Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.
Every week we publish an interview with a start-up. We ask five questions, hoping the answers will give you inspiration and new views. Well, actually six questions, since we also ask the start-up to who he or she is passing the mic to.
As I’ve promised you last week, I will interview the start-ups who participated in the start-up rally of PLUGG 2008. This time we’re interviewing Bertrand Bodson, co-Founder Bragster.com. He already got some coverage on this blog for some serious pie throwing. Yet he and his team can do more than getting attention in an unconventional way, since they run a rather popular start-up. It’s a service on which friends can dare each other to something incredibly stupid. How did they come up with that?
How did you come up with the idea of Bragster?
“It all started as a “coffee-machine” type of idea. Wim, while at Morgan Stanley, was going to the hairdresser before an important meeting. Some of his colleagues dared him to go bold. They would supposedly pay him £500 if he did it. They kind of agreed, but eventually it never really happened knowing that he wouldn’t probably get the reward. That was enough to get us thinking – I was still at Amazon.com at the time. The net was the ideal platform to make it official and record those dares, with no way back and even getting your friends to chip in by betting if you would do it or chicken out, adding the necessary and fun social pressure to it. Over time, lot of things have evolved of course, e.g.: we added a strong community dimension to it, a virtual currency, the ability to easily upload video evidence and so on. But one thing remained the same: we are simply bringing to the net what has been a natural human behaviour for centuries: there is a competitive spirit in all of us, and bragging with friends is part of the human nature… and fun.”
What was your biggest challenge during the development process?
“Finding the right first tech person. Both Wim and I had business and product management backgrounds but no hard core tech. We used LinkedIn and personal contacts, ending up interviewing over 30 people before making our moves. Even then, it was hard for us to know the true tech quality of the developers we met, and decided to hedge our bets. While bringing Peter Vandenberk, our VP of development on board full time, at the same time, we decided to also work with a contractor, giving the advantage to have immediate access to another 4 back + front end developers when needed. However, the later option quickly proved not to work out for us: lack of true commitment, was talking the talk, but didn’t have the expertise required – things we only realized while effectively starting working together. Luckily, we got very fortunate with Peter, who is still the backbone of the Bragster technology today.”
Can you describe the British start-up culture compared to Silicon Valley?
“We are originally from Belgium but are based in London. London is very expensive at all levels obviously – and cash is king. From that point of view, I sometime wish we were in the US, but as in the Valley we benefit from a great network of entrepeneurs around us, and developers and probably made our recent funding round easier – we recently closed a $3.5MM with Intel Capital – than if we were in Belgium.”
What will be the influence of your start-up on the next web?
“We are an entertainment channel. What we bring to the table is a much more engaging way for friends to interact than via many of the current social networking out there. On Bragster, it’s not just about creating a profile, posting your pics or vids and/or following what others are doing, it’s about a much more engaging type of activities, where every brag becomes a story which typically has a few weeks or month life, with friends chipping in and teasing each others over that time – and after -, posting video evidences in that context, and with the users themselves organizing the settlement before topping the league tables. That’s also part of our challenge, we are asking a lot from our users. In the process of doing that however, we are naturally building a strong library of quality content, that we believe will be one of the most sought for assets in the next web.”
You can make up this question yourself!
Where do you want the company to be in five years?
“Integrated to an international web and community savvy media group, leveraging our unique content and the stories built by our users. As a bonus, getting the best bragsters – those creating and performing the wildest dares for example – to appear on a TV show for example, a natural step for us in the long term, would be offering them the ultimate bragging right!”
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