A discussion about the hardship of living away from loved ones led Matt Barnett and Katrin Suess to launch their Sydney-based business Vimily.
Vimily provides a do-it-yourself online interview kit to film and share the life stories and lessons of your parents or grandparents.
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Barnett talks to StartupSmart about why family-related ideas such as Vimily are a winner in the Australian market.
Why did you launch Vimily?
Katrin and myself are the best of friends because we share the same burning desire to use our creativity and passion for business to help people in a meaningful way.
Whilst talking about the difficulties of living so far from family (we hail from the UK and Germany originally), we discovered that we had both unfortunately lost family members in our lives, without ever really having had the chance to get to know them.
Imagine if we have film of them telling their stories, their achievements and personalities, we thought, how valuable to us that would be?
More importantly we found others – many others who felt the same way and wished they had captured the life stories of loved ones before they passed on.
We immediately started looking into how we could capture our own parents’ life stories on film, and found the current methods to do this were expensive, fragmented or required experience we did not have. There had to be a better way.
Vimily as a result is the simplest, most affordable and accessible way for anyone to go and film great life story interviews themselves.
How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?
We initially funded the business ourselves, each putting $30,000 to build our prototype and take on an additional developer.
Development took longer than anticipated, and we were fortunate to raise some additional seed capital from early angels. In all, from start to launch probably cost the business around $80,000.
How many staff do you have?
Other than the founding team we have two fulltime developers on board, and they are both absolute rock stars. I would say without a doubt our team is Vimily’s greatest asset.
How do you promote the business?
We just launched two weeks ago and right now we are really focused on promoting Vimily as a gift purchase for the holiday season.
For parents and grandparents, it is the perfect meaningful gift as it not only involves the whole family but ensures that their legacies are preserved for generations to come.
This takes place in the form of some more traditional online marketing and PR.
We have created a physically boxed gift package of Vimily – complete with iPhone tripod and family gift certificates – and we have been testing these at Christmas markets around Sydney.
How do you stand out in the market?
Vimily is the only do-it-yourself service that helps users create great video of family life stories, and preserve and share these online with the whole family.
Aside from this unique offering, we focus on brand above all else. When you are dealing in emotive and personal content as we are, trust and transparency is everything.
We are completely open about what we do, have no online advertising, and users own all their content. They can download the videos they create at any time.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/2013?
- $239,870 for 2012 (to year end July)
- 2013 – $3,705,016
We are aiming for 46,971 paying users by July 2014.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
As in any start-up, our risks are constantly changing as we tackle each one that confronts us. Right now our greatest risk probably lies with our communication and conversion channel.
People love Vimily, however many see capturing life story videos as something they will get around to one day – and unfortunately this is often a day too late.
We want to prevent that happening so a lot of our energy is focused on communicating that a certain level of urgency needs to be acted upon.
This communication will affect our conversion, leading to our growth rate of the business, and hence future funding – so this really is key in these early days.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
People always talk about the risks of a new business. At this stage you expect to be learning, and your small business can react fast, learn and move on.
When your company grows, you lose this reactive speed and have many more employees relying upon your decisions – that is when mistakes are truly dangerous.
There seems to be a few family-inspired start-ups popping up, such as Tapestry. Where do you see the market heading?
It’s an amazingly active arena indeed. Take Ancestry.com, who not only purchased Archives.com and 1000memories this year, but were themselves bought out by Permira Funds for $1.5 billion.
One of the major drivers is that the internet generation itself is aging. Those of us who were there in the beginning are now having families and children, and reaching out for the technology to cater to our changing needs.
Combine this with the greater globalisation of many families, and we find that retaining connectivity and family support is becoming more relevant than ever.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Have fun, celebrate your successes and build a great culture from day one.
Our Vimily family is everything to us, and a far greater reason to get out of bed than money ever will be, and not just for the founders.
Inspire your team and your productivity will increase. Happy teams create happy customers.