Startup Spotlight: Vubble's Co-Founders Tessa Sproule and Katie MacGuire
By Valerie McCulloch ● June 13, 2016 19:45
Vubble is a startup that harnesses the power of algorithm tech alongside real human curators. Meet Tessa Sproule and Katie MacGuire -- innovators, journalists, IDEABOOST Network Connect members and the two founding women behind Vubble.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
KATIE: I've always wanted to have my own business. I was always on the lookout for an opportunity to be my own boss. Also, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs so the lifestyle, risks and rewards are familiar to me.
TESSA: Even though I spent 20 years at CBC, I created most of the jobs I did there. I was an "intrapreneur", helping a big organization navigate the changing media landscape, creating new ways for us to engage and build audiences, and innovating and figuring out how to build business efficiently. Those are all critical skills. Eventually, leaving and co-founding a company was the most natural next step.
How did you come up with the idea for your startup?
TESSA: I've always been obsessed with getting great stories in front of the right audience at the right time. Digital tools have made it easier to tell stories and receive them, but we've all felt the growing weirdness of filtering the world around us with algorithms. Vubble came out of an opportunity we saw in engineering serendipity into the experience – using algorithms for what they do well, but injecting humans back into it too. Computers do a terrible job of understanding emotions like surprise, joy, empathy – the stuff great stories are made of. We're building Vubble to correct that.
What prompted you to apply for CFC Media Lab’s IDEABOOST Network Connect Program?
KATIE: Both Tessa and I have long-standing relationships with the CFC and I personally have found the quality of work from the CFC Media Lab, its excellent reputation and extended network have been an ongoing asset to me for the past 15 years.
TESSA: Yes, we're big fans of the Canadian Film Centre!
What is the one thing you want audiences to know about your product?
KATIE: Our product is the most trustworthy trending video channel available. We source, verify, fact-check and carefully select the best trending stories worthy of your time.
TESSA: Everyone is a network. Vubble is the most cost-effective, quality solution to pull it all together: build audiences, enhance your brand and always have something awesome to share.
What’s the biggest challenge you currently face or have faced in terms of development?
KATIE: Our biggest challenge is learning sales and marketing and how to convert interest into customers.
TESSA: That's right. We come from public broadcasting. So the sales piece is a bit of a learning curve. But we're learning, fast. (Thanks IDEABOOST!)
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting your company?
KATIE: It's hard to pick one! It's crucial to launch and get real world feedback as soon as possible. Also, that a sale is the fundamental building block of a business and without sales there is no business.
TESSA: I picture it as canoeing down a river. There are long moments of hard paddling, which is exhausting. (Keep an eye on your personal health. Get to the gym. Eat and sleep.) There are moments of intense rapids, which can be exhilarating, and terrifying (Keep a calm head. You may be moving fast, but this is the time for slow thinking). And while you need to have a general sense of where you're heading, be careful not to get stuck in a bog. Sometimes you've got to backtrack and portage around whatever's blocking you.
Can you tell us about any exciting partnerships?
TESSA: We've just signed on AsapSCIENCE as a new client, which is really exciting (they are fellow IDEABOOST alumni)! They're at the leading edge of the changing media world – and they're so great to work with. I love that we solve problems for them – they have more than five million subscribers on their YouTube channel, another 2.3 million fans on Facebook, and a few hundred thousand followers on Twitter ... but no real reason for people to engage with them on their website. Now, with one line of code, they have their own dynamic Vubble Channel of the best science videos that they can share with their fans to watch on their site.
At one end of the spectrum we're working with the newest entrants in the media space, and on the other, we're working with one of the older media - radio. They want to have the trending video of the day on their website, so they can have their DJs say on air, "Hey, have you seen the amazing girl who blew everyone away on America's Got Talent last night? Check it out, it's on our site!" We're solving similar problems for both old and new media – and generating some really interesting data and insights that we're really excited about.
What other projects do you have on the horizon?
TESSA: Now that we're building out a diverse client base, we're starting to see some interesting patterns – how audiences react to certain videos on one partner's page, and how they react on another's. In the next few months we're going to be putting more attention into that – figuring out what signals we can find in the noise. Stay tuned!
Check out Vubble’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account for the best videos from great publishers. In case you missed them, check out the top trending CFC Media Lab picks viewed by our visitors:
Is this the crazy scary place virtual reality will take us? https://shar.es/1J7pcz
Companies like Facebook have created a meaningless economy https://shar.es/1J7rFM
Here are the best ways to spot a liar https://shar.es/1J72qS
IDEABOOST supports innovative companies whose success will produce jobs and contribute to Canada’s place in the global media industry for generations to come. Interested in learning more about our Network Connect community? Visit www.ideaboost.ca
Thank you to IDEABOOST’s founding partner Corus Entertainment. IDEABOOST is funded in part by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.