Sourcing the Crowd
By Sean Brenner
Published Jul 1, 2013 8:00 AM
Rare is the American entrepreneurial success story that begins, "I was getting off of a plane in Estonia …" But just as he was about to begin a Baltic vacation a couple of years ago, Adam Swart '14 conceived of an idea for an unusual business.
"I saw some VIPs getting off of the plane, and they were welcomed with all of this fanfare," says Swart, a Palo Alto, Calif., native who expects to graduate next spring. "I thought, 'Why can't anybody be welcomed this way? Why is it just for A-listers?'"
Before long, Swart had come up with the idea for his start-up, Crowds on Demand. If you want to know what it's like to have a throng of people give you a hero's welcome at the airport, a crush of paparazzi track your every move while you shop, or a horde of adoring fans follow you around—Swart's firm will send a team of actors to fulfill your wish.
Many of Swart's clients are tourists looking to live out a fantasy. Others are up-and-coming entertainers who figure that if they can manufacture some fake buzz around themselves, real attention from the media might follow. One development Swart didn't expect: The firm has been contracted by advertising and public relations agencies to generate attention for their clients' products at conferences and trade shows.
Swart has booked events in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Fees begin at $2,999 for the "celebrity fan experience" and $9,999 and up to have hundreds of actors hold a rally in your honor.
Crowds on Demand
Adam Swart's start-up, Crowds on Demand, allows anyone to experience what it feels like to be a swarmed by a crowd of fans or paparazzi for a day.
Video by Aaron Proctor '05
As the business grows, Swart hopes to combine his crowdbuilding acumen with his academic interests. "We could use crowds to galvanize political sentiment," he says. "Our services can really get people informed about issues that matter. People pay so much attention when they see us."
While he credits his entrepreneurial bent to his parents, both of whom have been executives at start-ups, and his Silicon Valley upbringing, Swart says Westwood has also played a role. "UCLA pushes you out into the real world," he says. "You're in the heart of L.A., and you learn quickly how to be proactive."