Entrepreneurs: Crowd-sourced video app Seenit gives access to red carpets and big matchesComments Off on Entrepreneurs: Crowd-sourced video app Seenit gives access to red carpets and big matches
Emily Forbes got the idea for her video collaboration app, Seenit, when she was making a film about rhino conservation protesters in South Africa in 2012.
“I realised how the crowd was documenting everything they saw on their phones. Their footage was real and authentic and they knew far more than me,” recalls Forbes, 28, sitting in her office in Idea London, a colourful shared workspace for start-ups in Shoreditch, where she employs a team of nine.
She began manually collecting video clips from willing protesters, “with no cost and no camera equipment”, but realised it would be more efficient if people could upload their videos instantly to a central online hub where she could edit them.
What’s more, she thought, “a tool that can collect footage really easily from smartphones” could be popular not only with film-makers and broadcasters but also with advertisers, employers and news organisations which might want to source video from lots of people at once.
“Having worked in film, I understood how expensive it can be. I thought ‘why don’t companies crowd-source it?’ Everyone is filming on their phones and the quality of the cameras is getting better and better.
“If you want high-quality, documentary story-telling, you need an expert, engaged community.”
“A smartphone turns everyone into a videographer or a brand journalist.”
She founded Seenit in January 2014 and, because she didn’t know how to code, she teamed up with Max Werner, a Finland-born software developer. She won backing from a technology accelerator fund, Collider, and BBC Labs, which mentors start-ups, and they helped with introductions.
Early clients included Bauer Media, the company behind Grazia magazine and radio station Kiss, which used Seenit to get staff to upload video from red-carpet premieres; BetFred, the bookmaker, which got employees to film at sports events for use on social media; and Unilever, the consumer goods giant, which asked staff to film clips as part of an internal employee engagement initiative.
The app can be accessed only by invitation. Then a client can “push out” a message to its target audience of users anywhere in the world, asking for specific footage and giving feedback about video that they have already shot, or offering an incentive such as a voucher code at a music festival to reward people for filming.
“One person can control a global film crew of thousands,” she says.
Founded: January 2014
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Once Seenit’s team or the client has edited a film, a client can push the completed version back to users, so they can tell their friends or colleagues and post it on social media.
“It’s a way to continuously communicate with and grow your crowd,” says Forbes. “One of the ways that crowds want to get involved in content is they want to be recognised and to improve their filming.”
Despite the fact that many thousands of people could potentially upload videos for a project, Forbes believes the wisdom of the crowd has limitations.
“The user-generated content space has got quite tarnished. The hashtag [on social media] was a way of creating a huge amount of a noise around an event.
“But if you want high-quality, documentary story-telling, you need an expert, engaged community.”
Forbes says Seenit is less about crowdsourcing and more about co-creation of content with a community of users.
Some of her best customers have turned out to be international banks that have used the app for internal communications.
They are “very nervous about openness and social media” and like the fact the app “makes everyone seem human and approachable” in a protected environment.
She won her first financial services client last December and that led to an influx of City customers. But she is not allowed to identify any of them.
Turnover is on course to jump nearly sixfold, from £120,000 last year to £700,000 this year, and she has gained impressive backers including veteran banker Rupert Hambro, who became chairman, and Crystal Palace Football Club co-owner Steve Parish, who is a non-executive director.
Forbes is well-connected and has entrepreneurship in the blood. Her father, David Forbes, is a director of upmarket estate agent Savills.
But she was determined to carve her own niche after doing a degree in visual communications at Chelsea College of Art.
She started as an intern at Working Title, the film producers behind Four Weddings and a Funeral, and met Parish by chance at an advertising agency.
She believes the trend for collaboration and co-creation can only get bigger as mobile technology becomes ubiquitous, even though it will never replace high-class professional documentary-making.
“What’s happening is a huge shift. It’s not slowing down. It’s reaching the furthest corners of the globe in terms of people creating their own films.”