“It took me a while to get my head out of my own arse”: Why the co-founder of million-dollar video startup Shootsta started a brand new business

Video is hard to get right – business owners know it, and so do content producers. As the race to capture customers becomes increasingly image heavy and digital-focused, weekly (or even daily) company updates and promos have become an expectation.

Mike Pritchett and Tim Moylan have seen opportunity in this problem – and while it might have taken a client to point out the niche, the pair’s company, Shootsta, has managed to book clients like Oracle and Guzman y Gomez over the past year, along with $1.2 million in revenue.

Shootsta delivers in-house camera kits to businesses, trains staff on how to use them and provides quick turnarounds on editing so clients can get video out quickly. SmartCompany interrupted the team’s Friday afternoon table tennis hour (yes, that’s a thing) to speak with Pritchett about the need for speed in the video space.

I didn’t want to start another business. Trapdoor Productions [which I’ve run for nearly seven years] was a great business and is a great business.

The only issue was that I knew full well that I was the business and I think most owners know what that feels like.

It means that you can’t walk away. In some people’s businesses, they can’t take a day off.

With Shootsta, there was a definite need in the market place, including from a lot of our clients. On a business level, I’d been doing reading on how to build a business that is scalable. I’d [also] just had a young child and thought, I guess, “I just have so much time on my hands!”

I think having a child and starting a family changes everything. The reason they gave us nine months to prepare is to go: “oh my gosh, my world is going to change”.

When I started in the video production industry 15 years ago, companies would contact me and say: “We need a corporate DVD done”. We made these corporate pieces and then said “Sayonara, we’ll see you in five years when you need a new one”. Then, businesses started saying “we need a new one every week”.

There was one multinational law firm, and their digital director just said to me: “We’re doing these more and more … it can’t cost $6000 every time we need a video”.

It took me a while, to be frank, to get my head out of my own arse – but that [experience] was how Shootsta was born.

I quickly partnered with my best mate, Tim Moylan. He had a background in IT and understood cloud based businesses and how to set them up.

We enable large companies to create content on scale by providing them with their own custom-based camera kit. It’s everything you need to produce your own content. At Qantas, for example, we’ve taught 100 people to make their own content, through ongoing training sessions.

We also have a global network of camera operators who can come out and shoot with them as well. Our clients can upload the footage, and that triggers an alarm to our editors in a big warehouse office [where it goes for] editing.

People can actually see what’s going on with the videos very quickly. Gone are the days where people can make a message and release it two weeks later.

If you remember the “Running Man” challenge – well, we did the one for Qantas. Air New Zealand put a shout out to Qantas one afternoon, and they lined the shoot up for 9:00am the next morning. We turned the video around in just five hours.

It shows the entire shift in the industry, from “ad hoc” to “always on”. We’re in the client’s back pocket, ready to shoot.

We took two years setting Shootsta up. That was two years of seeing what people could do, couldn’t do. The reality is on the editing side, good editing takes time. There’s no such thing as: “Can you quickly edit this video for me?”

But these guys and girls are sitting at their desks, ready to go – they’re on it, they have it turned around as quickly as you can. We have an online review system so clients can see videos online, kind of like chat, so parts of the video [projects] can be changed.

I think I’d always wanted to be running my own business, ever since I left school, and with Tim it was a timing thing. He hit a point in his career in which he was sick of working for the man, and he jumped. He was hunting and looking and trying different business ideas, and then the stars kind of aligned for us.

We actually co-own a property in Mudgee that we run as an Airbnb kind of business. We bought this property five years ago. We were renting it out and we knew what it was like to work with each other.

We’re opposite personalities in a lot of ways. He’s organised for one and, I don’t know what I bring to the partnership actually!

He’s process driven and has the tech brain; I’m very much an entrepreneur in the spirit of the world – I have big ideas, big goals. I have the stupidity or confidence to think they’re going to pay off.

It takes energy for me not to come up with new ideas. For me, it’s harder to stay focused on the ideas at hand. I think that’s another thing about the partnership. You’ve got to avoid the shiny object syndrome – instead of staying focused.

I was thinking about the phrase “what if”, and I think those are the two words that have got Shootsta to where it is today. Clients have said things like: “Can you do a 360?” – and we’ve gone “what if we could?” and we did.

I also co-founded the charity Kenya Aid and working at it previously. The lessons I learned were more about how to work with people.

The not-for-profit space is even harder than business. It’s very difficult because it’s got to be done for the love of it.

I think the good part from that is that on a leadership level, the big difference between the way we run Shootsta and the way a lot of other people run companies is I don’t see the people I work with as “staff”.

When a company succeeds, a good leader shouldn’t be getting the kudos. For example, our customer service manager is fantastic at running the customer experience part of the business as entirely her responsibility. She tells us what she needs to make things happen for her.

In business, I’d always take energy and passion over particular talent. I think the number one thing is energy and attitude – if you’re scatterbrained, all over the shop, but boy you’re eager, then you’ll work the scatterbrained stuff out.

Look at me. When I did an interview in the Financial Review or something like that, my uncle said: “Who would have thought you’d see the day when Mike would comment on something in the Fin Review?”

Fortunately for me, I had the right mentors.

I don’t think it’s hard to find mentors, I think it’s hard to get off your arse and find mentors.

I reckon you could call most big, success entrepreneurs and find a way to just let you buy them a coffee. When you go back 30 times, they’ll go: “Geez, this guy’s persistent”.

In the past I’ve just said to people: “do you mind?” Nine times out of ten, the response has been “call me any time you need”.

Most successful people are successful for a reason. Call them up, get in front of them, make a video.


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