“Whalla” lets its users enjoy offline events online. It delivers a social platform based on events and crowd-sourced albums with a new privacy model, a cool synch and filter options for your photos.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Holysz’ regarding his start-up “Whalla”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Whalla” is all about?
Whalla lets its users enjoy offline events online. It delivers a social platform based on events and crowd-sourced albums with a new privacy model a cool synch and filter options for your photos.
Basically we want to complete the experience we get from attending an event with an online experience where you not only instantly have access to all your and your friends photos and videos, but also to photos of people you don`t know that attended the same event.
Just like in real life – you`re all there, you share this experience – so why shouldn`t you share it online without knowing each other? Add syncing your facebook, dropbox, picasa, flickr and others, spice it up with an engaging gamification and statistics system and finish it off with an awesome tool that will let you influence the venues and events you go to. That`s Whalla.
2. When has “Whalla” been founded? And what stage is “Whalla” currently at?
We took part in Huge Thing – a startup accelerator in Poznan,Poland. We finished the 3 month mentoring period and we`re in the 3 month acceleration period with conditionary funding (meaning we didn`t get it yet ).
Our startup is only 1 month old as both co-founder started Huge Thing with different projects and we joined forces only a month ago. Hence our product is not yet ready but our programmers are on fire and we should be up within a month.
3. What is “Whalla”’s business model and how does it work?
Whalla will be a social platform basically but it will never cash in on it`s users – no adds, no promos.
We don`t want to get where every single social site is heading – commercials-armageddon. Our business plan is based on venue owners and event organisers.
We want to provide them with unique tools which they have never had access to before.
Our own Offline Analytics system will let their clients rate every possible aspect of the venue or event with instant feedback to the owner/organiser.
Our user statistics will help better plan marketing and club offers. All this in quarter/annual payments.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
I started running Whalla during Huge Things 2nd mentoring month and about that time Peter Biegun – my now co-founder – killed his project.
We got along and since he’s a technical guy we kicked off immediately and started working on Whalla together.
I am responsible for the business model and concept and Peter is responsible for our technical team as 3 programmers joined us of pure passion for the vision(Sebastian – backend, Chris – frontend/iOS & Karol – Windows8/Windows mobile)!
Also a great gfx designer who works with allegro.pl (polish eBay) and with some of the top magazines here in Poland – a very talented young woman.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
There are three things that significantly differentiate us from our competition :
- privacy model – we will let users control their privacy like they do in real life. When you join an online community right now everyone gets to know at least some info about you – always your full name – and you instantly can find them by name. Which is cool but when you`re at a football game or a concert with 50.000 you don`t have to exchange names and personal info to share that experience. That`s what Whalla does with privacy – we let you be a stranger and still share an experience!
- sync options – you can not only sync your online services to Whalla (FB, Dropbox etc.) but also your desktop folders AND offline devices like your compact camera.
- business model – we actually have one and it`s based on our tools of our concept which are exceptional and very useful to business owners (we know – we checked!)
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Whalla” achieved so far?
We are barely starting. Backend is slowly appearing and within a month we`ll be running a closed BETA MVP for subscribers at joinwhalla.com.
At least an iOS app should be also available by then, but hopefully Windows and Android will follor right along. Our first milestone is to get 10.000 users – which also is the condition of getting funds from HugeThing.
We aim much higher though with great response from countries all around the world.
After that we will focus on delivering people a quality service and raising a seed round of funding. We want to create a society before we go into paid features.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Whalla”’s competitive advantage over them?
I already mentioned our top 3 competitive advantages. Our competitions either fails to deliver or to imagine a businessplan or simply has a more complex and abstract set of functions.
To name the closest competition I would have to name Sharypic from France, Popset from USA and Google+events from all over the world :).
All these are great services but we are firmly convinced that not only our product offer but most of all our business plan will let us gain advantage.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Our biggest obstacle was the 60 day delay in comparison to other Huge Thing startups.
They had full 90 days of work with mentors while we pivoted and pivoted, Peter killes his idea and then BAM I came up Whalla! People love it, we have a great team of people who came to us out of their own will and creative need which came as a great surprise to us and everywhere we go we get love so we want to give it back with Whalla. Whalla loves people :).
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
As a social site the idea isn`t easy to explain in 3 sentences so we usually need to dig in for people to understand it and that`s the biggest problem.
VCs want to hear ‘pinterest for events’ or ‘facebook for events’. They just don`t have time for long sentences and want instant cashflow (or at least within the first 6 months).
Whalla is a big and ambitious project looking for a big and ambitious investor.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Because we`re on fire! Imagine when out of nowhere talented people come to you and say ‘hey, you have a great project, I want to work with you on that and yea, I know you don`t have any funding, but I can see this can be huge so I want to try!’ You have any idea how motivating this is?
Out team and the people we meet at different startup events fuel us with insane amounts of motivation to pull this through! We have gfreat preparation from Huge Thing and it`s mentors and we`re ready to rule th world! … well not literally ;).
11. If “Whalla” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Private events, genealogy trees, tools for event organizers, mobile games, augmented reality tools, virtual events, business social and a bunch of other stuff.
Our google docs folder is bursting with ideas for great functionality and ways for making money with them.
The business part will drift to analytics and marketing strategy for venue owners – we’ll be able to do a lot i n this area and when it comes to events we have plans for some great technology solutions which are simple, unlike our ex-competitor Color, and are fun to have at the same time.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Whalla” based on?
Out of need. I`m a musician and filmmaker. Whether I play a concert, or go to one, or film a conference I am either approached or see my clients be approached by people asking where and when will they be able to see pictures from these events? And I thought – this is a pain in the ass.
Let`s solve this problem! Imagine having 10 photographers at a fashion show and not having to chase any of them for the material – you can buy it from each of them right from your events Whalla!
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Talk to people! People are smart – even the dumb ones! They think in different ways then you do and from a different angle!
It is amazing how a thought you have can turnout absolutely amazing or extremely stupid in a blink of an eye when you talk with people you don`t know.
It`s all a matter of sharing experience and knowledge and so far Huge Thing has been great with providing us with great mentors, always willing to help and share their opinions.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Funding for a startup that does not yet bring money. That`s about it. I know users won`t be a problem and since I deal with video solutions for the web and Peter is a social giant marketing shouldn`t be a big problem, but we need money for running for at least a year without views for generating revenue.
We anticipated around a 1-1,5 year roll before we can introduce tools for venue owners and when we do the revenue will be big, but we need a VC who will share our vision!
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Quick and easy way to share and view pictures and video with many users, which you don`t have to ‘friend’ in any way.
Easy sync of most popular online services and each events whalla is organised and moderated – so not only our users can save time with getting to specific material but they can save time browsing tons of images to see some good ones. With Whalla you get them all and you get the best ones first.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
We don`t have users/customers yet as we are in the process of writing our service. The only reception we get is through startup oriented portals like start-ups.co and through the people we meet and pitch to them.
Luckily we met a lot of influential people during our mentoring sessions at Huge Thing so we did get some additional channels to spread our news but it`s mostly startup sites and social media.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
Our target for the first BETA release are mostly party people and music bands.
People who go to concerts but also sports events, people who play concerts or even go on tours – that`s the best target to test our BETA and that`s where we`re aiming. Age 15-35 for entertainment events and 30< for private events but those will not be included in the BETA release so if you want to have a Whalla of your family vacation you will have to wait for the update :).
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
As a popular meme says ‘Don`t worry ma`m – we`re from the internet’. Whalla has its offline events ONLINE. So we want to get to users who spend time on the web during the day and party at night so that they can almost instantly relive every event.
That quick access is one thing and the other is that this access will actually be LIVE when using our mobile app so they can actually check an event as it happnes – without beeing there!
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
So far we have had a lot of talks and a small survey of around 500 responses.
Seems like our features have this kind of ‘nice to have’ quality which can quickly turn into a daily habit. No one needed facebook before it hit, but when it hit … well you know what happened.
We are convinced that we will be able to convince our users that using Whalla is far more not only entrtaining but also plain practical for them and for their friends!
20. How are you going to scale?
Whalla works best at mass events or at least in public events – not private ones. So as people start using Whalla on events more people from these events get to know about Whalla as they search for pictures themselves so Whalla introduces and invites people by itself actually.
Oh my, what if it will be alive someday and turn into Skynet! Don`t worry, we have a special backup plan to keep it from reaching that much scale…
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
One thing that truly surprised us is the interest that we received from photographers.
We didn`t actually consider them as a potential group of users. During our surveys we recieved many suggestions and replies for adding features for semi-pro photographers.
For example the possibility for them to have a pro account where they could promote themselves among bands and venue owners and sell their pictures easily.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Well actually we are looking for funds in the US and we want to move there.
Firstly because there is a very large society not divided by language or culture and with very good access to mobile technologies.
This is the best and only possible market for us to start and go big and when we manage to go at least … medium in sieze in the US we can spread back to Europe and Asia. Asia is actually a very good market for us.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We think Whalla can get big in a couple of ways. Not only it`s a comfortable way to shoot, store and view photos, but it also is very social and gamified.
We are not aiming to be the next big social platform, but we are convinced that with the right market and funding we can go against the most popular image solutions out there. In order to get there we need to launch and get funding within the next 6 months.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We are not hiring as we all work out of passion and love for the product and don`t have any capital yet.
There`s six of us in the team so we have pretty much everything covered, except for android maybe but this won`t be a problem for our programmers.
So unfortunately no vacancies yet but who knows, after some demo day sessions in October maybe we`ll suddenly need a bunch of creative specialists
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We are most definitely looking for funding. If you like our product or would like to know more contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our business plan requires around 12 months of building a substantial user base – this requires quite some funding but our predictions for revenue will surely convince any VC that if we manage to get there a nice exit will await him/her.
We should be running for some funds in October on various events in Europe – sign in at joinwhalla.com or follow as on twitter or Facebook for details!
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Talk, listen, go out, share. Also don`t be afraid to fail. If you won`t burn you won`t master fire. Failing is never bad unless you keep failing at the same thing – that means you`re not learning the right lesson and you need to find the right perspective.