Auditionist: Will Crosthwait and Ben Albahari

Co-founder Crosthwait talks life in a lean start-up, how video technology is the future and why researching your market is essential

Name: Will Crosthwait and Ben Albahari
Company name: Auditionist
Location: Greater London 
Date launched: 21.01.15
Number of Employees: 2
Website: www.auditionist.com

Tell us what your business does:

Auditionist connects great actors to top production companies through video auditions that saves them both the time and money.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I worked as a production manager and saw the difficulties involved in casting. I teamed up with developer and co-author of C# in a Nutshell, Ben Albahari, and together we started to build Auditionist.

How did you know there was a market for it?

There is a big debate in the casting industry as to whether video is the future, as currently the headshot rules supreme; however with shrinking budgets and demand for more creative input from Record Labels and advertising agencies, video provides great time and budget saving solutions.

None of the current solutions have really nailed the pain points but we hope that Auditionist will address them in a way that saves casting directors, actors and production companies time and money.

What were you doing before starting up?

Ben worked at Microsoft and co-authored C# in a Nutshell. He had also founded a site called Takeonit and a company called Genamics Expression, which produced DNA Sequence Analysis Software

I worked in film as a production manager, assistant director and writer. Before that I worked as an in-house marketing manager at nightclubs Mahiki and Bungalow 8.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes we both have. My first business venture was when I eight and I charged my mums colleagues to pack their desks when they had to move offices. Since then I’ve organised hundreds of events and been involved in scores of film productions. And Auditionist is now Ben’s third business.

How did you raise the money?

We have debt financed with a loan from Virgin Start-ups and through good old-fashioned bootstrapping. We believe in the lean start-up technique so we’re trying to keep overheads as low as possible whilst sustaining ourselves through personal savings.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

There are a number of revenue streams available to us and we believe the right course of action is to take a percentage of transactions that occur through the site but we’re offsetting monetisation until we see how the market takes to our platform.

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

Coming up with a marketing plan that worked for us and understanding finance routes.

For marketing advice we watched a webinar from social media guru Warren Knight and for finance we attended the Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ Growth Accelerator course and participated in the Access to Finance scheme. Here we got a growth coach, Si Conroy, and he has really helped us understand the different methods of finance and continues to help us as our business moves forward.

What was your first big breakthrough

One big breakthrough was featuring at the Virgin Start-up of the Week, this gave us a lot of confidence and got our name out there.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Take the plunge! Starting a business is scary but if you have passion for your business, it extremely rewarding. A word of caution thought, make sure you do your market research and check that your idea hasn’t been done or that the market is not too competitive.

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

We want our platform in different geographic locations like America and India. We also want to explore different areas where video marketplace technology can be applied.

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