The Vimsy Origin Story

A look back at how Vimsy came to be and some of the stories we've lived along the way profile

Written by Rowan

Updated 2017-09-14

The Vimsy Origin Story

This time last year my colleague Paul and I went to IBC in Amsterdam to show off Vimsy. We hadn't booked a stand, but we were hoping to meet other video producers and use the networking opportunities to share word of our new product.

Instead, I spent the weekend in my hotel room reporting bugs to our developers who were working extra hours to try and get our product launched. We were just about to release the first major version of Vimsy, which let anyone and everyone create their own channel and start using it. This came after well over a year of developing the core platform.

Looking back at our experience this past year, I thought I'd share the origin story of Vimsy and how it came to be. In the past year we've done a lot; we've added a tonne of new features such as subscriptions, the enhanced layout, chapters, and so many more features that I've simply forgotten them all. And we have some great new additions on the horizon. We've been featured on Product Hunt, I went to Wistiafest, and overall we've had a blast of a year.

The Vimsy Origin Story

It's a sign

Vimsy Origins

Four years ago I left university with a degree in Television & Video Production and started my own corporate video production company here in Southampton, UK called Southpoint Films. We're a team of three that started by making promotional films, training videos and by filming events for local businesses - and that's what we still do today. The only real difference between then and now is that we have a product called Vimsy which we're also working on. (I still spend most of my time out and about with a camera, or behind a computer editing client videos.)

We started our journey with Vimsy when we noticed a trend amongst our customers, particularly those that we filmed training or event videos for. Like most production companies we would send them their MP4 files and, like most customers, they would upload those videos to Youtube or Vimeo. They'd then share those links with their customers and colleagues or they'd pay their web developers a lot of money to try and integrate those videos into their existing websites.

There's nothing inherently wrong with either approach but it wasn't ideal. Our customers either had the hard cost of building the videos into their websites (often in hacky, inelegant ways) or they had the cost of having their own customers dragged down a rabbit hole of unrelated content, which was at best inappropriate and, at worst, content produced by their competitors. That needed to change.

When we decided to start building Vimsy we had a client who had a very large video library that was using an ageing CMS for managing the videos. It was expensive and it was breaking. By the end of our time using it we had to transfer video files via FTP to their web developers who would manually hook them up to entries in the database because their uploader had stopped working properly. What a faff.

The main problem was that the people who'd developed this CMS had made the decision years ago to fork the code for each client and it meant that every update came at a cost to their existing customers. That's not a bad way of making some easy money for the software developer, but it's awful for the clients. The reality of this fragmentation was that, although a newer version of that system existed, our client was facing a bill of at least £15,000 to make their CMS functional again. Ouch.

Me and my colleague/business partner/mentor Paul French (he is not defined easily) knew that we could do better with both the software and with the customer service, not just for that one client but for the good of all of our clients and beyond. We wanted a system that was the following:

With the philosophies agreed, we spec'ed out the product features and took the concept to a local web development company that I'd been working with through a mutual client for several years. I don't credit them often because our relationship is strictly commercial - we give them a brief, they give us a quote, we give them money, the code gets written - but they are an exceptionally talented web development and design agency and we couldn't have picked a better partner for building Vimsy at this stage in our business's life.

With a reliable development team in place and a solid concept, all we needed was the funds. I happened to be filming a conference in Panama (as you do) on behalf of our client with the broken CMS and raised the idea of Vimsy over dinner one evening. We discussed the concept, how it would work and how we would migrate their content. They were excited by the idea of Vimsy but we couldn't reach a commercial agreement that both of us were happy with. These things happen.

By this point Paul and I were convinced on the product, and we had already come up with the name Vimsy, which we knew was a winner. It's short for Video Management System. We loved it, we had faith it would work, and we weren't going to let one "no" stop us. I commissioned our developers to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) out of my own pocket. Paul later joined in after receiving a windfall, funding the remainder of the initial development. Because we were able to prove the concept without needing their funding, we were later able to secure the client who I spoke with in that restaurant in Panama.

The Vimsy Origin Story

Vimsy v1, if you could call it that!

I share this story for two reasons. The first is that I want to do my part to dispel the myth that innovation only comes out of Silicon Valley, or a similar tech hive like London. We're based in Southampton which doesn't feature on this list of most innovative cities in the UK, or on this list of most creative cities in the UK either. So I'm doubly in the wrong place, it seems!

My passion for celebrating local innovation is why my primary business, Southpoint Films, sponsored Venturefest South in Winchester this year. Innovation can come from anywhere. So if you're an entrepreneur trying to start a new venture, don't feel like you have to be in Silicon Valley to make it work. There are certainly some benefits to being there, such as access to funding and startup resources (so I've heard), but it's far from essential.

The second reason I'm sharing this is that we've made a whole bunch of new friends this year who I want to introduce to our business, to understand who we are and how we got to where we are. We're only at the start of the journey and I can't wait to see where we go together. Thanks for coming on board!

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