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357 Duckworth St., St. John's, NL
Mark Kennedy, Co-Founder and CEO
"Every startup that succeeds - EVERY STARTUP - succeeds with an idea different then the one it started with." - Tech guru, Robert Cringley
When Chad House and I co-founded our tech company, we shook hands on a plan to build a software development company that was focused on the Internet. We really never had an idea. We decided to figure that out as part of the process of building the company.
We spent about 9 months experimenting with technology, and looking at various industries - oil, mining, fishing, even the car industry - before settling on the film business.
Why the film business?
Well, for one thing, it seemed like it would be an interesting business to pursue - who doesn't want to be in the movies? It also had the best cross-match to a loose set of guidelines that we had created to assess each industry.
The film industry was Global. The film industry consumed a lot of media to create media. Lots of people were involved in making films. Some aspects of the industry were already undergoing technology driven disruption. The democratization of the film industry, similar to what had already happened in photography and desktop publishing, had begun. New developments in camera hardware, Internet bandwidth and video codecs were set to drive innovation, and disruption.
And so, we decided to look for an opportunity in the film biz.
This involved our studying each phase of the industry - pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. We sponsored lunches, conducted focus groups, and had lots and lots of individual meetings with people working in the industry. We often built some light-weight demo prototype software application, held together with spit and chewing gum, and loaded on to a laptop, to spur discussion.
It didn't take too long for us to start seeing where the film industry was ripe for innovation.
While there were interesting developments taking place in distribution and financing, and in production and post-production (new CGI offerings were hitting the market, and new video editing tools, like Apple's Final Cut offering, were making it easier for indies to compete with large studios), the pre-production phase was largely stuck in the 'horse and buggy era'. People working in pre-production were still using three ring binders and coloured highliters, sticky notes and printed pics. Many worked entirely analog, while many others were shoe-horning their work flow into digital tools not designed for the task (think Excel).
Based on that analysis, we built an Alpha of an early concept of what we hoped Celtx would be one day, and then travelled to Australia to demo, and get unvarnished and non-prejudiced opinions and feedback on what we wanted to build.
Universally, we were told it was a great idea.
So, we rolled up our sleeves, and started building and iterating.
Following the industry practice, we launched early, and often. Our first public release of the desktop software was a v. 0.3 beta. The first feedback we got was "Not much to look at."
By v. 0.7, the feedback had changed to, "Pretty good. Not much to do.", which we considered a quantum leap ahead.
During our early development, we recognized that the same things we were building for the film industry would be helpful for other creatives, so we added support for creating Stageplays, Audio plays, Comics, A/V (music videos, corporate videos, documentaries) and Novels
The desktop software is now at v. 2.9. We have a cloud offering, called Celtx Services, and four mobile apps for the iPhone/iPad and Android.
The desktop software, which is now at v. 2.9, has been downloaded 5 million times, and is being used by over 2 million Creatives, located in 180 countries, working in 34 languages. Celtx Services sees over 100,000 new registered accounts created each month. And we have the number one script writing app on iOS, which is also in the 100 Top Grossing Productivity apps in the store.
About 40% of our users are located in Europe, and 40% in the United States. Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand make up 5%. Canada is less then 2%. Chinese is the second most downloaded version, after English. Forty percent of the community are non-English speaking.
Most of our community are indie media makers, often working in small teams of 8 to 10 people. They work primarily in artistic film and video, but will often use cross-disciplinary skills to make commercials, corporate videos, music videos, audio plays, and comics. Anything that pays the bills.
We gave up counting when we hit 20,000 schools using Celtx. Over 3,500 university film programs are in place around the Globe.
Celtx is often used by International teams to collaborate on multi-country media projects. Teams cobbled together from four or five countries are not unusual.
While the target group for our product and services was, and still is, indie media makers, we have seen increasing adoption among large media studios - Warner Brothers, NBC/Universal, Starz, Sony Pictures, Creature Technology Company. We have users in pretty well every major Studio in the world, direct evidence of what is being called "the consumerization of the enterprise".
We make money by selling stuff in to the community - the "Freemium" business model. Our main stream of revenue is earned from low priced monthly and annual subscriptions to our cloud service. We also sell add-ons that augment the free software and virtual goods (art objects) that are used in one of the desktop's modules. We also sell apps and in-app art packs for mobile devices.
We follow the 'Lean Startup' model - meaning that you should stay as lean as possible, for as long as possible, while you work out your model, and build your community. Apparently, premature scaling is fatal. After staying below six people for years, we recently added six more, plus a summer intern. So we're now at thirteen. Nine are developers, three are in community development, and then there's me.
We haven't won many awards. In fact, I can't think of any. But it wouldn't really make much of a difference if we did, so it's not something we have spent any time pursuing. A creative working in Milan or San Paulo could care less. All they want to know is, does the software work.
All of our marketing has been via Word of Mouth. We kick started the WoM with a film-centric campaign targeting Forums (this was all pre-social networks). We often gave away branded T-Shirts and Jackets to uber users, power users and those who volunteered somehow, like the translators (the 34 language localizations of the software were all completed by volunteers). Eventually, the WoM became self-sustaining.
Like every company, we leverage all the new channels to generate buzz, provide information on what we are doing, and to deliver support. Facebook has been helpful, but Twitter and Tumblr are more effective for us. The goodwill generated on these platforms is tremendous, and it is also a great morale booster. We have our own Community Forums, and dedicated YouTube channel, where people can interact with each other and members of Team Celtx.
We think we're about half way to our goal of being the go to technology used by the Global media creation industry. We want the creative set to reach for Celtx every time they create media. All creatives, and all media types.
It's an ambitious goal and a tough problem to solve. Which keeps it interesting.