Adam Beveridge, co-founder of new video discovery app Hollabox, tells Business Advice the story behind the startup building on the Snapchat model to give Londoners an immersive experience of the capital.
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Adam Beveridge, one of the co-founders of Hollabox. We’re London’s first video discovery app, so you can literally step into and see inside the best bars, restaurants and things to do that this wonderful city has to offer.
How long have you been around for?
We launched in June this year and in just eight weeks we have had over 10,000 video views on our app.
We started out with a different iteration of our product a few years ago, but it didn’t have the right product to market fit. Suffice to say we learnt fast and pivoted to what we have today.
Some say that startups are a rollercoaster ride and we have literally had the lows of watching our first product fail in the market, to today’s new adventure. We’ve had the fuel for this fire for quite a long time.
How do you make money?
We have one revenue stream currently running and three in the pipeline. The first being the premium tier of our platform, where businesses can have premium placement of their content and receive data packages on performance and demographics viewing their content.
Soon we will offer other features including location-based advertising, which will allow chains and brands to have their content appear on the app when a user is nearby one of their locations. This type of marketing is often the difference between a user choosing to walk into a Starbucks over a Costa, for example.
Additionally, we will have the ability to offer site integrations, for large complexes like Westfield. This means users will have bespoke content visible to them when nearby one of these sites and when within one.
This helps businesses increase footfall to their complexes, improving customer experience and navigation once inside.
Lastly, we will have the ability to offer in-story advertising, as popularised by Snapchat. These allow brands to run full-screen ads in-between our clips, for the most immersive mobile advertising currently available.
What makes you different and why should people take notice?
Product wise, we’re doing something innovative that so far the market has really valued and loved.
We review and recommend London’s best bars, restaurants and hot spots, but what people are enjoying is that unlike other discovery apps that showcase staged pictures, mostly of empty restaurants, we drop you straight into the action, using real life videos in a Snapchat-style.
This means you can immerse yourself into the experience and get the truest sense of the atmosphere and clientele.
As a business, we’re here for the long run. We’re having great fun along the way, visiting and doing all the cool things featured on our app ourselves.
What was key starting your video discovery app?
Two things I think they’re more important than funding or even an idea.
The first is being motivated. I’ve always found the fear of failing to be greater motivation than that of succeeding. Whatever obstacles were thrown at Hollabox, I knew myself and the team were motivated to keep pushing to make it work.
The second of which was being open-minded. This doesn’t mean I took everything that everyone said as gospel, but for starting Hollabox, it meant being willing to learn, and step outside of our own Hollabox “bubble” as it were, and see what other people were seeing.
Mainly so we could think as our users thought, see what investors saw, but also importantly look back on ourselves to remind us what we’d already achieved.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
I’m particularly proud of that we were accepted onto the Firstbourne Accelerator programme that was being piloted our university town of Bournemouth. Our product was failing in the marketplace, but we beat 100s of other applications to receive £25,000 funding from Creative England and work with Silicon South and Bournemouth’s digital network to re-imagine and deliver the Hollabox we have today.
This is a testament to us as a founding team, where our strength, determination and vision alone was credible enough to secure the place and funding. This in itself shows how others value our team and believed that this team would make something happen.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
The obvious setbacks are financial. Not having enough to grow the business as quickly as you’d like and bring in additional team members to share workload.
The trade-off of putting your business first, as is expected at our early stage, is that as founders you take the bare minimum to fund yourself and live off. This is a challenge, especially living around and working in central London.
In five years’ time, I will be…
My motivation has actually never been money, but to build my own machine and not be a cog in someone else’s. Regardless of my financial situation, I would like to look back on what has been achieved with Hollabox and be proud of how far my team and I took it.
What one tip would you give to others starting out?
I would say never be scared to branch out and learn something new and do things for yourself. When we started out, we were fresh out of university and naïve to how much payment people could demand for skilled work.
We knew we needed sales decks and good-looking graphics for public-facing content like social media and websites. We worked with an agency, who in the end charged us £400 for a simple power point deck. We knew at that point, our spending needed to get smarter and if something as simple as a presentation could cost us this much, we would have spent everything we had within a month.
Arun Thangavel, my co-founder, took it upon himself to learn the ins and outs of graphics software like Adobe Illustrator and After Effects – now he produces content to such a professional level he is often inundated with freelance offers. This not only added to his personal skill base, but allowed the business to streamline its operations and reduce outsourced expenditure.
Not being scared to learn a new skill is an important trait to have early on.
Who are your business heroes and why?
I have lots of people I admire – but one that springs to mind is Duncan Bannatyne. Anyone who believes “it’s not the right time for me to start my business” need only look at him when he started out. Straight out of prison, after being kicked out of the navy, with nothing.
Even though we live in a very different, technology-driven world, I think his attitude still counts for a lot in today’s startup ecosystem.
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