BeBirbal: Olly Whittle

The app entrepreneur talks revenue streams, understanding his market and how the ice bucket challenge gave him the edge with investors

Name: Olly Whittle
Company name: BeBirbal 
Location: South West 
Date launched: 06/11/2014 
Website: www.bebirbal.com 

Tell us what your business does:

An IOS mobile application helping people upload a 15 second video clip to share with their friends and invite them to add their own version or better the original. For instance Nike might upload a 15 second video of a Rory Mallory golf shot and then ask their audience to beat the distance of his shot or replicate his swing.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The idea came from my enjoyment of taking videos and making simple YouTube clips and the fact I recognised people were taking lots of videos on their phone and especially on their GoPro but not doing much with them. I was already building small apps so I understood the basics and the potential and so BeBirbal was born from all these contributing elements.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Market research showed that mobile video data was predicted to grow significantly in the coming years. Quite simply it made sense too; better phones, larger screens, accessible wifi, 4G etc. all paved the way for video.

Also, I asked a lot of people who said they were taking videos on their phones or GoPro but not doing much with them. Lastly micro videos were growing in popularity and the likes of Instagram, snapchat and facebook messenger were educating the user to produce 15 second videos to share.

What were you doing before starting up?

I ran an online marketing company for five years specialising in mobile and social. It was a small company but one that gave me an incredible amount of experience in business and provided knowledge of the industry. It also helped me to understand trends and see how technology was evolving and people’s response and behaviour to the changes.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Absolutely, I knew from an early age that I was never going to be able to work for someone else, which has made things tough sometimes but ultimately rewarding and satisfying.

How did you raise the money?

So far the project has been bootstrapped but we’re talking to investors in order to raise a seed fund.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We’re a typical app in the sense that we are built upon a great idea we think has huge potential but then subsequently have to find ways to make money. I’m looking into subtle mobile video ads that don’t damage the user’s experience.

I think it’s important that we show an intent at revenue generated by ads as the UK is not in the same position as the US – where money is thrown at apps and they’re told to worry about monetising later!

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Wow, so many obstacles – ranging from rejections by Apple, available money, cloud hosting, bugs with the app, the app not launching the morning of an investor pitch – but I’m pleased to say we’ve overcome any issues or found alternatives.

The first came when I tried to build this app last year but couldn’t find the right developers and the video was so difficult to deal with that at the time, there just wasn’t accessible platforms to build it without spending huge money. However, now I’ve found a fantastic developer who I’d previously worked with and things have been moving quickly since then.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Not a typical breakthrough but the first thing that comes to mind is strangely the ice bucket challenge.It proved exactly how I’d hoped people would react to a campaign and was a proof of our business’ concept.

Furthermore, it helped whilst talking to investors who were not up-up-date with the latest app trends but had seen the spread of the ice bucket challenge so could understand the idea.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

To never ever give up – even if it seems like the best and only decision left.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I would like to be in a position where I can mentor and help other start-ups grow.

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