escapex: Providing Celebrities an Alternative to the Chains and Growing Problems of Facebook and Instagram

The confluence of mobile communication and influencers has created an industry that has evolved dramatically in recent years.

At the recent Digital Entertainment World conference I had the opportunity to meet with Sephi Shapira, the founder and CEO of escapex, a platform that empowers celebrities and influencers like Ashley Tisdale, Jeremy Renner and Alessandra Ambrósio to own and monetize their digital content.

Essentially, escapex is providing celebrities with their personally owned platforms (POPs), which is an ownership model in comparison to a rental model for those celebrities using centralized platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

Shapira’s company has an astounding 3 billion (that’s with a B) users worldwide and is growing by 150 million fans/month. He has two decades of experience as a mobile entrepreneur and previously founded several successful startups.

The company recently announced some amazing growth statistics in their POPs:

  • 10X growth in year-over-year top-line revenue performance.
  • 197% growth in influencers in 2018.
  • 283% growth in territories in 2018.
  • developed personally owned platforms for 165 of the world’s leading actors, athletes, models, musicians, and social media influencers, for a total of 335 branded apps.

The company has a diverse range of influencers on its roster. On the heels of these impressive numbers, Shapira and I discussed the future of fan engagement and monetization.

Ashley Tisdale

Jeremy Renner

Auerbach: Bring me up to speed on escapex and where you are today.

Shapira: escapex is on a mission to decentralize social media. We have two objectives: increased access and monetization. We currently support 350 influencers with a combined following of 3 billion fans worldwide. With escapex, influencers do not need to be exclusive to us. They can still drive traffic from other places, such as Instagram or Facebook. There is no minimum to join escapex, in terms of fan following. Our official launch date was Jan 2015, and we secured VC funding in 2016. We are revenue positive.


Everything you described applies to white label and official app builds?

Yes, we also have our own music distribution feature that allows official music to be availavle offline (since it’s embedded in the app). It’s not streaming and it’s not downloaded. It is our patented tech, that asks for permission every time a token expires. It works extremely well where internet connectivity is not so great for streaming, like Latin America.


Have you bumped into agreements with Spotify?

Yes, we have a global integration with Spotify. escapex apps offer full tracks for Spotify subscribers and 30 second clips for non-subscribers. Last month, Spotify changed their API where full tracks are available, but with every 3rd song you have to hear an ad if you are a non-subscriber. The Bob Marley official app has about 5M downloads. The family is using it as an extension of their social following. Each artist selects the music they want to feature on their escapex app.


What’s the conversion rate you’ve seen?

0.1% of social followers on Instagram convert into paying subscribers on escapex.


What’s the Facebook conversion?

Depends on how old the Facebook account is. You want to look at the last 30 days and look at how many likes you achieved. You can have an Instagrammer with 20M followers that gets less likes per post than an Instagrammer with 10M. Some accounts are fraud, fake followers. [With these other platforms] no matter how good your hotel is, you’re still renting. You don’t own your own asset. How can a startup with 50 engineers compete with Instagram with 20K engineers? We hit them where they ain’t. These are the vagaries of centralized social media [such as Instagram or Facebook]. Influencers there do not own their content or their fans. You cannot add a link to an Instagram post. When you want to promote your own store, you can’t put a link out. You can on escapex.


Are you vulnerable to Instagram or Facebook changing their formula? Their API?

No, we define Instagram as a competitor. We go after them. All compete with creators. I see no threat from them. We view centralized platforms as taking advantage of creators but monetizing their fan following and failing to distribute the profits.


How do you attract new influencers?

Tier 1 influencers are Paris Hilton, Jeremy Renner, Chris D’Elia, Dita Von Teese. Tier 2 are social media entrepreneurs who have built a business on social platforms like Mandy Sacs, Anastasiya Kvitko, Apryl Jones, and Abigail Ratchford. Tier 2 influencers make their living on social media and with escapex, that can be quite lucrative, as they take home 70% of everything they earn on their official app.


Back to the vulnerability question. If Instagram realizes you are drawing traffic away, couldn’t they put something on the app that blocks that?

They could, but they would have to prevent influencers from posting on their Instagram page. They are already dealing with issues of censorship. Users migrate; 1% out of 1,000 of your followers in many cases is sufficient. We ensure from the initial engagement through the entire process, and our influencers explain to their fans why their escapex app is the better move. We bring back engagement, which is why social media was built in the first place.


How did you arrive at this business model?

I met an influencer with a massive following who was working as a bartender to pay the bills. Then I looked at this mobile tech that’s incredibly mature but had no following. I married the two together.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.