Prior to founding Fotobox, Jason Bernard was a digital producer for Ogilvy, looking after such clients as Nestlé and Qantas. His agency chops also took him to Tribal DDB, where he soaked up all he could before transitioning to entrepreneur life. Jason and his now co-founders, Jason Ang and Tai Qiyao, met at a bar to discuss some of the crazy ideas they’d cooked up. “Looking back, the process was super erratic, especially with whisky and beer involved. We began with a ‘brain dump’ of our ideas to gauge what excited us the most,” says Jason.
The idea that ultimately won out was a customisable photobooth experience. Stationery booths would tend to go undiscovered, so a handheld version seemed just the answer. The startup’s first major success was Mobsta – a roaming photobooth that captures GIFs and instantly emails them to guests for social sharing. “We continually produce cutting edge technologies for our clients that we think will work for them,” says Jason. “Occasionally we will receive a technology request from a client and we will create a custom-built technology for them based on their request.”
Hot off providing their technology at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea this year, Fotobox chatted to Collective Hub about how the business was conceived and what it took to get it off the ground in 2013.
What was your lightbulb moment when you conceived the brand?
We had attended a number of events that had the same old boring photobooth, the idea was trending, but the technology was not evolving. My co-founders and I knew that we had the ability and knowledge to improve efficiency and increase the enjoyment of the product. We began drafting a number of ideas and Fotobox was born.
What was some of the research that went into creating Fotobox?
We researched what was currently available in the market at that time and what consumers were looking for, but was not yet available. We also calculated how much capital cost we needed in order to start the business and how long our runway was before we could start considering our next move.
What were the first steps you took in order to get it off the ground?
We were pitching it to literally everyone we knew. Or didn’t know (I even pitched it a guy sitting next to me on a plane). As Mark Cuban said, “Sales cures all,” so we focused on selling from day one. From pitching to potential clients, we began learning what our clients were looking for and how we might improve our product accordingly.
How have you secured most of your clients?
Mostly through word of mouth. Coming from a digital agency, I didn’t have a lot of connections with event agencies to begin with. We did everything by the book, from cold-calling, events, emailing.
What has been the biggest challenge in creating Fotobox?
The biggest obstacle was cash flow. We began our company with very little capital and could only afford to build one set of equipment in the beginning. It goes without saying, we handled that equipment with great care! There was an incident, when we were driving to an event and our rental van hit a huge pot hole, causing our equipment to fly everywhere in the back. When we arrived on-site, we realised that our computer was smashed and we didn’t have a backup at the time. To make matters worse, the venue did not have phone reception, making it very difficult to call anyone to assist. Thankfully, we managed to fix the computer to get it up and running in time for the event. However, we learned a valuable lesson and subsequently have rigorous back-up plans in place. You never know what could happen!
What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?
The best lesson we learnt is to always talk to your potential clients; it will help to validate your concept very quickly. If you receive positive validation from your target market, then it is full steam ahead to creating your MVP (minimum viable product). If not, then it’s back to the drawing board!
Finally, what’s your vision for Fotobox? What would you like to achieve moving forward?
Our vision for Fotobox is to become a unique entertainment solution for events. Moving forward, we would like to be a part of bigger events such as the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, or Met Gala – either with our available solutions or by building a one-off custom photo installation for these events.