bragster.com: Bertrand Bodson and Wim Vernaeve

Bertrand Bodson on co-founding the site that dares to be different

Company name:  bragster.com  Founders: Bertrand Bodson, Wim Vernaeve Age: 33, 29 Based: London Staff Numbers: 10 Date started: 2007

Tell us what your business does: bragster.com is the online community for daring, boasting and bragging. Our user base is mainly from the UK and US. The users challenge each other and do crazy dares to earn bragging rights and compete to get to the top of the bragster.com rankings.  We’ve previously been described by The Guardian as ‘Facebook meets Jackass’ 

Where did the idea for your business come from? When Wim was working at Morgan Stanley he got dared by a colleague to go bald before an important client meeting.  It never happened but it got us thinking about the thousands of dares that are made each day and the need for a space where they could be recorded. 

What were you doing before starting up? I had quite a conventional start to business by getting an MBA from Harvard and working for the Boston Consultant Group but then got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and helped co-found a bio-tech company with MIT PhDs. I then joined Amazon.com to launch DVD rentals across Europe before launching bragster.com. Wim is an aerospace engineer who previously co-founded a DVD rental company in the Netherlands, spent time in Shanghai and worked in M&A at Morgan Stanley before we met.

How did you raise the money? We initially raised money through a personal connection from my time at Harvard.  Although we weren’t looking for it, a close friend who was reviewing our business plan thought that it was a good business proposition and passed it onto a contact who was looking to invest in exciting new companies.

What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? One of the biggest challenges was finding our first technology genius.  As we had no prior knowledge of how to build websites, it was difficult to judge the quality of the thirty candidates we met to employ our first specialist.  Luckily our first recruit proved to be an extremely successful hire and Peter is now our CTO in charge of our internal developers.

How have you promoted your business?Our site is intrinsically viral. People are looking for an audience for their brags and dares and so happily share their activity with friends and family and so we’ve been building tools to make it easier for them to do this.  We’ve also been doing a lot of guerrilla marketing with real-life activities like the bragster.com Olympiad during the summer, and the Wildest University tour where we are targeting ten universities across the UK and spreading the word about bragster.com. Celebrities like 50 Cent have also joined bragster.com which helps generate interest in the site.  Our users also help promote the site with outrageous brags that get picked up and covered by mainstream media, like the recent stunt turning Trafalgar Square into a giant bubble bath. 

What would you do differently? ie what have you learnt?We would be a bit more measured if we were to do this again and not try and offer everything to everyone.  Having said that, it’s been a great learning process and has really allowed us to develop the site and know what we’re really good at.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?We see ourselves partnering closely with international web and community-savvy media groups and leveraging our unique video content to reach more and more people across the world.

For more information and a brief overview of bragster.com, visit www.bragster.com and click on Intro to bragster to watch a video about the site

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