Venmo cofounder wants to change how the fashion industry gets paid

by Taylor Majewski
December 7, 2015

Iqram Magdon-Ismail made a name for himself in the technology industry back in 2010 when he cofounded

. The mobile payments company revolutionized the convenience of paying someone back, and morphed into a social network full of witty payment captions to boot.

Now, Magdon-Ismail is on to the next venture and joining forces with an unlikely partner—the fashion industry.

Magdon-Ismail was introduced to

, a mobile marketplace for finding and booking models, in August after using the app to source creatives for his own side project in music production. He realized that Swipecast was entering a market ripe for disruption, as modeling’s brick-and-mortar business hadn’t caught up to the technology permeating the freelance economy.

“The whole modeling industry seems inaccessible to people, but Swipecast gave me access to it in an intriguing manner,” said Magdon-Ismail. “As I started learning more about Swipecast, I could easily see the pain points of how people transact as a challenge that models face.”

Now, Magdon-Ismail is working as an advisor to Swipecast, which is aiming to give traditional modeling agencies a run for their money.

Swipecast was founded in 2014 by Peter Fitzpatrick, who previously founded his own modeling agency, and recognized a need to alleviate the industry’s inefficient structure. Typically, when a company needs to hire a model for a job, especially in locations outside of urban fashion hubs, they typically fly out and host a model from an agency. While this method is lengthy and expensive, Swipecast streamlines the process and allows companies to find, review and hire local models through its digital platform.

Using the service, buyers and sellers (photographers, stylists, makeup artists, designers, etc.) can find models, read their reviews, flip through their portfolio, send them a message, book them and pay them—all in real time. Once a model is confirmed for a job, booking fees are held in escrow until the gig is complete. Swipecast’s multi-step verification system also ensures that no client is ever unvetted.

Swipecast is focusing on the “long tail” of the fashion market. While the startup is already handling high-end clients such as Marc Jacobs and Saks Fifth Avenue, Swipecast is also uniquely servicing emerging clients, which includes young designers and e-commerce platforms. This end of the market also pertains to one-off jobs for local retailers, such as hair salons, wineries, hospitality organizations, nightlife companies, and alcohol distributors.

Swipecast also lowers the cost of hiring talent by 30 percent, and models get paid immediately versus having to wait through a 60-90 payment period with traditional agencies.

“What’s exciting from a fashion perspective is that fashion people are all freelancers, and this is solving a real pain point for people who have to hustle and find a new job every day in order to get paid” said Fitzpatrick.

While only models can be booked on Swipecast’s current app, the company plans to expand the app’s booking capabilities to include photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists. Globally, this has the potential to disrupt a $62 billion market.

In the long-term, both Magdon-Ismail and Fitzpatrick hope to integrate Venmo into Swipecast’s service. While Swipecast is popular among international fashion capitals (New York, Milan, Paris, London, etc.), Venmo’s technology does not currently extend across the globe.

While mobile payments and modeling seem to occupy different universes, Magdon-Ismail’s background largely applies to what Swipecast is trying to achieve.

“If you can make it easier for people to receive their funds as promptly as possible, it really sets you apart from other competitors in the market,” said Magdon-Ismail.

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