Some time shortly after Sundance ‘10 we were fortunate enough to be asked by Mr Lance Weiler of the Workbook Project, Head Trauma and many other notable projects to take part in the DIY DAYS NYC Startup Incubator.
DIY DAYS is a roving series of conferences for those who create and it’s part of the WorkBook Project an open resource created by Lance to support the community. The purpose of the incubator was to subject OpenIndie to the scrutiny of a room full of experts in various fields relevant to our business and what we’re trying to do. During a four hour process the group discusses various salient issues and then produce a presentation or pitch to be delivered to the conference attendees at the end of the day. Arin and I jumped at the chance to put OpenIndie under the nose of such respected folks in the industry for such a concentrated amount of time and the process began.
In the week leading up to the conference neither of us knew exactly what to expect but Lance kindly set up a Skype call with Matt Johnston of Kinetic Fin who was our Entrepreneur In Residence and facilitated the conversation on the day. He immediately set Arin and I at ease and got us really excited about the potential for the day. In just a one hour conversation Matt equipped us with a shared metaphor for how to think about what we were trying to achieve, drew out of us some key issues we wanted to address and gave us really valuable feedback about the challenges that he felt were ahead of us.
As I am based in the UK I Skyped into the conference on the day. I initially thought this would be fine as Arin and I are used to Skyping all our conversations. However, as the day went on the Skype situation became increasingly frustrating from my point of view. While I felt I had a great deal to contribute to the conversation the Skype lag caused me to start talking and discover I was interrupting someone. I also got the impression that the folks in the incubator found it hard to understand what I was saying due to the distortion. As a result of these issues I didn’t personally feel like I was as useful as I could have been and this was really frustrating. However, that shouldn’t reflect negatively in any way upon either the folks taking part in the incubator or the people organising DIY DAYS, it was something that always had the potential to be a problem.
The day began with Matt laying out the format for how we’d proceed and everyone introducing themselves. Our group of experts was made up of:
Matt Johnston – Entrepreneur In Residence (COO at Kinetic Fin)
Karol Martesko – Film Industry Expert (SVP / General Manager at Babelgum Film)
Brian Newman – Business Development (Founder at Sub-Genre and former CEO of Tribeca Film Institute)
Joseph Williams – Design
Bradley Farrell – Branding (CEO at Kinetic Fin)
Karin Chien – Producer / Distributor (The Exploding Girl (2009))
I’m sure you’ll agree this is a formidable team of experts and I for one was really nervous about the potential feedback they were going to have about OpenIndie. I can say, again from my perspective, that the feedback and discussion was incredibly constructive and while the process could have turned into a group of industry experts picking holes in a new platform that didn’t happen at all. This was partly down to the fantastic people Lance and his team had found to help us but also because whenever someone criticised it was always constructive. Nobody said “this sucks” or “you’re kidding yourselves” arguments were reasoned and based on years of experience.
In short, the group’s feedback was incredible and I would go as far as to say that the process has been totally transformative for OpenIndie. Some key takeaways from the day were that we need to improve our messaging, we’re not yet effectively explaining, clearly and concisely, what it is we do and how we do it. Our filmmaker bias was also very evident. This, in some respects, is natural because Arin is a filmmaker and our source of financial support has come from filmmakers. However, we need to reorientate the business to focus upon to the audience requesting films and the hosts organising screenings. This isn’t to say that the filmmakers aren’t vitally important but the focus upon generating an audience and screenings will benefit the filmmakers most in the long-term.
We were also challenged about our $100 per film per year fee and some good discussions came out of the suggestion to open the site to all for free or to curate the films on the site. Right now that $100 a year is our only source of revenue and is paying our hosting costs etc. However, all three options are still on the table and you will know as soon as we do about how we plan to proceed. The decision we make on this topic will depend greatly upon the level of success we have in the search for investment.
The day ended with Arin giving a fantastic presentation that Matt and Joseph helped us put together. It was impressive to see how Matt took the salient points from our discussions and drew them together with us into a presentation that was incredibly successful. At one point Arin had the whole audience on their feet shouting “I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE” a phrase made famous by the 1976 film Network and repurposed by us in our fundraising campaign in November last year.
Upon reflection, I think the day broke us down and built us up again. It drew out of us our biases that were clearly holding us back in many respects. It made us rethink our business model and reevaluate the decisions we’d made. It enabled us to compare OpenIndie to businesses that we would never have drawn comparison with previously. And, it brought to our attention an entire world of potential competitors that we hadn’t considered in our planning. I think the term transformative is very apt, we aren’t the OpenIndie that went into the DIY DAYS Incubator. We’re more knowledgeable, refocused and have a better understanding of our priorities moving forward.
We would like to thank Lance for this incredible opportunity and his entire team at DIY DAYS NYC for volunteering and making this vitally important event possible. Finally, we would like to thank Matt, Brad, Karol, Brian, Joseph and Karin for your time, your knowledge, your support and your incredibly constructive criticism. We’re very fortunate to have been afforded this opportunity.
We’re seriously excited about the future of OpenIndie and the potential for this platform. We hope you guys are too!
Posted in DIYDays NYC biz dev incubator news