5. December 2012–
We live in a time where blogs dedicated to rumours on when the next iPhone will come out abound, where movies like Harry Potter are forced to shoot multiple endings and where people await the latest album from whoever is topping the charts with bated breath. Hype is a very real and lucrative market, which Canadian startup Hypejar wants to tap into. They're a website dedicated to publicising and garnering information on all popular culture and products that are yet-to-be-released, but are generating, you guessed it, hype.
I caught up with one of the cofounders, Grant Yim, to ask him what the hype around Hypejar is and how the Tickle Me Elmo toy inspired his startup...
Hi Grant, tell us more about what you're doing..
What we do is organise the world's upcoming products and releases to make them more search-able and accessible online. In doing so, we want to be the go-to site with all information on mass consumer products that are being released in the future.
Here is a quick explanation on Hypejar from the site...
How did you come across your idea?
We got really frustrated when we were on Google and we wanted to look for things that are going to be released in the future. We found you have to go through so many blogs and sites just to find out some information on them, like a release date. But more importantly you can't find information on things you don’t even know will exist that are coming out in the future, but could be interesting to you. Hypejar answers this need, because it isn't being done by anyone else.
We also want to know how much people want things that are coming up in the future. So for example, one holiday season the doll Tickle Me Elmo was super hyped about before it was released, and it was all over CNN and news outlets. I thought, what if we were able to quantify this anticipation for products that haven’t even been released yet? Social media is such a good way to do that. And if we can quantify hype, we will get really cool information, which is also really valuable.
How do you find out about releases worldwide?
We’re a community. We're like Wikipedia. Any registered user can enter products onto our site, that’s how it has worked so far and it’s been successful. We currently have 800-850 products. But we realise that there are many more that have not yet been discovered. And this information isn't a secret, you can find it on Google, all we’re doing is compiling it through crowdsourcing. So as long as it’s a mass consumer product, even in some obscure place, people can upload it.
Which market are you focusing on?
One of the criteria to enter a product is that it is a mass consumer product with a future release date. So I am going to focus on the products that can be consumed by anyone on the planet – the first thing that comes to mind is Hollywood movies, music albums, even cars.
Who are the founders and how did you find each other?
We’re a group of four founders, who got together several years ago. I am an attorney, Wonjun Bae is a medicine student, Dylan Jude is in school studying computer science and Mike Kwon is involved in community management and SEO. It's our first large scale startup project.
Wonjun and I met in our teens, we were friends more than anything, and then he fell in love with the idea of Hypejar. Dylan, I bumped into in Montreal and he was sold right away on Hypejar. Mike, who is also a longtime friend of mine, wanted to help out. It was more about the belief in the idea and each other. We never fight, we debate a lot, but always come to a compromise.
What is your USP and what makes you different from everyone else?
We have various competitors in several industries such as RottenTomatoes, IMDB, goodreads, gdgt, wikia, and so on. But we were the first to launch something like Hypejar - that shows whether your friends are anticipating a product and what they’re saying about it.
What is your business model?
We’re still in our infancy, so it’s too immature to talk about monetisation, but we do have ideas on where we want to go in the future. Right now, 100 per cent of our focus is on features and building traction. But the concept is very flexible, there will be different routes for monetisation.
For example, movie studios, before they release a movie, hire marketing firms, and the American marketing industry is a multi, multi million dollar industry. And before they release a film they hire people to find out what the anticipation of the movie is. But they use outdated traditional means, like surveys on the phone, so their sample size is very limited – and it’s a multi million dollar industry. So if you put two and two together, we believe we could fill that gap. But that’s only after traction.
We're thinking of pre-order shopping options as well.
And how big is the market potential?
It’s unlimited. Everyone loves products, but people all want the next thing. You get the iPhone 5 and you're already thinking about the next one. You're intrigued about what’s next. It’s not only like that with gadgets, but in every industry.
Who is financing you?
We’re totally bootstrapping. The biggest reason for this is because we've developed a very tight-knit community, so we want to deliver what the user wants, we want to keep it very independent. At the moment, we're in real-time, minute-to-minute communication with all our users, which has been a real asset - because they want us to do well. So we listen to the feedback and try and go in that direction. Which I think we can only do while independent from financiers.
How can you not have dinner with Steve Jobs? And the reason I'd meet him is not because he's Steve Jobs, but to listen to what was going on in his mind when he dropped out of school and went to India. I think that was a turning point in his life. And Tiger Woods, because I started playing golf recently and I really suck, so I want him to give me some advice.
Any advice you'd give to fellow startups?
First thing they have to do is launch. You have to iterate according to user activity. You're 100 per cent likely to change as you go, so I think it’s more about who’s able to pivot the best, with the concept and idea. So just get it out there.
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