Old friends' madcap idea finds focus and profits

Candid Camera: Peter Varga and Ro Edge are the brains behind The Video Kiosk.
Candid Camera: Peter Varga and Ro Edge are the brains behind The Video Kiosk.

The Video Kiosk creates viral social media campaigns for large corporations. Kashka Tunstall looks at the big picture. 

Peter Varga and Ro Edge never thought a catch-up drink between old friends would turn into a new business venture.

Varga and Edge, both 43, were tossing around ideas of how they could go into business together when an idea seeded.

"We came up with this madcap scheme," Edge said.

"It was an opportunity that we saw had potential."

Three years later the technology the two long-time Otorohanga school friends dreamed up is rolling out across the country and can even be found across international waters.

The business is the Video Kiosk and the product is automated free standing video kiosk technology that captures and shares videos and photos.

Their backgrounds meshed nicely for such a venture.

Varga had chosen a career in electronics while Edge chose marketing.

In 2009, both were looking for a change of pace after closing their personal businesses and decided to team up to go into the technology market with a new type of product geared for weddings.

"Looking at our market which was originally weddings, we figured there would be a lot of drunk people using it so we made it as easy to use as possible."

Varga and Edge commissioned a local company to develop the software, building from a PC platform, but bugs and viruses kept cropping up and they scrapped the project six months after starting it.

"It was incredibly painful . . . and costly," Edge says.

So they started again building from a Mac platform and, after a few modifications, put the final product out into the sector.

Like a digital camera, users can take their photo at the kiosk and if they don't like them they can snap new ones.

Videos can be captured in 15, 30 or 60-second shoots or still images can be taken.

Users can then post the images on their Facebook or Twitter profile pages or send the images to their email address at the press of a single button.

A virtual button, that is. The kiosks are completely touch screen.

It was a concept foreign to users when the company first set out.

Varga says old traditional photo booths were making a comeback on the wedding scene, but the products were based on old technology and they wanted to update the model.

Very little touch-screen technology was available at the time and it caused a bit of confusion.

"It's taken a long time for businesses to catch up with us," Edge says.

"No-one had touch-screen phones when we launched in the wedding market so people would go up to the kiosks and wouldn't know what to do because they weren't used to touch technology.

"We used to have a sign saying ‘Please touch the screen'. They couldn't figure it out and it was so frustrating," Edge says.

Times have changed. The market has caught up and the pair have the product ready to sell.

"It's not easy selling that extra luxury at a wedding in a recession but the people who do get it love it.

"It started off with weddings and then the whole social media side began to grow and we recognised there was definitely an opportunity for companies to market through social media."

At the outset, weddings accounted for 90 per cent of the Video Kiosk's business with the remaining 10 per cent attributed to the commercial sector.

Those numbers have been reversed after Varga and Edge decided to focus on pushing the technology as a social media marketing tool for corporate branding.

"We still do weddings, it's good bread and butter income, but we're focusing now on the large corporate sector with the larger brands these days," Edge says.

"It's where the money is . . . they have it to spend."

The video messaging can be used for social media marketing and customer engagement with users becoming brand ambassadors.

The technology grows online fan bases, makes customers brand ambassadors and shares images and videos imbedded with their brand on the web all with the touch of a button.

As social media becomes more popular, companies want to create strong online profiles but they don't know where to start, Edge says.

Using the Video Kiosk technology gives big corporates a fun way to interact with their customers.

Users posting a photo onto Facebook from a kiosk embedded with a branded company frame exposes the branding and also automatically makes the user profile like the company's Facebook page.

Frozen yoghurt store Yogg in Auckland already has kiosks in place and the day after installing the technology, Edge says she got a call from competitors wanting to know how they could get in on the idea.

The company has worked with big businesses like Bundaberg and Dominos Pizza, trialling kiosks in stores leading up to Christmas. If it goes successfully, they will be rolled out nationally.

The pair have invested $500,000, all of it their own money, in the company since starting up three years ago.

They say the business is profitable, they're making money, but almost every cent they make they reinvest into new technology ideas.

They are hoping that within two years a major corporation like Dominos will buy the Video Kiosk company or the technology. "It would just be more cost effective if they want to use the technology on a large scale to own it," Edge says.