When Hearst vet Duncan Edwards left his post as the president and chief executive officer of Hearst International at the end of June, he explained that had decided that it was time to start the next chapter of his life — whatever that might look like.
“After I left Hearst, I was looking for opportunities to become involved in earlier-stage and smaller companies, places where I think I could make a difference and help businesses achieve their potential,” Edwards said.
Now, five months later, Edwards has figured out what that chapter looks like. And it looks something like Tinder, if Tinder was stocked with pictures of models and the people using it wanted to cast shoots rather than find dates.
Called Swipecast, it’s a digital platform that allows photographers, casting directors and brands to discover, book and pay models directly rather than by going through an agency. Edwards came across the company, which was launched in August 2015 by Silent Models founder Peter Fitzpatrick, and decided to make a personal investment for an amount he declined to disclose (“that’s personal,” he said, when asked) and join the company’s four-person board as its director. Working as an adviser, Edwards is using his Hearst experience to “provide strategic guidance.”
“Clearly this is a tiny company compared to Hearst and the jobs that I did there,” said Edwards. “But in a career as long as I had at Hearst, you learn a lot about how to make businesses work. Also, I ended up with a huge number of connections in the media and fashion business, which I am using to help Swipecast grow.”
“Having someone like Duncan so early on in a company can really help shape the direction of the business,” Fitzpatrick said. “And that stamp of approval is deeply powerful coming from someone who has deep relationships at Hearst.”
A curated network, it has recently expanded beyond models to include photographers, makeup artists, hair and wardrobe stylists — basically, anyone whose services can be hired for a shoot. Before becoming a member, accounts have to be approved by Swipecast — a verification process that includes validating Instagram accounts, cell phone numbers and e-mail accounts. According to the company, around 15,000 people have registered, and over 4,000 that have been approved. Brands like Nike, Estée Lauder and Tommy Hilfiger, and magazines including Vogue and W are also on the site.
“The key premise of Swipecast is that it is a networking organization for the creative industry,” Edwards explained. “It has the facets of a discrete social network plus a marketplace.”
When the network launched as an iPhone app (it is set to unveil a desktop version later this week), it was positioned as an Uber, but for models. But as it has expanded, Fitzpatrick says, he sees it more as a “visual LinkedIn,” filling the “void” for creatives left by the career networking platform.
And in the increasingly freelance fashion industry, the company also plays a part in making it easier for talent to get paid quickly. For direct bookings through the site, Swipecast promises payment within six hours of completing the job (Venmo cofounder Iqram Magdon-Ismail is also an investor and adviser), a service for which they charge a 10 percent transaction fee.
“The world is all becoming more freelance,” Edwards noted. And he should know. After spending 27 years at Hearst, he is now something of a free agent himself.
“I’m really enjoying my life at the moment and being able to pursue interesting projects like this one,” he said. “To be honest, it’s fantastic.”