One of the startups showing their stuff at Montreal’s International Startup Festival this year is Tattoo Hero, an Ottawa-based startup building a portal on the web to help connect those looking for tattoos with the artists who can make them. The startup is taking an age-old dilemma, which is normally handled almost exclusively via word-of-mouth, and putting it online with a marketplace and community that gives tattoo artists everything they need to run their business, including SaaS front and back-end tools.
For users, Tattoo Hero not only offers artist discovery that actually works by pairing people with artists who match their specific tattoo needs, it also offers a community with detailed, thoughtful blog posts on the industry and a way to share their ink with others. Artists get a sort of Behance online portfolio for their work, a new funnel for customer acquisition, and calendaring tools plus other client-facing service offerings via Tattoo Hero hosted storefronts. That means tattoo artists can get set up with an attractive web presence without knowing anything about code or tracking down a developer to do it for them.
Tattoo Hero co-founders Steve Tannahill and Brandon Waselnuk explained in an interview that the idea is not to give tattoo shops something that makes them amazingly cutting edge in tech terms – that’s not what that market either wants or needs. Instead it’s designed to making the actual running of the business as easy as possible, which saves artists headaches not related to the actual job of creating tattoos itself. But the site also offers ample opportunity for users to focus on the art.
“On the site, any user can take a photo of their own tattoo and link it to their artist, so that whenever anyone’s browsing and getting inspired they click and see the artist right there,” Waselnuk said. “Then you can save any tattoos you like privately in a page for later, so you can come back to that and check it out as you’re evaluating your next tattoo.”
The site is about organic discovery, and making it possible for people to share their tattoo stories the way they would with people in person. But putting it online dramatically broadens the potential audience, making it possible for hidden gem artists who aren’t necessarily the best at self-promotion to increase their reach.
“One of the nice things too is that for me, everyone is always asking who did my tattoos and who’s my artist,” said Tannahill, who has lots of ink himself. “From my Tattoo Hero profile, you can look and see who did what, and who are my artists and the artists I like, so you get a good idea of where to go.”
Tattoo Hero is active right now, and open to artists and users around the world, though on the content side they’re currently focused on curating the Ottawa-Gatineau region. The startup wants to start fundraising for an angel round, and then hopes to use that money to propel further growth, though they say they’ve been happy and unexpectedly surprised with the pace of new sign-ups so far.