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How Wellington-based video collaboration startup Wipster scored a deal with US giant Vimeo

Smart Company Smart Company 22/06/2016 Eloise Keating

Wipster © Provided by Private Media Operations Pty Ltd. Wipster Video collaboration startup Wipster may spend all of its marketing resources in the United States but the Wellington-based company says its New Zealand identity was one of the keys to it unlocking an exclusive deal with US giant Vimeo earlier this year.

Wipster is an online tool that allows creators to share feedback on video projects.

Wipster was founded by former filmmaker Rollo Wenlock at the end of 2012 and was one of the first startups to come out of Wellington accelerator program, Lightning Lab, in early 2013.

To date, the startup has raised NZ$2 million (A$1.9 million) in investment from local and international investors. It employs a staff of 15, 13 of which are based in Wellington.

Wipster’s video review tools are now used by 2,500 subscribers in 150 countries and according to chief operating officer Kristen Lunman, the company is recording average month-on-month growth of 15%.

This growth is being driven by Wipster’s partnership with Vimeo, which was forged in February this year.

Lunman told SmartCompany approximately 70% of Wipster’s user base is in the US and because of this, the company is directly all of its marketing resources to the US.

“Organically you just grow … so we do have a base in Australia and the UK, Germany and Canada, but the US is where we actually spend our resources,” she says.

“It’s where the largest number of people are that are going to use the product but it’s also where the ecosystem is. When we’re looking for partnerships, we’re looking for integrations, even co-marketing partnerships, all those companies are in the US.”

So how does a self-proclaimed “tiny company at the bottom of the earth” score a deal with a tech giant like Vimeo?

Here are Wipster’s four tips for landing a deal with a large corporate.

1. Generate buzz

“The first rule is to look bigger than you are,” says Lunman.

“I think we did that.”

For Wipster, looking bigger than they are meant working with influencers in the video industry and doing what it could to generate press coverage in the lead up to the largest trade show in the US, NAB.

“When you’re a tiny company at the bottom of the earth, your life is dependent on influencers and people that are bigger than you,” Lunman says.

“So we used several key influencers and we also used media in the industry … to tell our story.”

The Wipster team met Vimeo at NAB last year and while Lunman believes the US giant wasn’t interested in a partnership at the time, “they were intrigued by the amount of press we’d received and thought, ‘okay, this is interesting’”.

“That’s where it started. Really, look bigger than you are,” she says.

2. Proactiveness pays off

James Findlater, head of product at Wipster, told SmartCompany Wipster “danced around them [Vimeo] for while” until he and Wenlock came up with an idea for how Wipster and Vimeo could work together.

“We thought ‘they’re never going to go for this but we should just pitch it anyway and something will come of it,” he says.

“We put together a proposal and sent it off and the proposal was that we would advertise underneath their player. There would be a seamless integration where you could shuffle your videos back and forth between the two systems.”

Despite the Wipster team believing Vimeo would “never let us be in their player”, Vimeo loved the idea.

“I think the lesson there was to be proactive,” says Lunman.

“We essentially just did everything for them. We said ‘this is your product, this is who your target market is, this is our product, this is who our target market is, and they overlap.

“When you’re a large company, I think it is very insular and you are looking inwards a lot of the time. You’re not able to pick up on some of these opportunities and so for us to be proactive really sealed the deal.”

3. Be willing to take a risk

Wipster took a gamble by spending time and money building out their proposal for Vimeo and there was a chance that work would not have landed them the deal.

But that’s simply part of being the smaller business, says Findlater.

“It was us who did all the work, we took all the risk, which is fine,” he says.

“It’s the nature of being a small player against the big one.”

4. Stay true to your identity

Once the Wipster and Vimeo teams started working together, Findlater says it quickly became apparent that “they’re not that different”.

“It felt like the same kind of company,” he says.

And it’s this alignment of values that Lunman says likely put Wipster ahead of other potential partners for Vimeo – as well as Wipster’s New Zealand identity.

“We’re approachable, we’re honest and we don’t hide the fact that we’re in New Zealand,” she says.

“They’re people just like us who love video, love the industry, that are passionate about their brand.”

“They actually said to us, ‘when we go on your website and use your product, it actually feels like Vimeo’.

“We care deeply about design … and developing world-class customer experiences. We care deeply about our brand and how it is presented in the public. So I think there is a real alignment there.

SmartCompany travelled to Wellington as a guest of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency. 

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