Australian startup snapshot: Vimily

Vimily is a mobile app that streamlines video interviewing and enables quick sharing on the Web. The startup works out of the Tank Stream Labs co-working space in the Sydney CBD.

The pitch

The Vimily app enables a user to create questions before conducting an interview. When the user starts filming using a mobile smartphone, the questions are displayed as prompts on the screen of the device.

The same set of questions can be used for a series of interviews, and multiple interviewers can record answers for the same campaign. Each set of interview questions is assigned a code, allowing anyone around the world with the code to film responses.

After each interview, video is uploaded to Vimily’s servers and displayed on a single webpage. From there, it can be shared by email or social media, or embedded in a blog or website.

Vimily is meant for short-form Web content, allowing a maximum of 3 minutes per video. Vimily uses video compression and each 30-second video is about 10MB.

The Vimily app is free to use if the user agrees to Vimily branding on the videos and the webpage hosting the videos. The Sydney startup makes money by selling the service to corporations who want to have their own brand on the video.

At the recent CeBIT show in Sydney, the conference organizer created several standard questions and had 10 volunteer students ask them to the exhibitors, according to Vimily co-founder Matthew Barnett. CeBIT filmed about 1,300 videos using Vimily at the event, he said.

Businesses pay $3 per video if they want to include their own brand as an overlay on the video content. The price comes down to $1 for companies that record a greater number of videos. Businesses can pay in advance for a one-off event, or subscribe to a monthly plan.

Starting up

A family emergency precipitated development of the Vimily app.

“My father had a heart attack,” said Barnett. “He was fine, but he was in the UK and I was in Australia and my brother was in the States.”

The father had a “rags to riches” story that Barnett and his family wanted to record on film before it was too late. The question was how to do it cheaply and effectively.

Barnett said the family considered hiring an interviewer and film crew, but that option would have taken a long time, required great commitment from the father, and been too expensive—between $3,000 and $8,000, he said.

As an alternative, Barnett considered filming his father with an iPhone, but there was still the problem that he didn’t know how to conduct an interview.

From that conundrum came an idea for an app that could prompt the interviewer with questions and then film the response. It could allow anyone in the family to contribute questions from anywhere in the world, which someone could ask Barnett’s father whenever there was an opportunity, he said.

Before starting Vimily, Barnett worked in London as an industrial design consultant and a photographic artist. Looking to grow his career, he moved to Australia to get an MBA degree and find a business partner to develop the Vimily startup.

In Sydney, Barnett met Katrin Suess, now the company’s chief technology officer, who already had many startup credits including web design for 99dresses and user interface design for Blue Chilli Technology.

Barnett and Suess each bootstrapped the company with a combined $60,000 at the start, and then raised an additional $230,000 from angel investors.

Pivoting to B2B

Vimily launched Vimily as a paid app in December but it didn’t receive many downloads from consumers. “It was too early for consumers and video,” said Barnett.

However, the company soon found that public relations firms and other corporates were interested in using the technology for marketing and publicity. Vimily came up with a new white-label model in which corporations could pay to put their brands on videos created by the app.

“The one thing [corporates] needed which we didn’t originally have was a way to publish that, so we pulled the whole team in for a weekend—lots of coffee, lots of cookies—and basically came out with a Facebook share mechanism for those videos.”

The new business focus was a success, and by New Year’s Day—three weeks after launch—Vimily decided to pivot the whole business.The startup now has about 20 paying business customers and is starting to make revenue.

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Vimily hopes to raise another $600,000 in funding so it can expand the staff from its current number of four full-time employees, said Barnett. Meanwhile, the startup is expanding focus from corporate events to marketing campaigns and market research, he said.

“The data side of it is where you get longevity,” said Barnett. He noted the app’s ability to collect information about the people being interviewed potentially for use as a business lead.

The app is currently available only for Apple iOS devices, because it gives Vimily more control over the video and audio quality, he said. However, the startup is now working on an Android version to keep competitive, he said. It might do a Windows Phone version in the future, but probably not BlackBerry, he said.

A Google Glass app could be in the company’s future. “That would be great to have people take video as they’re going around,” said Barnett, adding that he’s found that the bigger and more professional the filming device, the less people want to be interviewed. Google Glass could be the least intimidating way to interview yet, he said.

Going global

The Vimily app is already available internationally, but most of Vimily’s early customers are Australian.

“We are generally focusing on Australia, however there’s nothing wrong with us getting a bit of traction in Asia because we understand the potential there,” said Barnett. Europe is another area of interest because Barnett is English and Suess is German, he said.

“What Australia has as a benefit is that we can get large brands on board easier than we could do maybe in other countries,” he said.

Asia had not originally been a target due to Vimily’s lack of connections there, but Barnett said he was convinced to take a closer look at the market at the Echelon startup conference. “The video and social side of things is fantastic out there.”

Vimily plans to add offices abroad to gain traction in those international markets, but wants to keep development in Australia, Barnett said.

“It depends partly on funding,” he cautioned. “If we do get a large funder overseas who needs us to be there and have significant operations ... we’ll cross that [bridge] when we come to it.”

Australian startup scene

“It’s a really vibrant community,” and growth of Australian tech startups in the last three years has happened on its own despite little government support, said Barnett.

The Australian tech startup scene also seems more connected to Silicon Valley than other countries like London, Barnett said. Given that positivity is critical to success, a pleasant climate is another benefit to starting up in Australia, he added.

“On the downside, it’s a very immature investment market,” Barnett said. “Raising funds here is difficult. There’s only so many people you can go to and there’s a mindset to keep valuations low.”

“It’s basically less appetite for risk.”

The Australian government has not been of much help to startups, focussing instead on mining and education, said Barnett. “If the government starts to support, that will bring more investors in.”

However, Barnett thinks those attitudes may change with time. It took Israel’s startup scene a decade to get where it is today, he said. “In ten years from now, we’ll be there.”

More Australian startup snapshots:

Roamz / Local Measure

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