In this week’s blog we meet MakinMediaMobile co-founder and business developer Geoff Allen who took a little time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his role in the company..
Q1. So Geoff, what inspired you to start up an explainer video company in the first place?
I have always been a movie buff and back when I lived in New York, I would go to the movies two or three times a week. I studied History of Special Effects in New York University and saw how moving images have developed over time. For me the cinema has always been my happy place to escape into a separate world where problems are on hold for an hour or so.
Another more abstract love that came along was Desktop publishing (who remembers it called that?) Now bear with me, back in Athlone Regional College they had three original Apple Mac Classics, which no one used, so I would spend hour upon hour figuring them out. The first program that I mastered was an application called Illustrator 88, no more pencil for me! Later at the National Art College in Dublin only fourth year were allowed on the computer so I bought my first Apple LC the rest is history!
When I rocked up in New York in 1995, Desktop Publishing was arriving right around the same time. Over in Madison Avenue, labour intensive analogue printing methods were being replaced by digital and lo and behold, I had the fundamentals. Adobe’s Illustrator and Photoshop were pioneering the industry, replacing expensive union dominated typesetters with new fangled technology. Today Adobe dominate the space much in the same way that Google own the Internet.
The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan (possibly my favourite movie makers) use only Adobe digital media workflow on their current production, Hail Cesar! I have always believed that desktop publishing will allow future film crafters to totally control the complete production of a movie ‘off the shelf’. We are moving towards real database movie production and more importantly distribution.
I was an avid comic fan since I could read. I received a Masters in Digital Media from the Huston Film School in Galway which complimented my primary BA in Visual Communications and Dermot (Condron) and I decided that the world needed an animation/video studio who was business focused as opposed to entertainment oriented.
At the time of graduation, Dermot and I were both still at a loose end. My father had a spare premises and we decided that there was a huge gap in the market for developing content for mobile devices. Our first offering was simple websites with ‘Responsive Web Design’ by this we mean websites that adapt to mobile devices. It was a hard sell with people saying that no one was searching on their mobile phones.
Initially MakinMediaMobile was to be a ‘one stop shop’ (though I shudder to use that phrase) and competing with the existing ‘disjointed’ model was tough especially when we had no revenue at all. So we pivoted and set about doing some video, focusing on YouTube channels for delivery.
Our first videos were shot on Dermot’s Samsung Galaxy! For the bigger shoots I had to switch my sim with the wife’s phone and bring her phone too! It’s long way from the 4k Panasonic that we use today. Dermot is terrific when it comes to editing and that is where the real talent lies – assessing the footage taken and making the magic.
Q2. In terms of business development, what are the key elements to success in this area?
The number one reason for the success in terms of business development is the growth of mobile devices. Everyone has them. Our game plan is to follow what Google are preaching and enlightening Irish business to what is available to them. Too often they see (and are conned) into thinking that digital media costs a fortune.
I believe what makes us excel is the team that we have built. There is nothing that we cannot produce and promote in our studio at a fraction of the cost of the big Dublin entities. For me I just tell people the truth, there is no quick sell and if people don’t like what I tell them, there are other options.
Q3. Are you a ‘fan’ of organic growth?
Organic growth is the only way unless you want to throw your hard earned cash into Google’s coffers and I feel that they have enough. For starters Google AdWords is not a level playing field. Without dragging you into the world of ‘realtime bidding in the use of programmatic advertising’ (are you still with me?) suffice it to say that unless you know your market and your one (yes one) ‘keyword’ that people ARE searching for, you are wasting your money.
Q4. As the Business Developer at MakinMediaMobile, what motivates you to drive the business forward?
In my chramed life at the end of the day we are living the dream, running an animation studio. I always ask what Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and me have in common. It is a dream and it is never work when you enjoy what you are doing. How many people do you know that dread heading off every morning to a boss who is shouting or a whiney colleague who moans about how tough they have it? Also like dream there is no klondike in the numeration business. The guys take home something and sometimes there are days when we don’t, but we made the bed and are happy to lie in it.
To me MakinMediaMobile is our child, we look after it and have watched it grow over the last three years. It is my extended family. My job here is to make sure that there is enough in the pipeline to keep the guys busy and then collect enough money to cover the wages, bills and keep ‘the Man’ in Earlsfort Terrace happy. After that every hour is invested in looking to help companies who trust us.
We add value to their offering in a new way that most don’t understand and fear. I spent the first internet revolution in New York City, where I saw many ‘shysters’ expounding their knowledge. With nigh on three decades in this business, I feel that I have developed enough of a knowledge base to pontificate…but hey, maybe I’m just another ‘shyster’!
Finding real innovative companies in the Irish marketplace is a buzz. I know that we have ‘wow’ people by our efforts. Some delight in this, others play cute but people are people and as long as we are in business we will only give what we consider to be good solid advice. It is up to the folks involved to heed it or ignore it as they see fit. There are plenty of people in the market who don’t know about MakinMediaMobile and more and more find out about us on a daily basis.
Q5. Talk us through a typical day at the office..
After dropping the kids off to school, I arrive at the office, fire up the computers and have a look at the inbox. I do my best not to get sucked into the Tyranny of the Urgent as opposed to the Priority of the Important. If there are meetings scheduled we get organised for them.
I look at what projects are ongoing and see if they need any intervention though for the most part I’m all about light touch when if comes to project management. The team know the ongoing work much better than I, sometimes they seek my opinion but for the most part they find solutions by themselves. Messaging through yours truly can result in a message badly interpreted, so better if the guy doing the work gets the communication first hand.
When networking I always set a target when I am at meeting; I pick one or two people who I have researched and see how MakinMediaMobile could benefit them. I go up and tell them what we do and some get it, some don’t. At the end of the day we are all fighting our own corner and have plenty of reason not to sign on the dotted line. My aim is to make them inquisitive and give them a reason to peruse the website and see how we can help their business.
My principle job at MakinMediaMobile is focused on the mid and long term future as opposed to the day to day. Beyond the aforementioned Tyranny, all business experiences lie in questions like funding expansion, new markets and that very elusive ideal candidate armed with a big budget!
Usually after lunch I get a chance to look at a few candidates that we pitch our wares too. I read a lot of white papers and research on how the industry is evolving. I feel that if we stay the course, in time, more and more companies will realise the necessity that we are providing. Right now we have a healthy pipeline with a big project coming in every other month. This always picks up the spirits of the crew and makes us feel that with persistence, our boat will come in.
Q6. Regarding business growth, where would you like to see the company in 3 years time?
More of the same really, the need to approach a company’s digital presence will only grow. Looking at projections for OnDemand Video in the more mature markets such as the North American market, year on year growth is 30-40%. I feel with smartphones it will be a case of give it a few years and people will wonder what we did before they arrived.
This year MakinMediaMobile will increase our turnover by at least 300%, all very easy to impress with big numbers but being a start up we were commencing from a very low base. We hope to break even and move forward with realistic growth over the next few years.
On our current growth curve I believe that a reasonably conservative estimate will see us break the €500,000 mark. As our profile rises so is demand, with more and more people being inquisitive and getting in touch to see if we can help. MakinMediaMobile’s offering is client focused and we address their needs in a bespoke fashion and equally importantly, to suit their budget.
As a complete entity MakinMediaMobile are unique. The value in video is not the making of it or the creative element as video only becomes effective when we hand it over to the client. From then on the customer needs advice on how to make the video work. When combined with the other element of a progressive content marketing plan the returns are terrific. We have plenty of case studies that show this.
Owing to the fact that only the innovative type of companies in the market place really understand what we are aiming to achieve for them. Unfortunately innovators make up less than 3% of the overall market, I believe that early adopters are around the corner as advertising with video gets more popular. Demand for our services will mushroom and I suspect that there are not enough agencies like ours to serve the market.
When we started up there were plenty who thought we were having a laugh. Animation is a serious business because along with video it is the language of mobile devices. Back some years ago one of our first pitches was a local marketing company. The principal greeted me with an opinion that “video is dead and would be gone in five years”, he was a bit taken aback my rebuttal that “we will go with Google on this one”.