Behind Boozt: Ex-Lapiscians revolutionizing the local creator space through Boozt.io with fresh ₱4.1m DOST grant
7 min read
Cosplay Matsuri is one of those jam-packed conventions which celebrate pop culture - where countless visitors and cosplayers chatter as they stroll past stalls brimming with colorful merchandise. Successful content creators and talented artists mingle with their awe-struck fans, savoring each second together. One inspired fan dreams of being a content creator like the idol they admire, and so, they turn their nose to a flashy exhibit, the largest window of opportunity they've ever spotted – Boozt.
Among the many stalls and exhibits in Cosplay Matsuri 2022 was one for the content creation platform Boozt. From December 28 to 31, Boozt took the opportunity to showcase its platform and the many features it has to elevate the digital lives of digital artists, streamers, vloggers, and other such creators big and small.
Boozt is a platform that gives any Filipino creators or artists tools to help them sustain creating content and their work. They also build a community of creators and fans where they can connect, collaborate, and grow together.
They help creators and artists streamline their earnings by integrating e-wallets such as GCash. Eventually, artists of different crafts can also set up shop in Boozt's marketplace, where fans could view, appreciate, and purchase these artists' merchandise. No more long lines and crowded convention stalls – Boozt offers a market for small local creators from anywhere in the country!
The Standard Press was given an opportunity to interview Boozt's co-founder and CTO, Adrian Dayrit, to get an inside look at the company's current and future plans. Adrian is also in the third year of his CS degree at De La Salle University – Manila. He is a former Associate Editor-in-chief and layout artist for the Standard Press as a Lapiscian.
Q: "What was the story behind Lyon, and how did it develop into Boozt?"
Lyon was that company's first product. With the CPD law, professionals had to garner a certain amount of CPD units which means attending courses to renew their licenses.
But it was a massive hassle for professionals. Training centers were often only available in metro areas like Manila or Cebu. "Professionals from the provinces even had to fly to metro areas to attend," Adrian added. To solve this, Lyon live-streamed the in-person, only in-metro training courses, effectively making CPD more accessible for professionals nationwide and abroad.
For the government to acknowledge these "via online" CPDs, they lobbied with Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) months before the pandemic and eventually found success.
Unfortunately, when the pandemic came, demand shifted away from training; thus, the upskilling and reskilling market died. Fast forward to 2021, they succeeded with another product, a platform to host video-on-demand courses through a Learning Management System (LMS). They took the form of recorded lessons and were distributed through the LMS, still under the Lyon brand.
While the economy was slowly recovering from the pandemic, Lyon became a hit in small training centers that managed to survive, as well as higher education institutions such as DLSU School of Lifelong Learning and CIIT College of Arts and Technology.
Come 2022, and they noticed that most training centers they're working with find it hard to retain their customers. And so, they decided to implement community management features in Lyon, building towards Lyon 2.0. "There's this general truth in business: "It's more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep them." Adrian pointed out. "It's better to keep patrons because it's cheaper." Unfortunately, still, the company failed to make its customer base grow.
But it wasn't the end of their story. Their CEO and co-founder, Jason Deniega, conceptualized Boozt after visiting two events: the content creator convention Blogafest and the Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit, which both happened in October 2022. After hearing the struggles of small and local creators and artists in these events, Jason thought they could repurpose some of the features in Lyon to cater to content creators.
For example, spaces could be used for fans to speak to their content creators, and payments could be streamlined to digital wallets such as GCash and Maya. And eventually grow into an online marketplace for selling artworks, commissions, and merchandise sold by artists.
As such, Adrian dubbed Boozt as "Lyon 3.0", as it took the infrastructure of the previous iterations of Lyon but was repurposed for a market of creators and artists and their fanbases. "Fundamentally, Boozt is a network and a community, a marketplace of goods and services, and a tool to collect and receive payments for creators and artists."
Within two months of developing Boozt, they grew the platform to 300 creators and artists.
Q: "How are Lapiscians supporting and contributing to Boozt?"
Currently, five Lapiscians are working with Boozt: Adrian Dayrit, Cedrick Castro, Kir Peñalber, James Domingo, and Jaira Purificacion. They all served in the LPSci press organizations and had been all student leaders during their time as Lapiscians.
Aside from Adrian, who co-founded Boozt in 2018, Cedrick was the first Lapiscian to join the startup in December 2019. He served as a web developer of the group and contributed lots to the development of early Lyon. "I could safely say that 80% of Lyon was Cedrick's," Adrian said.
Adrian was operating servers, laying out the software architecture, and doing product management for Lyon. "Being the CTO, anything that wasn't code, but also tech, I handled it."
In April 2021, Kir joined the team as a product designer, later maturing to her current role as the Head of Design of Boozt. Being a platform, Boozt must deliver the best user experience possible for creators and fans.
It's worth noting that Kir and Cedrick both won champs on their stints as student researchers at the Regional Science and Technology Fair (RSTF) a few years ago. "I'm glad I was able to extend further the opportunities to both of them after being able to help them with RSTF," Adrian added.
Meanwhile, they invited James, currently a Grade 10 student in LPSci, in January 2022. "Within just two months of close mentorship, James managed to build features of his own with minimal supervision," said Adrian. "He's built differently. When I was his age, six years ago, I didn't even know how to write code, yet he was able to become impactful in just a few weeks of joining us."
Jaira, currently on leave due to her final years at the university, helped Boozt to secure the DOST grant as her task being an intern with Boozt a few months ago. She committed to joining again after graduation as one of the leaders in marketing Boozt to creators.
"It's no coincidence that Lapiscians can do startups. Our six years of training is no different from the hustle and grit of someone working with startups." Adrian wishes to seek more budding Lapiscian talents to quickly accelerate them towards working with in-real-life problems and having industry experience.
Q: What are your future plans with Boozt?
The team has been raising funds from angel investors and venture capitalists (VC) for the next step in Boozt's growth since the ₱4.1m DOST grant.
Q: Will we see you again at events and conventions like Cosplay Matsuri?
Boozt still doesn't have a definite list of events they will appear in, but Cosplay Matsuri will definitely not be the last time we'll be hearing from them.
As much as possible, the Boozt team wants to be in every creative convention for their service to be known especially by their target audiences, the creators, and the fans. "We want to be there… We need to build a market. We don't just need creators, fans too. It's an ecosystem."
The company also wants to integrate different brands into Boozt's ecosystem. These brands include photography studios, merchandise producers, and printing shops, among others.
Boozt also aims to eventually host an event where content creators could meet up with their fans, much like CONQuest.
Boozt learned how it feels to reach a ceiling, and how crushing the lack of growth is. But upon turning their heads to a promising opportunity, they are now taking a leap of faith, hoping that small and local creative content creators could reach stardom with a community that cultivates admiration and inspiration. Hopefully, you too could grab that creative opportunity, and boost your online presence with Boozt.
Photo Credits: James Domingo
Written by: Samuel Dominic Reyes
Interview by: Ralph Andrei Nuñez