Hi everyone, I am grateful for this wonderful site. Some great knowledge here. I wanted to share with you my situation and request some advice. I will need to share some important details before I post the question to get better answers from you. So kindly bear with me.
I am a VFX & Animation artist with 4 years of experience and also a Masters education background in the same. I am not an entrepreneur and have no MBA background or the like. In 2015 while job hunting I came across an idea of web-based startup for the industry's recruitment procedure that could serve the industry very well due to its contract-based nature. This was due to my own prospects being hampered by variables other than my work. And I wanted to eradicate these variables. And from experience I knew this was not yet enabled by sites like LinkedIn out there. My concept is neither like LinkedIn nor like Upwork.
So I decided to document my idea in a PDF. At that time I was conversing with Global Head of Training and Dev at an Oscar-winning VFX studio for my job prospects, and I just decided to share this idea with them. They liked it and thought it could work.
Next, being an artist, I created detailed print-screen like mockups of the site, features, user flow etc. I then decided to contact the Senior HR managers, Recruiters and the likes at around 10 VFX studios for feedback. Some via skype and some via email. Response was overwhelming. One person introduced me to another and so it went. By the end of it, I had received detailed feedback from global heads of recruitment at some of the premier studios, 3 programme leaders at leading Animation colleges / Universities, 2 industry veterans who have various VFX book publications to their names that are taught at the Universities, as well as a few VFX supervisors who have supervised on oscar-winning films (literally speaking).
This was the Enterprise side of my future-customers. Now was time to survey the artists side. So I created a quick anonymous survey giving a brief description of what the site will do. I reached out to two renowned Animation Universities in Canada and UK to help forward my survey to their batches of ex-students who were now working in the industry. I received a 100 responses. 70% said Yes they would use it, 30% said I Don't Know, and 0% said No. 83% left us their emails to be notified upon launch. 31% respondents were middle-weight artists and 17% were Senior.
Now, I live in India and not in Mumbai or Bangalore. I am a non-tech founder. Since I have a UK degree, I am eligible for the 1 year Graduate Entrepreneur visa endorsed by a recognised Uni to launch my startup in UK. London is still the hub of VFX and post-production. And I would love physical proximity to the target market. Especially during early phases where feedback and reiteration to product are important. I am very well connected to the industry. Also there are some great funding options in the UK, with some dedicated VC firms focussed on the creative industries. The awareness about this industry is still extremely low in India, especially in my city.
The goal of this visa is to let graduates have a go at their ideas. So no funding is required unlike the formal Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. Although this 1 year visa can be extended by 1 more year, ultimate goal is to raise a minimum Funding of £50k from FCA recognised firm and switch to formal Tier 1 visa.
I have around $12k at the moment that I want to use for this startup.
Last thing, there is a scope for API integration with an application tracking software company used in-house by majority of vfx, games and animation companies. That company has also successfully raised Series C. I talked with their business partnership head and they said they would be happy to work with our developers to develop a special API, and also share their post-production industry customers with us, for a 20% revenue share.
My startup will also encompass gaming industry due to the same nature and artist roles overlapping within these industries. For example an animator can work on games, disney-like animated features, VFX films, advertising industry, architectural walkthroughs, etc.
But if we were to consider Only the market for Online recruitment in the VFX industry in English-speaking countries, the figure for SOM would be around $XX Million (on the lower end of 2 digits).
QUESTION: So although I have my clear business plan about how I want to go about this, I want to ask you what would you do if you were landing in the UK with $12k, 1 year on visa and No team at all. You are a non-tech founder. You would have a year to launch startup and raise £50k to be able to switch to main entrepreneur visa. If endorsing University feels you are progressing well, it could extend your visa by another year but no more. Target industry is Niche and your startup uses pre-existing technology. A competitor in same industry who has model that is 30% similar to yours has raised $1M. Demand for great coders and post-production artists is about to increase with VR and VR Cinema around the corner. Industry is resistant to automation due to its creative nature.
Appreciate your time! Thank you.
Hi...I'm Ryan, I've worked in Start Ups/SME companies for the past 8 years. You are well on the way to a business!
I'll ask a few questions you can ponder:
1) What is more important being close to customers (VFX firms) or being close to developers (low cost-development talent in India)? Your cost of living is much lower in India, so consider being based in India and spending 1 month a quarter in the UK.
2) Is there a way you can build this business without outside investment? The answer is probably yes, VC money is far far away and it's best to assume you won't receive any. Bootstrap first, angels if needed.
3) If you already have these great contacts, ask them how much they would pay for your service? Can you sell the product before you build it? This is the best way to launch a venture. No money down, contracts in hand.
4) Find a technical partner... if you idea is amazing you should be able to find a person to vet developers and work with you. This will make bootstrapping much easier as they can build an MVP.
If you'd like to chat in greater detail I'd be happy to jump on a call.
I agree with all of Ryan's points, and their order of importance. Use where you grew up as an advantage, not a disadvantage. From what I've read it sounds like you should definitely be able to pull this off.
your idea sounds great and you have some amazing contacts already.
I agree take the MVP approach and try to find the balance - get the best possible value that will still be a foundation for scaling. I am sure we can help.
I am UK based and I have a range of resources that can help on the technical, financial, marketing and business strategy side.
We work internationally and already have experience in building membership based industry communities like this.
I would love to discuss things further! Reach out if you would like to discuss things in more detail.