Rollo Wenlock recalls the exact date that inspiration for his startup hit. A few short months later he’s putting both feet to the floor alongside three others in the company, called WIP, at Wellington’s Lightning Lab startup accelerator.
Short for Work In Progress, WIP is a cloud-based collaboration tool for video makers. It allows people to securely share work-in-progress videos as well as the final video with their team or clients, no matter where in the world they are.
But the secret sauce, says Wenlock, is WIP also allows people to comment directly on top of the video, with anything from words to images and links.
“Basically the video becomes a worktop table where everybody can get their thoughts out really succinctly, then move forward really fast.”
Wenlock, who is WIP’s CEO, has 15 years’ experience as a professional filmmaker and was often frustrated while working with the processes available for collaborating on video work, which could be clumsy, slow and allow errors to be introduced.
He says the idea came in “a flash of inspiration”. He embarked on the process of applying for the Lightning Lab more as a means to hone his thinking about the business. Then the company got in.
A winner of Webstock’s 2013 BNZ Startup Alley competition, WIP is pitching its product far further than professional film production houses, says Wenlock, given the exponential rise in the amount of online video being produced.
“Everyone makes video now so everybody needs a platform for their work in progress because everyone has to review things at some point,” he says.
Why did you apply for the lab?
The mentors. You get 110 people who are at the top of their game coming through and talking to you about every aspect of your business. It’s been huge. You can put out what you’re doing and they can rip it apart and you become stronger.
Each team has also found a group of mentors that work for them. We’ve each got a group of about five mentors, which might even turn into our advisory board, which might even turn into our board as we grow and grow ... that also creates credibility.
The other thing that’s been really good is having this office we’re all in, on the Terrace. We’re all trying to go ahead at high speed on our own companies, but we can also instantly talk to someone else.
How has the experience challenged you as an entrepreneur?
You can’t bullshit anymore. When you’re working on your own you can kind of bullshit yourself about what you’re doing, but here in the lab every day you have to stand up and do a one-minute pitch in front of a room of new people.
You have to validate or invalidate everything that’s happening. You have to validate every assumption and if you can’t prove it then you have to throw it away.
One thing that’s really difficult is that a lot of us in the lab have got families. I’ve got a partner and a five-month-old baby so also trying to share the responsibilities of that with being in the lab from eight in the morning to 10 at night is really difficult. Trying to find that balance has probably been the hardest thing.
What are biggest lessons you’ve learned?
The learning has been enormous. What a business is, compared to what I knew at the start, it’s 100% different. At the start I was thinking you make this really cool product and you make it look as cool as you can and you make it work well enough and you put it on the internet and people will find it and start paying you.
Now it’s like none of that matters. You have to have a market, you have to prove you’ve got it and you have to prove everything else. If you can’t then you don’t have a business.
Any advice you’d give to other startups?
Don’t do a startup in an area that you have no experience in. Know the world you’re going into.
The other thing is if you have an idea don’t hold on to it. As soon as you have an idea, scheme it up in a drawing or a sentence and then go and tell someone about it.
And if they don’t respond to it you either haven’t explained it properly or it sucks. And if it sucks just throw it away.
Otherwise you could spend six months working quietly on this thing and you might even have a good idea but you might have built something completely wrong because you haven’t asked anybody what they actually want it to do.
Do you feel better off than at this time last year?