A Q&A with FightMe co-founders Joelle Hadfield (CEO) and Jamie Lorenz (chairman). The London-based startup, which is a social video network for showcasing talent, closed a $500,000 Seed funding round at the end of October from an undisclosed investor. It was founded in 2011.
SUB: Please describe FightMe and your primary innovation.
Hadfield: FightMe is the first competitive-based social video network. FightMe lets real people get creative and share their unusual skills and raw talent. Through 30 seconds of unedited raw video users can challenge, entertain and interact with a growing community of passionate competitors. Using a hashtag system, app users can post their own 30-second, unedited videos, and they can also browse other videos and post their own footage in response. Other users then ‘applaud’ the videos that they like, and the videos with the most applause rise to the top of a leaderboard.
Lorenz: FightMe is a platform to bring like-minded individuals together using the backdrop of friendly competition. We wanted to create a friendly environment for people to showcase themselves in a way that wasn’t all about ‘look at me,’ but more about joining in. We feel we’ve created a great balance for people to express themselves in a fun, interactive way that differs from other video apps out there.
Hadfield: Our primary targets are users aged 18-to-25, creative individuals and those who wouldn’t ordinarily have a space to showcase themselves or voice opinions. We are currently focused on new urban talents such as beatboxers, freerunners, spoken word artists [and] opinion leaders who are naturally tech savvy and enjoy creative pursuits.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates FightMe from the competition?
Lorenz: There are various video social networks out there, such as Vine and Instagram; however, these tend to provide a space where users express themselves alone. FightMe provides a space for raw talent and opinion, where users can join in
on something, rather than creating stand-alone videos.
SUB: You recently announced that you’ve raised $500,000 in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Hadfield: Because we were really excited to bring the platform out of beta and develop our plans to expand into other markets as soon as possible.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Hadfield: We’re planning on using the funds to develop and grow all areas of product and marketing, build a rock star team, and expand to the USA. Being based in London, we were focused on building a community in the United Kingdom, so we were surprised to see that 48 percent of our audience already comes from the United States.
Hadfield: FightMe was initially the brainchild of Jamie, who came up with the idea in 2011. The concept was to create a platform that encouraged friendly competition, allowing creative individuals the chance to improve their talents by competing against others. I have known Jamie since we were kids—his sister Carly is one of my closest friends—and we reconnected over a mutual love for tech and music, and both saw the importance of creating a platform for creativity. So, we decided to work together, we took his initial ideas, tested, tweaked, and here we are today.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Hadfield: Our first steps were to figure out the vision and where we wanted to take the idea. Since then we have progressed through a series of stages from building an initial prototype, hiring a small but great team, defining the product through beta testing, to raising our initial funding.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Lorenz: I’ve always loved the concept of turning a negative into a positive. For example, if you take the word ‘sick’ that is now used as a way to compliment something, I wanted to do the same with the word ‘fight.’ There are plenty of times when ‘to fight for something’ is a positive, and it’s usually when aggression is taken out of the equation—hence, ‘join the fight.’
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Hadfield: Yes, we have already begun this process but the main focus right now is on growing the team, building a great product and growing our user base.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Hadfield: Our biggest challenge, and probably what makes it the most fun working at a startup, is the ability to change. We’ve listened to what our beta users wanted and have used this to help better our understanding of how creative and talented people are now using the web to promote themselves. The best way we can to continue to grow is by analyzing the data that we have, getting the feedback we need, and using our creative instincts to develop the company that will someday hopefully be used by millions of people around the world.
Hadfield: Right now, the focus is growing our user base. In the future there are a variety of potential revenue streams. We have some interesting ideas for revenue models that we are already thinking about, and one of the early models is looking at brand partnerships, and running competitions and sponsored events where the brands interact with our users and community. FightMe can create organic user-generated video contests, with community-led leaderboards. However, everything we will do will always have to provide value to our users.
SUB: What are your goals for FightMe over the next year or so?
Hadfield: We have a lot of hard work and big ideas ahead of us. With the release of the FightMe app in July, we have seen a natural and organic growth, and can see the foundation of a platform that will take creativity to a whole new level. Users can easily record, share their talents and opinions, and gain immediate feedback at the touch of a button anywhere on the planet. We differentiate ourselves from others by providing a space for raw talent and opinion. For us, that’s the best indicator that we’re building something valuable.
FightMe – www.fightme.com