Today our Featured BizSpark Startup, Foundbite, is from the UK.
James Mundy, Founder, tells us about their Windows Phone App:
What is your company’s mission?
Sound has the unique power to bring memories to life, ignite the imagination and capture impressions of places all around the world. Foundbite uses all of these with the aim of creating a service that people use to share their world with others and save their memories through sound.
Tell us about your Windows Phone App.
Foundbite combines photos with ambient sound to capture atmosphere whilst leaving room for the imagination.
How did you get the idea for your company?
Looking at the way we share pictures and video we realized that despite its powerful capabilities sound isn’t really used very much. There are sound social networks but most focus on spoken word or music and those that people do use to capture ambient sound lack context. The photos in Foundbite gives the sound context but still leaves something to the imagination.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?
Since founding the company, one of the biggest “-ha” moments we had was when we realized that users were also using the app to add voice notes to their photos for work. This has led us to start develop an enterprise version alongside the social app.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding?
We are currently looking to raise an Angel/Seed round. So far the business is bootstrapped but we received some funding from AppCampus to launch Foundbite exclusively on Windows Phone.
How many employees do you have? How many of them are developers?
Two employees. Primarily we are both developers but have a variety of skills beyond this and complement each other’s skills nicely.
Microsoft technologies that you are using in conjunction with the development of your application:
We use Visual Studio, Asp.net, Windows Phone, Windows 8. Windows Azure, Expression Blend and Expression Design.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
We currently host the Foundbite website and API on Azure Cloud Services and we are currently developing a new version of the Foundbite website using Azure Websites. Our database is hosted on Azure by Microsoft’s partner IBM (Cloudant).
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
We have several web and worker roles running the app, images and sound are stored in Azure blob storage, Push notifications are sent using Azure service bus,
How did you get excited about Azure?
I worked on an Azure based Windows Phone app a while ago and was really impressed by the scalability, ease of development and the sheer number of situations Azure can adapt to.
What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?
Auto-scaling, blob storage and notification hubs.
What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?
Get on and do it, I can’t imagine building something that isn’t hosted in the cloud now.
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?
We are building for scale initially. As it’s a social product, our revenue plans will really only be feasible with a much larger audience though we are also building an enterprise version of the app that will bring in revenue sooner. Once at scale we are planning the ability for tourist agencies and event organizers to promote places, for example: a photo of the houses of Parliament with the sound of Big Ben – sponsored by VisitLondon.
Do you make reasonable predictions about how you are going to achieve revenue and then test them out, or do you start with a business model and deploy it, to see if it brings in revenue?
We have experimented with our business models, in particular our pro subscription plan – Foundbite Pioneer. Pioneer gives users access to extended features (photo editing, longer sound etc.) for a $2.99 a year subscription. At the moment uptake has been small but we’re working towards expanding these features and continuing to experiment with pricing though it won’t be a feasible revenue stream until we have a much larger audience.
What questions do you think a startup non-technical founder needs to answer when considering a cloud architecture for his or her startup, specifically during the business model generation period?
I think the primary concerns are cost and flexibility. If you’re only beginning to generate revenue you obviously want to keep costs down and if you’re experimenting the amount that the revenue generation period requires then. Being in the cloud also makes it far easier for a non-tech founder to maintain the service, possibly without having to employ someone else if it goes wrong.
What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?
I think the most important non-technical issues to solve are the way to get advertisers on-board once we have a big enough market and how to increase conversions to our Foundbite pro plan without degrading the performance of free users.
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy vs technical challenges vs making something just for fun?
Building the company is fun but we’re creating it to share with the world, for millions of people to use and enjoy.
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
When I realized nothing could compare to the feeling you get when you create a product, share it with the world and see other people using it.
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
I hope to be able to do to sound what Instagram did to photography.
What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family or social life?
Working on a startup means I’m also busy and thinking about Foundbite but I still ensure I make time to exercise and see friends and family. I’m working far harder than I’ve ever worked but as it’s enjoyable it doesn’t feel that way at all.
What characteristics do you possess that make you an entrepreneur?
Hardworking, resourceful, willingness to turn my hand to anything that needs to be done. Foundbite is a startup as it’s an idea with assumptions where testing and we are on the hunt for a sustainable business model.
Do you have any advice for young startups?
(We’re a young startup, but….) Meet people. The answers can often be found away from a computer.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
Microsoft has been integral to Foundbite, they provided funding through AppCampus, promotion of our Windows Phone app in the store, Azure support and blog posts.
What do you think of the BizSpark Program?
The BizSpark program is fantastic, I couldn’t imagine building another startup without using something that’s on offer.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
Because Microsoft is a huge company with people working in some many areas. They have produced global products, built services in small teams from scratch much like a startup and they have some of the best development software in the world.