Seen On Set CEO Cian O’Driscoll Shares the Story of his Movie Furniture Startup

seen-on-set

Seen On Set is the go-to site to discover and buy furniture, décor, lighting, tech, homeware and art seen on the set of your favorite movies and TV shows. Seen On Set loves connecting fans with interior pieces from these on-screen worlds.  From the futuristic look of 2001: A Space Odyssey to the high street aesthetic of The Devil Wears Prada the founders were captivated by the on-screen interiors crafted by talented design professionals.

Due to this they often turned to the internet to find the furniture and décor from their favorite movies and TV shows. Unfortunately, with this approach it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for, if not impossible. Through conversations with other design enthusiasts Seen on Set realized it wasn’t only they who blended their eye for design with the interiors that they see on-screen. From this, the idea for Seen On Set was born.

We had a chance to ask a series of questions to one of the  Seen On Set founders Cian O’Driscoll about the company, his career path, as well as other topics on being an entrepreneur.  Hope you enjoy!

1. Tell us about your background. I see that you’ve studied Architecture and Technology. What elements of your studies do you bring to work each day?

Well, I started a design company when I was in college and began working in commercial and residential interiors. This was a great time for me professionally. I soaked up everything to do with commercial architecture and interiors. I later also lectured in the Cork Institute of Technology’s Department of Architecture within their award winning Interior Architecture course. All of this remains with me every day in my role here at Seen On Set.

Interior design of movie or TV shows sets has most of the same key fundamentals as that of real-world commercial interior design. I think my years working in the industry has given me a very good eye for all things interiors, furniture and décor. I have in-depth knowledge of this world, from design and construction to the four Fs; furnishings, fittings, fixtures and finishes. I also know movies and would consider myself a bit of a film nerd, and as a designer, the design of these worlds has always intrigued me. I even wrote my undergraduate thesis on film production design.

2. How did the idea for Seen On Set come to be?

From their earliest days movies and TV shows have been leaders of influence. Even today, more so than any other media, they strongly shape our preferences and tastes. This influence can also be felt for furniture and interior aesthetics. I often found myself drooling over a piece of furniture I had seen in Mad Men or in the MI5 offices in James Bond, but when I went looking for it I could never find what it was called, let alone where to buy it. Viewers can find clothes, electronic devices, and motor vehicles etc. that are featured in filmed entertainment quite easily. This is not the case for furniture however.

I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone in my search for furniture and décor seen on these sets. Any articles on trendy new movies or TV shows that featured eye-catching interiors were always inundated with questions in the comments section with people looking to find the featured furniture. So, I started putting together a database of some of the best furniture, lighting and décor seen in filmed entertainment and ultimately provide a platform for people like myself to find and buy these on-screen interiors. This began to grow and it quickly went from my part-time passion to a full-time business.

3. Where does the furniture that you sell come from? Is your site more or less an online furniture store or do you build anything in house?

We don’t build anything in house. We are essentially a marketplace or an aggregator. We have affiliate vendors with some of the biggest furniture and lighting brands in the world. We source the furniture seen on set and connect with the supplier or manufacturer of that product. We also work with smaller designers or artists who often have pieces seen in movies and TV shows but don’t have the platform to promote their products.

4. Do you work with movie houses, directors or actors or are you picking off pieces of furniture that you like and finding out where to buy such items, then feeding that information to your audience?

We work very closely with set decorators. These are the unsung heroes who decorate your favorite shows and movies with all loose furnishings. We have some great contacts in Los Angeles and actually throughout the United States. This has been a huge help for us. We can contact them and find out information about certain pieces and where to source them. We don’t work with them solely for this reason however, we ultimately want to fly a flag for this industry. Most of these professionals are designers like me, and I genuinely admire their work. Some of the most prominent and sought after set decorators working in the film industry are now close friends.

5. What is your favorite piece of movie furniture and why?

For me it is definitely the Eames lounge and Ottoman. Simply put, it is design beauty. One of the most enduring pieces of furniture ever made that now has iconic status among designers. Created in 1956 by husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames this lounge chair has arguably become their most famous design and subsequently a movie and TV show constant. It has appeared in countless films and TV shows but is probably best known as Dr Frasier Crane’s chair in Frasier. Check out our article on this lounge chair on our site.

6. What advice would you give to someone trying to form their own e-commerce site?

My advice for anyone starting an e-commerce business is to always keep that end-user in mind. Never lose sight of who your costumer is. Or, perhaps equally important is if you get to a point where you find out your costumer isn’t who you thought they were, don’t be afraid to pivot.

7. How is Seen On Set doing so far? Can you share any financials? What are your plans for 2017 and beyond?

We are doing well. We are a small company but we are going in the right direction. The response to what we are doing has been great. People really do seem to like it. We can’t share financials are the moment as we are currently raising investment. 2017 will be a big year for us. We want to scale the company and take it to a much bigger level. We believe there is a huge opportunity here and we aim to make Seen On Set a global business.

8. Do you have any plans for U.S. expansion of the company?

We already sell the majority of our products in the U.S. As most of the world’s movies and TV shows are produced there, most of the furniture and décor for these productions is sourced there. This is our starting point. When find U.S. and Canadian suppliers first and then European suppliers. And hopefully in the future, suppliers in Asia, the U.A.E and India. The online home furnishing industry is now the world’s fastest growing e-commerce and we are very much positioning ourselves to align with this growth.

9. Did you raise money? If so, can you disclose who is invested? If you didn’t raise money, how did you start financially? Do you recommend raising money for a venture like this or bootstrapping it?

We are lucky that we operate in Ireland. This is a very pro-entrepreneur country. The Irish government has long since supported people setting up their own businesses. This combined with multiple European initiatives at both policy and grass-roots level to invest heavily in the development of globally trading companies has put us in good stead. We first came out of a business accelerator program here in Dublin which is the best in Europe and highly competitive.

This was our first investment. We have since had further investment from Enterprise Ireland. That being said, we very much bootstrapped it. Starting a company like Seen On Set takes a lot of time and resources. I paid other people but not myself for a long time. So it was not easy. I have only recently reduced from a 7 day week to a 6 day week. Would I recommend raising money or bootstrapping it? I think both really. You must be willing to bootstrap it and not have money for luxuries like food. Very few businesses hit profitable revenue straight out of the gate. But for ventures like this you must also be willing to raise money. You will need it to scale. That’s just the reality of businesses like this. Unfortunately you need money to make money.

10. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in any business?

I guess my best advice would be to make sure you have support. Particularly at home or from family and friends. There is a reason why every person out there doesn’t start their own business. It’s not because they don’t have good ideas or because they don’t want to work for themselves, it’s because it’s ridiculously difficult. It’s not for the faint-hearted. So having that support structure in place is very important. You have to be able to share your good days and bad days. And believe me, with any start-up, the bad days will outweigh the good days. But you must power through. Believe in your idea and back yourself.


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