Name: Alex Ross
Course: PhD Film
ZapToBuy is a startup which enables smartphones to take centre stage in the conversation between companies and customers. The core technology creates full product interactivity for ads, (in TV, films, and other video formats).
Tell us more about ZapToBuy Ltd.
Think product placement on steroids, with everything on screen branded and accessible via your smart phone.
So the next time you see Tom Cruise wearing a really cool leather jacket in his next blockbuster or Angelina Jolie wearing a stunning evening gown, you can buy it via your smartphone.
We are an Innovate UK award winning company and have also been taken on by the IBM growth accelerator program, putting us in the top 1% of UK startups.
How did UEA Student Enterprise help you?
Finbarr has provided us with all sorts of advice and links to useful sites and companies.
What worries did you have while setting up your business, and how did you overcome them?
Whether working professionals in my arena would deem my idea to be of use or a total waste of time. Raising enough money (we got a government TSB grant to cover 60% of our R&D costs) and being pipped to the finishing line by some deep pocketed competitors (Google, Amazon etc.). Finding the right people to work with me, knowing that I could not afford to pay them fair market value for their work. Whether I had the leadership skills to build this company up from nothing and motivate others to share my passion.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business rather than look for work from someone else?
Honestly, I make a rubbish employee + I started off my first business when I was 7 years old, so it's in my DNA. I really enjoy coming up with ideas that addresses some lacuna in the way we live and tries to make things easier for people.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Patience, passion and the ability to motivate.
What motivates you?
I have a passion for deconstructing the way we live, what the problems are, how to solve them. Throw in the ability to think outside the proverbial box and you start getting into some interesting arenas. Maybe one out of ten ideas really have commercial merit and probably no more than one in a hundred are enacted. The other thing which really motivates me are the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Podcasts: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/podcasts.html They get some of the top international minds to show up and share their stories on how they built up these amazing companies from nothing. Truly inspiring.
How do you define success?
Being able to pay my employees.
Where did your funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? Was UEA part of this?
My savings and a TSB grant.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Getting the thumbs up from seriously successful people in my line of business.
What piece of advice would you give to university students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Find a way of improving a lot of peoples’ lives.