Imagine getting a movie star to make a public appearance on your special day or getting tips to grow your social media from your favorite influencer. It would be a dream come true for today’s starstruck population. However, with communication overload owing to technology overuse, it’s not uncommon for people’s direct messages and comments to their dream celebrities on social media platforms to go ignored.
Fortunately, a new app has disrupted the Silicon Valley of the Middle East, coming as a respite to the star hungry crowd. Dubai-based entertainment startup Starzly, true to its name, connects you or your family and friends with the star of your choice. The app was built to promote personalized connections between entertainers and commoners by bridging the gap between them and giving the latter a taste of the paparazzi-hogging life celebs lead.
Badr K, Mouhcine K, and Cheyma A founded Starzly in January 2019 to empower people to make their dreams come true, albeit for the briefest of time. It is an innovative platform enabling Dubai residents to book a meet and greet with superstars, including actors, athletes, comedians, or TikTokers in a quick and efficient manner. The bilinguality of the app (available in both English and Arabic) makes it accessible for the vast majority of the Dubai population. The residents can either use Starzly on their browser or download the app on their IoS and Android phones.
According to the founders, as the celebrities gain more cult status than the rich in today’s time and age, the app opens up the perfect opportunity to socialize with stars and see how they lead their lives. While the app makes people’s childhood dreams a reality, it also helps struggling influencers monetise their fan following and make a decent living. The founders believe that the app helps both the consumer and the entertainer, making it a win-win situation.
By creating an account, a user can choose from a bevy of fashion influencers, sport stars, YouTubers, and journalists. All they must do is list their requirements, such as the purpose of booking a meeting (birthday, anniversary, or to boost their small business), budget, and turnaround time. Once a user has booked their meeting, all they have to do is wait to hear back from their favorite star. The artist has to respond within 5 working days. The prices range from $5 to $300, and Starzly also acts as an advisor to guide stars with the rates.
If numbers are to be believed, the effortlessness and seamlessness of this experience has made this one-of-a-kind platform a raging hit in Dubai. Since the inception of the app, the platform has been able to populate 60 stars and onboard over 5000 users. So far, more than 1500 experiences have been booked for Dubai residents. The founders claim that Dubai is a potpourri of cultures attracting influencers from far and wide, who quickly gain acceptance from the heterogeneous communities that thrive here. As social media platforms become saturated due to being driven by numbers, Starzly founders believe their app will help them strike a chord with people because of the personal touch they grant to their users.
When asked about the future roadmap of the app, Cheyma A chimes in. “Starzly has a compelling MVP and Solid technology roadmap to deliver a wow experience. On priority, we are creating a go-to-market strategy to accumulate micro and macro influencers present across the MENA region.” Eager to take the brand global, Cheyma adds: “Our ambition is to be the go-to-brand for personal shout-outs in the MENA region for entrepreneurs and brands – letting them aim for the moon while exploring the stars.”
According to Crowd Analyzer’s State of Social Media 2019 report, the MENA region has more than 15,000 influencers and 180 million social media users, who are all growing rapidly. The region also has the largest social media growth rate at 32 percent and roughly 63 million Instagram users globally. A platform like Starzly, which leverages the variety of cultures represented in its database of influencers, has a significant chance of disrupting the Middle Eastern industry.
Badr Kachibal, a former executive within Arab media groups, says he came up with the idea of connecting influencers to users while working in the industry. In his words, “I had been working in the media for a few years, and I got to connect with a lot of superstars who were coming to MBC TV and built a strong network of talents and singers. Among them was Red One, the man behind Lady Gaga who is now my business partner. I once told him that people are today more famous than ever, but a lot of them are more famous than rich and even if they have thousands of followers, they don’t always manage to monetize them. That’s why I wanted to create a platform that would allow, for a certain amount of money, to book personalized videos made by stars or influencers.”
It’s impossible to not want to mingle with the glitzy and the glamorous upon being exposed to Starzly’s aggressive marketing. The founding team has over 15 years of combined experience in the media and technology industry, having worked for Middle East Broadcasting Center, Al Arabiya News Channel, OSN, and Al Aan TV. Not only that, they’ve spearheaded big-ticket projects across North America and Middle East/North Africa (MENA), accumulating in-depth expertise in project management and marketing. If the team’s zeal is any indication, Starzly could soon position itself as an influencer marketing unicorn of the future.