We’ve all seen those Facebook posts of our athletic friends with their bib numbers proudly on display as they participate in a marathon or cycle race… Yet what we don’t know is how much they have to pay for their own copy of this keepsake! Simon Hills was one such athlete frustrated with this, and expressed to his brother Oli that there really should be a way of accessing all those photos that spectators snap on their phones! After a fortuitous meeting at a party they brought videogame veteran Des Gayle on board to develop their own such app, BibShot. And the rest as they say… is history! We got the full story here.

Tell us a bit more about Bibshot

Simon: BibShot is the first mobile app marketplace where athletes can purchase race photos captured by spectators, directly from them, at events like marathons, half marathons and triathlons. Athletes get top quality and unique photos while spectators earn money from any photos that they sell.

For event organisers, it helps connect the athletes and spectators in a more intimate way and encourages more people to attend events and increase engagement with their sponsors and retailers.

Where are you guys based? You mentioned that all the co-founders aren’t based in one location

Simon: Yes, we as business partners are scattered. I’m based in Bristol, whilst Des and Oli are in London. With technology these days and the multiple forms of communication like Skype, Whatsapp, Slack, email etc. we are never too far apart.

Who is your ideal target audience?

Simon: our target audience are the phenomenally talented and committed athletes of endurance events but so too are we aimed at the dedicated spectators who line the streets rain or shine to cheer random people home. We noticed that professional photographers often plant themselves in one location and charge high prices for a single photo.

At the London Triathlon for example the run consists of three laps and the photography is located in one place so you basically just get the same photo three times but you just look slightly more tired in each one. We wanted to change this and allow athletes to have access to photos from all round the course that the spectators take.

Finally, to build more interaction between athletes and spectators would be a real success for us, bringing the two parties closer together to make an already great atmosphere at events an outstanding atmosphere.

Why do you think Bibshot is unique to the marketplace? 

Simon: Our idea is sort of in line with the new era of the sharing economy but bringing it to an industry where it doesn’t currently exist. At present, professional photographers pitch themselves at a few locations around the course and capture the athletes as they pass then sell them for an expensive price.

We wanted to reverse this and leverage the spectators lining the course taking top quality photos on their phones and make these available at an affordable price to the athletes. Also, for Oli who is always injured and is now a professional spectator, allowing him to make some money would help him pay for his bus fare home!

The product has been launched as mobile first, so that it allows an almost instant and seamless transaction of photography sales, while the endorphin rush of completing an event is still in full flow!

Where did the idea for it originally come from?

Simon: We are all sporty individuals and love to solve problems. BibShot encompasses all of our passions and we are truly so excited to see BibShot at events around the UK and hopefully the world in years to come. Coming up with the idea was actually from Simon completing an IronMan and couldn’t believe he had to pay £75 for one pretty generic photo as a memento of his achievements. While he was on the bike, he must have been bored about 70 miles in, and he noticed spectators taking some awesome photos of him and he wanted to gain access to them and so the idea for BibShot was born.

By providing athletes with an opportunity to save and share their key achievements for an affordable price is a great thing to do. Also, budding photographers now have the opportunity to make some money from their hobby and build a personal portfolio.

And how long have you been working on this idea?

Oli: We’ve been working on it for about a year now. It took time to find the right developers for the app and define our proposition but we are now in the final period of testing with test events planned in September and October.

There has been a lot of interest from innovative event organisers who are looking for a unique alternative to traditional sports photography companies. We are certainly causing a stir in this very old-school industry!

bibshot screenshot startup

What about your personal backgrounds? 

Simon: We are a very diverse team in terms of skills and backgrounds. Firstly Des Gayle, our chief technology guru didn’t go down the university route, however taught himself how to code and set up a company at an early age developing mobile applications. He is now a technology project manager on a new PS4 game. Des brings a wealth of technological experience and is a crucial member of the team when progressing the app development and understanding where best to exploit technology. Des is a keen gym goer, American football enthusiast and has previously completed many running events.

I myself graduated from Bath University with a Masters in Civil Engineering, I recently left my role as a senior project manager in construction to concentrate on a number of other initiatives that I am working on at the moment. I love coming up with innovative ideas and love a spot of blue sky thinking. I also consider myself a strong salesperson and relationship builder. I have passion for triathlons and recently completed Iron Man in Nice.

Oli has a degree in Economics and Business Management from Newcastle University and is now a product manager at a large investment management company. Oli has a wealth of experience from completing an operations graduate scheme where he was given a great opportunity to see the many functions required to run a successful business. Also as a product manager he brings key propositional skills required to continually improve the product and ensure it is always one step ahead of the competition. Oli is a keen cyclist, however having suffered a terrible injury, for the last 18 months he has been a committed spectator and has an insight into the supply side of BibShot’s marketplace. He is passionate in making spectating at endurance events more engaging.

What about your childhood backgrounds – did any of you come from families of entrepreneurs?

Simon and Oli:  as brothers, we shared the same family background and we were always supported to go and do something we were passionate about. Our dad and granddad both set up their own businesses so we always had visibility of that entrepreneurial spirit. Albeit their businesses were nothing to do with event photography or sports for that matter, we were taught about the key skills needed for building and maintaining a successful business.

Des: Before retiring, my dad was an electrician and my mum became a seamstress after looking after us (my sisters and I) in the early years. As far back as I can remember I was always interested in how things worked and solving problems. Mum and Dad created an encouraging environment to allow me to thrive and learn. As for entrepreneurial motivation, I only stumble upon this in later life – education surrounding this was terrible for me at school.

Can any of you remember any particular event that happened that sparked the idea to start this venture?

Simon: My frustrations came from completing endurance events and not being able to afford a simple photo memento from the occasion really sparked my problem solving-brain to come up with a solution.

Des: I always had that entrepreneurial spark and taught myself coding as I knew that mobile and technology would be fundamental in the future and was committed to getting ahead of the curve.

Fundamentally though, it is because we live in a world where innovation is accessible to all and we all separately are inspired to challenge the status quo and disrupt marketplaces with creative use of technology.

You seem to have a very solid partnership. Tell us a bit more about how you all ended up working on this project together

As we mentioned Simon and Oli are brothers so it seemed like a good fit to start up a business with one another. Unfortunately we didn’t have a clue how to unlock a smartphone let alone code and develop an app for one of them. Simon told Oli about his idea and he was keen to get involved. A couple of weeks later, Oli met Des at a house party and they ended up chatting about app development and Oli told Des about the idea for BibShot. Half way through the conversation Des just stopped Oli talking and walked off – not the best sign when they thought they had the $1m idea – fortunately Des had slipped off to get a business card and as they say the rest his history.

What was the most exciting moment to date in building Bibshot

Simon: The first time we downloaded the app and had the icon on the phone was a pretty special moment. It’s so exciting to show friends and family what we’ve created and their reactions have given us so much momentum to push on and make this a real success.

Oli: Also, when Simon got called out of the blue from the CEO of a major global sports photography company, before the product was even launched, that was pretty special – clearly a little concerned about our product! ☺

Des: Another funny story to add was when we were at the Greenwich 10km early on and we decided let’s take some photos and post them on Facebook and hand out some flyers to athletes and see if they would download the app and use it. So anyway we were at the finish line handing out these flyers when all of a sudden a lady runs to us and says that we can’t hand out the flyers! So we stealthily handed out a few more and went off for coffee. Well, the next day we got an angry email from a photographer accusing us of acting unprofessionally and saying we had no right and demanding that we take down the photos immediately!

startup_bibshot_founders 2

Oli: This validated for us that we can’t just rock up and do rogue photos so we needed to find a way to either become the official photography solution for events and work with event organisers to arrange this properly, or in fact work with existing photographers rather than competing against them. We feel that there is space for all of us so for phase 2 we could have a website where photographers could also upload their official, high quality photos for sale. These could come with a pro-badge allowing them to charge more for higher res. This would help them too as they wouldn’t need to spend money on their own websites.

The whole thing was an interesting experience for us as it gave us a good lesson and helped shape our proposition. Not only did it validate what we were doing wrong, but also that there is in fact something here that we can work with.

What about the toughest moment?

Oli: As mentioned we’re all currently in full time roles or working on other initiatives so fitting running a business around working full time is pretty difficult. Fortunately Des doesn’t sleep so any actions are generally completed between 1am and 5am – then he goes on to do a full days work, oh and he’s got a new born baby – unreal! Generally though we are all committed to making this work so working into the night and fitting it in full time jobs is just something we need to do to make this a success.

And what do you think you learnt from these moments?

Simon: When I quit my job back in January we had been talking about this and while Des was building and coding the App, we still didn’t know if this was the final team, if we were a company and if this was actually happening. It was a very uncertain period. We didn’t know each other’s expectations of what exactly we were building so we had to be very open and honest – this was a big learning curve for me as a founder of a company – knowing where everyone is. We all do different things. You need to learn how to run a business and be agile. You are building a new culture. I’ve also got other things going on and everything you learn from other experiences you bring into this project.

Oli: This is my first experience with a startup – I found managing time was difficult but we had to get things up and running. Sending out emails, working out how the social media side works – all these little things were constant learning every day. It’s a constant challenge but a good one. You also need to understanding what you’ve got and rely on your network. And be lean!

Des: the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to be flexible and communicate. For example organising a meeting on a bank holiday without realising it was a holiday – when you are working for yourself there’s no such things as holidays or weekends! I’ve enjoyed the hustle though! Asking different people to help you to try and keep your costs down. Optimising our resources is key.

This may sounds strange, but was there ever a weird moment where you thought that you are destined to do this?

Simon: Oli met Des at a house party just a couple of weeks after Simon telling him the idea for BibShot was a bit odd. Oli had never met an app developer before, he thought that apps were only created by whizz kids in Silicon Valley and did not know where to start when Simon said those famous words ‘let’s build an app’. So for Oli to meet Des and for Des to be so keen about BibShot within a few weeks of the idea coming to life was a bit weird! Fate really!

Where would you like to see Bibshot in the next few years?

Simon: Obviously we want BibShot to become the photography solution at all endurance events around the world but realistically within 3 years, we would like to be very successful with UK based events and starting to look at international events. To be main photography supplier at the likes of the London Marathon, the Great North Run and other major UK events would be a huge success within 3 years.

On that note Oli is also currently applying for an incubator in a startup competition and We were recently named one of the top 100 startups by The Pitch, a UK competition. We’ve got a bootcamp in London in October where we hope to make the top 30. There’s a couple of photo apps competing so it should be interesting. It’s our first one so we will see how it goes and what others are doing and if they find us interesting

And finally, for someone who’s building a new startup, what would the one bit of advice be that you would leave with them?

Oli: The one bit of advice we can give is to keep going and don’t be disheartened when things don’t go your way. There will be bumps in the road and rejections along the journey but perseverance is crucial to starting and maintaining a successful business. Also, enjoy every moment, this business is your idea and bringing it to market is so enjoyable so take time to appreciate what you are setting out to do.

Finally, the biggest lesson is don’t underestimate the power of networking. Referral power is huge. You don’t have to spend as much money if you have the right connections.

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