venture).
HI Denisha! Thanks for this.Moving from a relationship banker role to tech entrepreneurship, and specifically in the fandom/entertainment space, must have been a big shift. Can you tell us more about that journey?
Hi Kalyn --- It was definitely a big shift that I considered heavily before making the jump. A few things that helped me included1) a thorough understanding of the financial landscape, I made sure I understood venture as a financial vehicle quite deeply so I could assess if it was a feasible source of funding for me to launch Stan with. Personally, I also tried to prepare by making sure I was in a good financial position, cutting back a bit, and finding some creative ways to lower my costs including side hustles and lowering my cost of living. 2) validating my idea. - by writing extensively about Stan, and fandom for many years it allowed me to build relationships with folks from all over the music + tech community this helped me validate my thinking, give me a holistic view of the music industry, and assess if there was an appetite for a company focused on fandom. 3) above all faith that I would figure it out, there's always google ;)
What has been the most exciting experience so far from building Stan? Any memory that you go back to when things get challenging as a founder to remind you of your mission and vision?
Oh wow I love the idea and the name Denisha. I'd love to ask you about fans in a B2B context. Some trendwatching is pointing towards influencers becoming more important in business settings. Do you foresee creatives using the platform to reach fans in what might be considered corporate settings? Thanks!
Hi Sue, thank so much and great question. Yes, I definitely do as typically archaic B2B industries adopt more consumer focused practices in their marketing (i.e - tech banking, private/corporate chefs,etc.) many B2B businesses have leveraged consumer ad practices as well as brands (including artists that consumers have an affinity towards). At Stan, we have spearheaded projects like these to combine fan experience with B2B prospecting and client engagement collaborating with Silicon Valley Bank on VIP experiences featuring artists like Timbaland and Nigerian artist BNXN.
Interesting to see its use for prospecting and engagement. Makes sense. Certainly less difference between B2B and B2C than we might expect. Thanks for answering.
And you'd love her too! :)
What fandoms are you apart of? And how has that influenced the development of Stan? Are there specific features of the platform inspired by your experiences as a fan? THanks!
The more I learn about fandom (specifically the intricacies of being a Stan) it has really made me question if I truly have been a Stan of any one artist. I am a huge fan of Beyonce, Burna Boy, J. Cole, and Noname however knowing the first three's fandoms quite intricately, I am not sure I rank as high on the hierarchy :) There were many features influenced by my experiences as a Stan but mainly the features around a bidirectional relationship and individualization such as the fan calendar (allowing artists to wish their biggest fans happy birthday).
As someone who hangs out on places where fans congregate, the barrier between a fan and their fave has dissipated pretty severely in the current climate. How do you make events when we can see most of our faves on social media, for better or worse?Then there's folks like me, and most of their faves don't use social media because they're actors not competing in a TikTok space with 5000 musicians.
Hi Morgan, this is a great question and I think that there is a lot of room for improvement for fan experiences that serve a broader range of fans needs or desires. I think that things like artist going live and being able to go "direct to fan" has been really helpful. To improve the fan experience I think that more customization would go a long way. Unfortunately, many events feel very plug and play because they are designed to be quite broad as there is very little fan data influencing the event.
Hi Denisha! What fandoms are you a part of?
the beyhive :)
OMG Deeeeee! So happy to see you here <3No questions but just that i love you and can't wait see you soon! Keep crushing it
Hi Iyn!!Love you to! Always an inspiration :) D
What a great concept! I love fandom and have seen it go through many phases as television changed over the years. Plus as a product designer I'm extremely curious about the data that's driving your company. How do you see Stan improving fan experience?
We've started with personal identifying information as our goal is to help an artist first identify their exact audience across multiple platforms. Our goal is to start with this data to help artists have more engaged audiences through individualized experiences.
Tweetdeck was something where someone could see multiple Twitter feeds at once; High level question, does Stan have something like that ?