GoAnimate.com is living proof that you can do some incredible things. They've made it trivial for even mere mortals like me to create fantastic animations.
We talked to Alvin Hung, founder and CEO, to learn more about his entertainment site and what entrepreneurial lessons he's learned since he started his company in late 2006.
Alvin, let's start with the basics. Where is your business located?
GoAnimate.com is headquartered in New York and has offices in the Bay Area and Hong Kong.
Tell me more about GoAnimate.com. What are you doing exactly?
GoAnimate.com is THE online destination where everyone and anyone can create and share animations online.
The site is best used for eCards, animated stories, or self-expression on a profile page. In the past only big, professional studios had the capability to produce high quality animations. Now, with GoAnimate, EVERYONE can do it. And even better, with GoAnimate, users will be able to create their own animations using some of their all-time favorite characters like Underdog, public figures and lots of other famous cartoon icons.
Once an animation is complete, users can share it on the site, post it on Facebook, Myspace, Digg, or Delicious as well as email it to everyone they know. Basically, animations can be shared all over the web.
GoAnimate allows the most active or the most casual fans of animation to live in an engaging and fun environment focused on animation. Fans can create animated shorts, hang out and watch other people's animations, or just socialize with each other. In short, GoAnimate is the ultimate animation playground!
That's amazing. My kids are going to love this. So, what were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I founded two other startups before GoAnimate. I have a BA degree from Columbia University, New York (a Double Major in Computer Science and Economics). I have loved technology since I was a kid.
Where did you get the startup money for this particular venture?
In the beginning, I used my own money. Then, I had friends and family assist me by making small investments. Once I had a prototype done, I was able to raise angel money.
Who are your main competitors in this space?
We compete with eCard companies, animation portals, online motion graphics tools, packaged animation software, etc.
GoAnimate differentiates itself by providing a simple tool kit for the average user to create sophisticated looking animations on topics they are passionate about.
No technical skill or artistic talent is required. We believe that GoAnimate is the first to market with both the vision and the tools to make simple animation creation available to everyone.
While success on our part is certain to draw imitators, we plan to leverage technology, proprietary content, community, effective branding and the network effect to create serious barriers for our competitors.
Importantly, our high profile licensing partnerships give users the ability to create animations with characters and assets from iconic brands. For example, our partnership with Entertainment Rights allows users to write, create, and animate their very own Underdog, Richie Rich and Mr. Magoo episodes. We intend to make GoAnimate THE household name for animation entertainment and fun.
Finally, our animation studio in Hong Kong will continue to offer a major cost advantage over any U.S. operation.
Sounds like it will be tough to catch you guys. I'm wondering whether everything is going the way you planned it. How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It has not been different, really. I have always aspired to be an entrepreneur and my dad is an entrepreneur. I had a pretty good idea what running a company is like.
I know there are surprises along the way and I have always been open-minded in my approach to confronting them. The rewards continue to fuel my energy to tackle the day-to-day business challenges. I believe that energy, patience, tenacity and smart people are the recipe for success.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I waited for a long time before I started hiring people because I was trying to save money. I wish I had taken on engineers earlier.
What have you done that has been most effective in helping to grow the business?
It's all about having a great team. Attracting great, creative people to the team has been very helpful. They have a tireless, creative energy that is contagious and it reflects in their work.
We also have run some programs that have really helped us to spread the word. For example, we recently hosted an animator's contest that encouraged all our users to test their creative flair for the chance to win $5,000. That generated a lot of interest. We've worked hard to get the word out, but word of mouth is really taking over.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Have an open mind and listen to other people. However, don't get discouraged if you keep on hearing "no". People usually say "yes" when something is within their comfort zone.
Understand why people don't think agree with you and adjust your business accordingly. Or don't, and think of new ways to communicate what you believe is truly right.
That's great advice. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us. It sounds like a really fun business, and I'm sure you are going to do very well.