MARKETPLACE: Bunny, Inc.'s Alexander Torrenegra Wants to Automate the Creative Job Market
"I think people focus on entrepreneurship just -- because." Alexander Torrenegra, co-founder of Bunny Inc., is a lifelong serial entrepreneur, and not just "because."
Torrenegra has made a successful career starting up a handful of companies, and it's his innovative system connecting talented professionals -- writers, voice actors, and translators (so far) -- with companies looking to hire talent for their projects that could change the way you look at work. But he says he doesn't do it for the money, or to be his own boss.
"For me entrepreneurship is not the objective," remarked Torrenegra in an interview with Latin Post, "it's just the means of achieving something."
The First Obsession, and a Very Early Start
Torrenegra said innovation in technology is the main drive behind his entrepreneurial efforts these days, but when he was growing up in Bogatá, Colombia, the goal was simple.
"I became an entrepreneur because I wanted a computer," said Torrenegra. "I come from a modest family. We didn't have enough money to buy a computer, but I became obsessed with the idea of getting a computer from a very early age."
"Actually," he revealed, "using a computer is the oldest memory that I have -- I think I was four or so -- we visited an office and they allowed me to use the computer, and I just fell in love with it."
It only took 10 years after that inspiration before Torrenegra's first business plan, and his first computer.
"I realized I had to create a company in order to get a loan. I used that loan to buy a computer, and I used that computer to offer data entry work," he said, to pay off the loan.
If you do the math, Torrenegra was 14 years old at that point. Too young to get a bank loan -- "of course banks cannot loan money to minors," he noted-- his first step into business was thanks to a bank manager who was so impressed with young Torrenegra, he supplied the money himself.
"I paid the loan back on time..." mentioned Torrenegra. "I had to work my ass off because data entry work doesn't pay that well." Not to mention he was a teenager with high school, homework, and then his self-made data entry job to do every day.
Torrenegra hasn't slowed down since.
After paying off the loan a couple years later, he began upgrading his computer and realized that was a better industry to be in.
"I pivoted the company," he laughed (likely at my incredulity, as he was 16 years old at the time), "to start offering IT services and selling computers to small and medium sized businesses in Colombia." By the time he was 19, Torrenegra had 25 people working for his company.
The Next Obsession, the Next Move
By then, it was the late 90s and the Internet was spreading to Colombia. Torrenegra said he exposed to it through his international clients, who were the only ones that could afford the high-cost connections at the time, which were metered by the minute, per month.
"Because I was managing their accounts, I knew how many minutes each one of our clients had left towards the end of the month." The last few days of each month, Torrenegra said he used those leftover minutes.
It was like his first memory all over again. "I browsed the Internet like crazy," he said. "I was in love with it."
Torrenegra realized the Internet was it -- and it was happening in the U.S.
Within a year, in 1998, he quit his business, gifting parts of it to people he worked with, and moved to the U.S. after being lucky enough to get a visa.
Schooling, Through Setbacks
Torrenegra landed in Massachusetts, near the offices of Compaq, Lycos and other big tech companies in the Boston area and applied for jobs.
Things didn't go his way. "I thought that I was going to be able to work on technology very quickly," he said, "and then I realized my English was really, really bad."
"Of course they didn't take me seriously," said Torrenegra, "so I ended up actually working in McDonald's and Starbucks, cooking hamburgers for the people working for those companies."
It wasn't an ideal start, especially after founding and running a small business as a teenager, but Torrenegra found how to take advantage of it. "That allowed me to improve my English skills," he said. Torrenegra still lists McDonald's "Hamburger Maker on the Graveyard Shift" on his LinkedIn profile, along with the laundry list of awards, fellowships, and the companies he later co-founded.
The First Big Succcess
After Boston was a bust, Torrenegra moved to Miami for school, and of course to work for some technology companies. It was 2000, and his primary education came from the technology industry's upheaval in the markets.
"I experienced the tech bubble (burst) while in Miami and I learned about how not to do things when launching a tech company," he said. He made his first major success after a couple of projects, and after meeting his wife, Tania Zapata, together they founded Voice123.
Torrenegra wanted to take the concept of reverse auctions -- where sellers (like renters) compete to obtain business with buyers (vacationers) -- and apply it to the voiceover industry. "I pitched the idea to Tania and she said, 'that sounds like casting,'" he laughed. "We created Voice123 as a side business, really," he said. "It took off and it did pretty well."
Torrenegra is a humble person: Within about five years, Voice123 had processed over a million voice auditions.
Trying 'Something Different'
But Voice123 innovation would later be eclipsed by a new idea that Torrenegra, his wife, and co-founder Lucho Molina came up with about eight years later: Bunny, Inc.
"We decided to create something different, something more automated that wasn't necessarily a reverse auction, but something that was more about fulfillment," of services, he said, or creative crowdsourcing.
Rather than an open marketplace or digital auction, Bunny, Inc. (starting with VoiceBunny) would streamline the process of connecting clients to talent digitally, and automatically.
"We would allow the client to give us information about projects, we could provide a quote in real time, we could provide turn-around times, and we could provide pricing as well -- in real time," said Torrenegra.
On the other side of the equation, professionals could find projects with clear parameters. "We would tell them how much a project would pay and we would promise to pay even if the client didn't like the delivery and the client would get a refund (as well)," he added.
Instead of the wild west of digital marketplaces, Bunny, Inc. made the same connections, but with automated systems in place to ensure high quality work and workers, raising assurances of successful outcomes for both parties involve (along with financial guarantees for both).
For people looking for a gig and people looking to hire talent for projects, it's like the difference between Craigslist and Amazon.
By January 2012, Bunny Inc. was born with the official launch of VoiceBunny. And since, VoiceBunny has had over 40,000 applicants (with a five percent acceptance rate) and thousands of clients using the site to find professional voice actors.
"But VoiceBunny was really just a proof of concept," said Torrenegra, who has since launched ArticleBunny for writers and editors, and DubbingBunny, which provides professional dubbing for videos in over 50 languages.
His eyes are on a much larger playing field for Bunny, Inc. "The future of work is primarily creative," said Torrenegra, who first spoke with Latin Post while he was in Japan looking for opportunities to expand his company there.
"And marketplaces" for creative professionals are not efficient enough to bear the load, he continued. "They are going to be replaced by fulfillment services," which fully automate communications between hirers and talent.
"The most creative people simply have to open a screen and the screen is going to tell them the best deal for you -- right now -- that maximizes your creative capacities and maximizes your income," he said. "It saves time by not forcing sellers to sort through a lot of different projects and not forcing buyers to sort through a lot of different sellers."
"At the end of the day, it's logic," he said of the process connecting talent and work. "And at the end of the day, that logic can be fully automated by computers." Innovation around logic, and the logic of innovation, is what drives Torrenegra's entrepreneurial focus and has led him to work upwards of 80 hours a week.
Torrenegra basically wants to make Bunny, Inc. the most efficient, automatic HR department for creative professionals and the people looking for them -- all over the world and in practically every field his logic could apply.
And he's looking to do it quickly: Bunny, Inc. launched ArticleBunny two months ago.
"We expect to launch almost a dozen more ... by the end of the next year."