SmartShoot Scales Nearly 40x with ‘Invisible’ Finance Operations

  • Payables automation frees up 24 days per year
  • Eliminated US and global tax penalty risks
  • Freed up finance to lead strategic corporate development

HQ San Francisco
Customer Since 2017
Industry Online Marketplace


“When you can pay on time and are transparent about it, payments are easy. I’ll pay all our photographers early just as a thank you. Building that sort of goodwill with the community is invaluable.”
—John Pfeister, Head of Finance, SmartShoot

With clients that include some of the world’s premier brands, including Yelp, Google, YouTube and Zillow, SmartShoot sources and assigns professional photographers and videographers from a network of over 4,000 freelancers around the world to deliver custom photo and video content. This equates to making thousands of payments for client projects every month.

“Our goal is to find the most talented people and fill their day with shoots. We’ve built a lot of tools to optimize their schedule, which creates economies of scale for our enterprise customers,” says SmartShoot head of finance John Pfeister.

According to Pfeister, however, the payments operation was a drag on the entire ecosystem. Smartshoot would take two full days each month to pay its creative talent. Additionally, they would manually send out payment notification emails to people regarding their associated projects.

“The first iteration of the company was managing 500 video projects a month with 70 people in the office. We revamped and scaled everything we could, and today we’re doing over 5,000 jobs a month with 18 people. I’m the only finance person here.”

Pfeister and the founding team learned the hard way when their original iteration of SmartShoot folded and they re-formed their online marketplace. They realized that they needed to be as lean as possible and automate everything that slowed down operations.

“Finance needs to become invisible. People want to focus on what adds value to their company. They don’t want to worry about any other part of the process breaking down,” Pfeister explains.

SmartShoot’s market expanded internationally, which meant solving for tax penalty risk became a priority. As Pfeister explains, “Our enterprise accounts began asking ‘What are doing to make sure your international photographers are tax-compliant? How do ensure you can actually pay these individuals?’ So I knew we needed a global, holistic solution.”

SmartShoot found a complete solution in Tipalti. “Every single part of our process, from onboarding filmmakers and collecting and validating their tax information to paying them had to be global and scalable. Implementing Tipalti was the answer, it was a win-win-win for us,” said Pfeister.

The real win for Pfeister is getting back time that he can put into more strategic initiatives for the business, including pricing, corporate development, and business partnering. “When my CEO comes to me with a new project, he doesn’t want to hear ‘Oh, I need to process payments.’ Tipalti has completely automated this for us, so I now have time for all the other strategic initiatives that help us grow,” sums up Pfeister.