As you know, Katie and I meet many startups on a regular basis and hear very interesting insights and stories about how they were founded, the challenges they face and how they manage to solve some of these challenges.

So, we have decided to note down the best founder stories we’ve heard here.

Story #2 – FanBytes

Even the largest video influencer network in the UK had to get their first customer, but before bagging GoPro, Disney and Adidas how did they sell anything with no network, no product and lectures to go to?

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Tim and Ambrose used to have clunky Asus laptops. They were cheap, pretty ordinary and did the job they were supposed to, which was to get them through the first couple of years at university.

However Tim and Ambrose didn’t want ordinary. How could they make money whilst at university? How could they juggle studying and earning money, but not how others do it by getting a job?

So of course they started a business! They saw the opportunity to make money out of brands who wanted to connect with younger audiences, people like them. (They’re now called ‘influencers’ but they didn’t know that in 2014).

Tim and Ambrose called the ‘business’ (they had nothing but their laptops) FanBytes and they thought it could be a kind of market place to connect these young people they knew to brands they thought they could get money from.

“I’M IN A LECTURE!”

So how do you get money out of brands when you’re supposed to be in lectures? Tim and Ambrose decided to go for the demand side first (Tim says, “Do not underestimate how wrong this is, anytime you’re building a marketplace company, its essential you go for the supply first, I wish I’d known this before but hey I was 20”). In doing this, they also decided to go for just one type of client, “We figured out that fashion companies will need this the most so decided to go through and contact them one by one”. Again this was a very very bad move, if Tim could start again, he’d pick a ‘lighthouse’ customer in the fashion space, do great work, then reference them as a case study for others in that vertical.

Tim did, however, get through to New Look. He explained the massive network of influencers they had (they didn’t) and how they’d be able to collaborate with them. Because Tim had done this spiel so many times before and never got the message through as brands came up with random reasons why they couldn’t spend money for ‘influencers’ it was quite a shock that New Look said yes (to say the least).

Now Deliver

Tim called his cofounder, Ambrose, and just said, “S**t”. A lot. Now they have to deliver. It seemed so casual before now – calling, pitching, getting rejected – but now someone had bought it.

Now they had an issue bigger than having no customers. They had no influencers, no software and Tim had just told them that they’d provide a campaign proposal in two days. Game on. This is the time when they’d really find out if they could make money while at university….

There is – quite rightly – a lot of fake-it-till-you-make-it talk and you certainly shouldn’t build something until you know people want it but there comes the time where you have to crack on and deliver.

Here was the to do list that night:

  • Look for YouTube ‘influencers’ to put in the proposal.
  • Learn how to write a proposal.
  • Make some software that could run basic ‘campaigns’ for New Look.

After thinking getting a client would be the easy but Tim and Ambrose then had to do the call, pitch, get rejected routine from the influencers too (they’d never heard of FanBytes either).

They thought about packing it in. Then they got a response from Bickii and they pitched her New Look. She loved the idea and it was a done deal.

Zero to One

From then on, they had customers – the customer number wasn’t ‘zero’ anymore. They used New Look to then get more fashion and lifestyle customers and build a niche in that area for the first few months. Now the team are in the position of being the largest video influencer network in the UK and are working with brands such as GoPro, Adidas, Sephora and Disney but the founders’ story of getting the first client underlines three things:

  1. If you want to make it happen, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Tim and Ambrose didn’t want to lose that New Look money. It wasn’t impossible so it had to happen.
  2. Treat every customer like they were your only customer – they went all out for that first client and that led to the second, third, fourth….that simply would not have happened if they hadn’t been completely devoted to our New Look.
  3. Learn from the pro’s – there is small goldmine of information out there about building marketplaces. Start with Traction by Gabriel Weinberg then go for Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley. Once you’ve devoured those though you have to do the work – don’t avoid it by reading another book…

Talk to the influencer

If you want to talk to Tim about video influencers go here and contact them.

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