The Startup Sit Down: Andrew Follett Wants to Animate Your Startup
Andrew Follett is the Founder and CEO of Demo Duck, an “explainer video” creator, and has just launched Video Brewery, a community of video creatives connecting with clients and creating handcrafted videos for their business.
I had a Startup Sit Down with Andrew to get the scoop on Demo Duck’s christening, lessons learned along the way, and how electric toy helicopters keep the stress-levels low.
Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to give us the Demo Duck and Video Brewery low down. Our KillerStartup fans are looking forward to being inspired.
Let’s get started.
What are Demo Duck and Video Brewery all about and what makes them stand out from the competition?
Andrew Follet– Demo Duck creates 60-90 second videos to help businesses sell a product and to tell a story about what they do. “Explainer video” is the term most commonly used.
Video Brewery is a division of Demo Duck that I started last January and launched last month. It’s an online video marketplace that connects clients with top video creatives.
When a client wants to create an explainer video for their business, they usually start with a Google search that takes them to several sites and video production services, creatives, etc., and the research process can take up to 2-3 weeks. Video Brewery gives you a closed community of some of the best quality video creatives, where you can put in a bid for your project, accept and connect with the right creative. Video Brewery takes care of the details like payments, contract and online project management.
Demo Duck started with just me. I had a friend in radio that did the voiceover. And, it just grew from word of mouth. We got into the market relatively early and now we have a stable of 20-30 creatives from all over the world, giving our clients a large demographic to connect with.
Tell us a little about where you’re coming from, and how Demo Duck and Video Brewery were hatched.
AF- I’m from Minnesota, and went to Wheaton College in Chicago studying Business Economics. I worked as a Marketing Manager for a small green initiatives company for a few years and I started creating short tutorial videos on “how much your company is recycling,” etc.
I got great small business experience from that and I had a good relationship with the CEO, so I had the opportunity to be involved with a lot of areas of the company.
After three years there, I started Concept Feedback, a website feedback site to help clients improve their website’s usability. I worked on that for a couple of years, basically building the community.
But I wasn’t making any money from it. During that time, I was consulting on the side and creating videos for clients, and I realized, “Hey, I’m actually making money from making videos,” and that’s how Demo Duck kind of started.
I bought a website template for $100, and built Demo Duck in about two weeks. There’s not a very interesting story behind the name. I knew I wanted Demo, Duck sounded good with Demo, the domain was available and that’s how Demo Duck was hatched. Now, the office is filled with rubber duckies!
When I made more money with Demo Duck in a few months than I did with Concept Feedback in a few years that was the point of realization for me. I was banging my head against the wall with Concept Feedback because it was really hard to define what it was and find the market for it. I don’t regret Concept Feedback. I learned a lot from it. I think our issue was that we tried to build all the tools in the beginning, but they were all the wrong tools.
With video, it’s understandable and it’s much easier to develop a business around it.
Biggest startup surprise (good or bad) so far?
AF- Competition is Good.
When we launched Concept Feedback, we thought we were being innovative and making something new b/c there was no one out there with anything like it, but in reality, we were creating something no one had a real need for. Competition is usually a good sign of a market…and while there are definitely cases where people create a market for something new that people never knew they needed (think iPad), it can be an expensive (i.e. marketing and promotion) and risky proposition.
One thing you would have done differently?
AF- I wish I had started Demo Duck earlier, and hired earlier. When you’re working on something yourself, you get to know everything about your business, which is great, but I was driving myself crazy. I don’t think it’s healthy to be connected 24/7, and there comes a time when you need help. So, I hired another person and thought, “wow, I should have done this months ago.” I could have been more attentive to clients and had time to focus on Video Brewery.
What are Demo Duck and Video Brewery’s success sweet spots?
AF- When I was starting out I didn’t really have the big goals like, “what numbers do I want to hit?” We have revenue goals for this year, but that’s about it. I want to keep the company small so we can be more selective with clients.
At the moment we’re profitable and happy.
Do you have any interesting team morale-building/stress-busting techniques?
AF- We work in a pretty casual environment (to say the least!). We share an office with two other guys so it’s nice to take breaks and play with our electric helicopters, basketball hoop, Sega, basically the things you have when you’re 6.
We also do company outings every couple of months. We just went electric Go Karting, and we’re planning on going trampolining. We’re also participating in Chicago’s Tough Mudder event in the next two weeks, so I’m training for that.
Favorite tech tool?
AF- We use Dropbox a lot and Harvest for invoicing, so those are great.
We’ve also just recently gotten into turntable.fm. We have our own Demo Duck room, and basically you are assigned an avatar and you can play DJ for each other. People can like the music you’re playing or skip the track. It can be stressful!
Actually, my TI 83 is probably my coolest tech tool.
What’s your “man, I wish I would have thought of that” startup and why?
AF- I have a thing for subscription startups like Netflix and Zipcar that combine technology with a physical aspect. With Zipcar you can do everything online, unlock the car with your phone, etc., I think that’s great.
Parting words of wisdom for startup newbies and wannabies?
AF- Focus on launching your startup with a minimal viable product, and try to get it out there on the cheap.
The market is the biggest factor in a startup’s success. If you can test that market and find a market exists that you can do something better in, then focus on getting your product out there as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Plan for change! It makes it easier to prepare for it in the future.
Don’t work yourself crazy! You need to be able to step back sometimes to see the big picture, otherwise it will be difficult to grow your business.
Thanks Andrew! Here’s to the future success of Demo Duck and Video Brewery.
Now, how do I get access to the Demo Duck turntable.fm room to check out what you’re currently spinning? (And, judge you based on your music taste, of course.)