Collaboration platform startup Lumi, aimed at simplifying processes in the TV production industry, has raised $1.34 million, with $668,000 in the form of a government grant from the AusIndustry Innovation Programme, which was matched by private investors.
The Accelerating Commercialisation Grant is part of the department of industry, innovation and science’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme, the government’s flagship initiative for boosting business productivity, and requires the startup to match the funding, either through private backers or the founders’ own funds.
Lumi co-founder and chief executive Karen Dewey has a background in TV production, having worked on the first series of Australian Big Brother, which she says was part of the first wave of understanding “how quickly we could make TV”.
She also spent seven years as an executive producer on the show My Restaurant Rules at Channel 7, where she organised teams working in five different states and pulled together the show in Sydney.
Dewey is used to working in a “big, disparate team” with “people in different locations contributing to the same vision”.
Working with updates delivered on pink and blue paper slips, with different versions being handed out almost hourly, “I just thought, there has got to be a better way of doing this,” Dewey says.
In 2015, she enlisted the help of her brother Neil Dewey, an experienced software developer, and the pair co-founded and launched software-as-a-service platform Lumi.
Since then, the startup has received funding from angel investors, and additional industry backing from Screen Australia. But it’s this latest funding that the founders hope will get the product ready for a full-scale launch.
In creative industries, “we work with index cards and post-it notes,” Dewey says, with different people jotting down ideas, stories and “the who-what-when-where-why of our project”.
“It’s always about the story,” she says.
“What is the vision?” she adds.
With shared drives, multiple documents and convoluted email chains doing the rounds, it can be difficult to pull all the ideas together. According to Dewey, Lumi removes part of that challenge, providing all the information in one place, and “trying to keep the team working on a vision”.
There’s also a focus on the design of the platform. It’s a visual industry, Dewey says, so the platform is “very flexible, allowing for quirks”.
Throughout their testing stages, the team found that “everybody’s Lumi looks completely different”.
This funding will be used “to finesse” the platform, Dewey says, and to develop a plan to get it ready for market, in a bid to “pioneer with Australian companies … and get ready to launch worldwide”.
It’s a big win for the startup, but getting the grant in the first place was no easy feat, with “so many hoops to go through”.
For this grant in particular, one of the key criterion was innovation, Dewey says.
“We had to set about demonstrating how innovative Lumi is, and that it’s a different platform,” she adds.
Throughout the process, they had to identify Lumi’s competitors, and explain how the platform differentiates, as well as demonstrating those properties and showing how they would “move the gauge worldwide”.
The process led the team to “a slightly different way of thinking,” Dewey says, and, while it was onerous, ultimately, she says it was beneficial.
At different stages, the team was asked what they would do in various scenarios — specifically, if something went wrong.
“When you’re moving very fast, you can tend to think ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it’,” Dewey says.
“They won’t let you … it’s a very disciplined way of considering that stuff,” she adds.
Of course, throughout the grant application process the team collaborated on Lumi, Dewey says, which “helped us break down the application piece by piece”.
For other startups considering looking for grant funding, Dewey warns that it’s “more than ticking boxes”.
In fact, the application made her think so hard about Lumi’s future, that parts of the plan going forward came directly from that process.
“It made us think so hard about overcoming particular issues,” she says.
“It forces you to answer a lot of questions that might otherwise have been skipped.”
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