For the record, Steve Tannahill did not get his first tattoo when he was drunk, on a bet, or due to a dare. And, unlike many others who ink in haste and laser at leisure, he didn’t regret his first tattoo … much.
But for millions of others who do, Tannahill started Tattoo Hero.
“A lot of people that we talk to have had that problem,” co-founder Brandon Waselnuk told me. “I went to the wrong artist, it took me so long, I was sitting looking at this big binder …”
One of the tattoos on Tattoo Hero
The just-launched Tattoo Hero is suddenly the hottest startup in Ottawa, largely due to a TechCrunch post on the still-in-alpha company, and I couldn’t go anywhere at Startup Fest in Montréal last week without hearing the company’s name or having some founder pull me over to chat with Tannahill and his co-founders, Waselnuk and Minh Dao.
Here is the result of one such attempt:
CEO Steve Tannahill’s ball and chain tattoo celebrating his wedding
In its simplest form, Tattoo Hero is about proudly displaying your latest ink. Users upload their photos to the site, where others can like or comment on them. That’s the real magic, of course, as those who are looking for tattoos can find a great design, then message the artist about getting it — or something like it — simply by browsing the Pinterest-y site.
“If you love this tattoo, you can find who did this tattoo, where he’s located, and message him … and book a consultation,” designer Dao told me.
But the Tattoo Hero vision is much bigger than that.
“We’re planning on building a SaaS-based solution to replace the front-end office,” Waselnuk told me. “Today they’re like big books where just write [appointments] in. We want to completely replace that, make it seamless so it can sync with everyone’s calendars … we give them ability to consult online, do the online booking, to take take payment online.”
In other words, Tattoo Hero is yet another startup slashing through old-school business models, taking the magic of social and the scale of the internet to re-invent the somewhat scuzzy image of tattoo parlors with a clean, beautiful design … and to give tattoo artists a whole new place to present themselves and sell their skills.
Tannahill, who got his first tattoo at 18, is not only the CEO but gives the company some visual legitimacy, with tattoos on his arms and legs. His wife has “cut him off at the neck,” and though his first tattoo has since been covered with something better, he celebrated his marriage with a detailed ball-and-chain tattoo. Waselnuk also has tattoos, he said, but “you wouldn’t want to where they are.”
The company launched just last week, and it’s been a bit of a blur for the founders.
“We just went live with our alpha this weekend,” Tannahill said. “We were featured in TechCrunch yesterday, so that blew up our website and knocked it down … it’s really exciting and our Twitter’s blowing up.”
The artist acquisition strategy has been getting the top artists on board, mostly in the Ottawa area. But the company is looking at taking an angel investment to enable more reach besides the organic pick-up it’s seeing across North America.
“More people have tattoos than iPhone,” Waselnuk told me.