How tech start-up Biteable secured $1.1m seed investment

Tracey Porter

Some would say tech entrepreneur James MacGregor has an unusual definition of success.

The co-founder of Tasmanian video start-up group Biteable, MacGregor argues the true meaning of business achievement is less about having dollars in your pocket and more about the legacy you leave behind.

“To me, it’s having an impact – money comes and goes but you can impact people for a long time to come,” he says.

But successful commercial enterprise, in all its guises, is a topic not entirely unfamiliar to MacGregor and Biteable co-founders Simon Westlake and Tommy Fotak.

The trio launched the Hobart-based Biteable in 2014 after merging their skills in marketing, design and software development to create an innovative tool allowing anyone to create professional videos online in minutes.

Having worked together running a business making custom explainer videos for start-ups, MacGregor says they realised there was massive demand for video but setting aside four to six weeks to build an animated video from scratch was proving too time consuming for themselves and too expensive for the start-ups.

You get a lot of feedback when you raise investment, most of it conflicting. The hard part is knowing which feedback is relevant to your business, industry and team.

MacGregor says the group had enquiries for video production coming through so began by offering businesses less customisable videos for a fraction of the price of a completely custom video.

“I don't know if those tests were really successful or not. People that were looking for a video production service didn’t really get the concept of limited customisation. It wasn’t until we released the first version in the wild that we started to get real validation of the business model.”

The technology immediately struck a chord with freelancers, SMEs and large enterprises with Biteable posting double digit month-on-month growth in its first year of operation.

Today Biteable has over 250,000 users and MacGregor says he has now “lost count of the number of videos they’ve created,” but that over 100,000 videos were rendered last month alone. Four per cent of these users are based in Australia with the remainder “scattered around the globe”.

Late last year the company was thrust into the public eye when it revealed it had attracted $1.1 million seed investment from a group of Australian investors including Sydney-based Tank Stream Ventures and BridgeLane Capital.

The company intends to use the funds to further develop and service the product.

There’s a lot of noise in the start-up industry [but] the only thing you need to focus on is your customers.

MacGregor says raising investment in Australia for a seed stage start-up is tough for any business but Biteable was fortunate to receive guidance from the local investment community early on that proved instrumental in putting the round together.

Finding like-minded investors is key, he says. “You get a lot of feedback when you raise investment, most of it conflicting. The hard part is knowing which feedback is relevant to your business, industry and team.

“We basically hit up everyone we could, took on board the useful feedback and adjusted the business into something that could grow quickly.

“The investors we have here are amazingly talented and ridiculously generous with their time. We need more of them but I feel that is changing with time.”

Proof that being based in a geographically isolated town is no barrier to success, in fact it was being based in Hobart that was the driving force behind its launch, he says.

“We plan to keep our development headquarters in Hobart and foresee sales and marketing offices in the US and Europe.

“For now we have everything we need right here though. Being based in a small town was instrumental for us. We couldn’t find work here for starters so we had to do something web based and there’s little start-up industry here so we had few people to chat to other than our customers.

“There’s a lot of noise in the start-up industry [but] the only thing you need to focus on is your customers.”

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.

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