It’s not every day new comedians can Skype with Will Hines, a veteran Upright Citizens Brigade performer who has appeared on “Broad City,” “Brooklyn 99” and “Inside Amy Schumer.” Or that aspiring filmmakers can video chat with an Emmy award-winning documentarian.
Rich Nyman, a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and an improv comedian, thought there had to be an easier way to ask your heroes for advice in the age of technology.
Enter Scene.ly. Nyman’s new D.C.-based startup hosts online Q&A sessions with performers for anyone to participate in. Nyman thinks of it like an online, video Reddit AMA.
“I felt like there isn’t much space between the classroom in improv,” Nyman said. “A lot of people who want to get better at improv, they go to classes, they go to festivals and they perform. But they never really just sit back and talk about the experience — what I would call mentorship.”
Right now, while Nyman builds up name recognition and a following, the service is free. Anyone can be a part of the curated, hour-long video chats for no cost. The performers hosting the Q&A just ask for donations, which are sent to a charitable organization of their choosing.
So, it might go without saying, Nyman is growing Scene.ly on the side. Everything is bootstrapped, and Nyman relies on a core group of friends to get everything up and running and his own connections to find performers to host Q&As. To help him get it off the ground, Nyman was also a part of SEED SPOT‘s spring 2017 evening program.
Nyman is the first to admit that he’s new to his. His background is in, as he puts it, “desk-jobbing it.” He’s the lead associate in the strategic innovation group at Booz Allen, and Nyman has worked in numerous roles with the firm since 2010. Running a business isn’t too off-kilter, but it’s definitely new domain for him.
“The challenge is really building that brand and making sure it’s something people want to tune into,” Nyman said. “We’re doing a good job of selling ourselves as earnest, but building that brand so that people know that it’s a thing — I’ve never done that before, so that’s really my challenge.”
That lack of brand recognition is why Nyman has opted to offer the service on a donation basis for now. They started out charging people for it, but didn’t see the traction they needed. Now, curious viewers can opt into the video chats at no loss, and performers are able to support a charity of their selection for their time.
“Before we go into a business context, we want to make sure we know what we’re doing,” Nyman said. “We want to make sure we have all the technology down, the streaming support, looking into potentially livestreaming the service itself.”
In the near future, Nyman plans to take it slow. He wants to host four more comedian interviews in the next six months and use that feedback to assess his next step. Maybe they’ll expand into new mediums, like race car drivers or beatboxers, Nyman said. Down the line, they’re eyeing how they can offer enterprise services.
“I want to give myself the space to not put pressure on myself to get earnings,” Nyman said.