Alumni Innovation Award Winner 2019 | Liveprize
2019 saw three winners of the Innovation Award at the SETsquared Bath Innovation Centre. We have asked the winners to write their own blog posts so that we can hear all about their entrepreneur journey as it develops. Read Matt Barlow’s blog about his winning business idea ‘Liveprize’, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page if you would like to read from the beginning of the journey.
#1 October 2019
Hello! This will be the first of many monthly blog posts chronicling my experience building my business, Liveprize, as a University of Bath Innovation award winner.
For most posts after this one, I plan on writing short updates about how the business is progressing and what we’re learning as we work on it.
But for the first post, I thought it would be a good idea to explain how I got here, and what it is we’re actually trying to build. This will be a longer one, so feel free to skip to the subheading that interests you the most.
Liveprize was originally born out of a problem I encountered whilst working at Superdrug. As a intern in the CRM department, one of my responsibilities was to run customer giveaways (a giveaway is simply when a brand provides customers with a chance to win a prize). The aim of these giveaways varied, but generally they could be categorised as either attempting to better engage with existing customers, or to acquire new ones. It became obvious to me pretty quickly that these giveaways presented a number of pain points for both brands and for customers, and this was true for giveaways ran by most major brands, not just the ones at Superdrug.
Brands struggle to measure their effectiveness, to communicate a desired message to customers above the advertisement of the prize itself, and to organise prize fulfilment. Customers, on the other hand, simply don’t enjoy a satisfying experience. The data provision required to enter is often predatory, winners aren’t notified for weeks and most customers don’t end up hearing back at all. These problems led me to questioning why giveaways couldn’t be done in a better way? Giveaways should be ‘no-strings attached’ fun for customers, and in turn an effective marketing channel for brands, but instead they’re stale and frustrating experiences.
I looked into the market to see how widespread giveaways were. I found that nearly 30m total social media users entered at least one giveaway in 2017 in the UK alone, and that 92% of consumer facing brands ran at least one in the same year. So, despite the clear problems that exist, they’re still pretty popular. Did an opportunity exist to disrupt this market? A market which hasn’t seen innovation since the introduction of social media as a channel to run these giveaways.
The above led to the original concept for Liveprize; a platform to host better giveaways for customers and brands. Brands could outsource their giveaways to us, and customers would know where to go for better quality giveaways. These giveaways would be more fun, fast, genuine and effective than anything else on the market.
I discussed the idea with my long-time friend Angus, an engineering student at the University of Bristol. We decided to build a simple wireframe of how such a platform might look and with this, I entered the University of Bath’s apps crunch competition. We were fortunate enough to win - confirming to me that there was something in my idea. Wanting to progress it, we looked for a technical co-founder. After weeks of searching computer labs and messaging computer science groups, we found our third co-founder, Alex. Alex is an incredibly talented programmer; he’s built out the entire tech side of two other already profitable businesses.
Now working with Alex, we entered and won the University of Bristol’s New Enterprise competition. This granted us with a modest £1000 of equity free funding to help explore our idea. Our experiences in these competitions led to us refine and improve the original giveaway platform concept we had.
A New Perspective
The original Liveprize idea explained above would serve brands really well. However, the improvements we had in mind for these giveaways were incremental for customers at best. Yes, a faster, more authentic giveaway experience would be welcomed by customers who experienced it, but it wasn’t going to be anything particularly groundbreaking.
So, we did a bit of thinking. Why does anyone enter a giveaway in the first place? It’s not because the experience is fun in any way - I had already found that it was the opposite. It’s purely because you hold a slim chance of winning the prize. Anything you have to do to be in with that chance is purely hassle. And, for a lot of the giveaways that take place, the hassle is just about worth it for that chance.
TV game shows are an interesting thing. They’ve remained popular for the best part of 50 years. Yes, the shows themselves are constantly changing and celebrity hosts come and go, but you can be pretty sure that on any given day, a game show of some type will be on TV. Game shows aren’t too de-similar to giveaways in a lot of ways; there’s usually a big prize on offer, there’s people competing for it and it always ends with only 1/2 winners. However, there’s a key difference between them. Whereas those who enter giveaways only care about winning prize, those who watch a game show have no chance of winning the prize. They're there purely for the experience of watching the prize being awarded to someone else; the format of the show and the moments it creates, the host and their interaction with contestants, and the contestants themselves all play into the experience. It's a viewing experience.
This pretty simple observation was a major lightbulb moment for us - could we manufacture an experience around our giveaways so good that winning the prize becomes a secondary motivator to getting involved? Is there a middle ground between giveaways and game shows that takes only the best features of each and in the process creates something better than either?
The Concept Today
We run scheduled live game shows, in seasonal blocks. These game shows are mediated by a video host. Users show up at a set time and play through one of our formats to compete for a prize. We have a number of different formats in the works but they all follow the same structure. They’re split into two parts. Firstly, all users compete in a mini-game to become live contestants. Chosen contestants (between 2-8 people depending on the format) then interact with the host, and with each other, via the front camera in order to compete for the prize. Each game show (episode) is a unique event, with new contestants, often a new format and a unique prize. Users show up knowing they’ll see an entertaining show, but also hoping that it will include them as one of the contestants.
With this concept in mind, we decided we needed to build an MVP. We’d run a pilot season of game show giveaways featuring a simple, but novel format, and a £1000 total prize pot. We opted to run 8 episodes across just over three weeks. Users would show up at a set time, 8pm, on Mondays and Thursdays, to play. As a means of boosting referrals, we built in a ticketing mechanic; users could earn tickets for referring friends to the app and tickets could be spent in game to boost a players chances of winning the prize for that episode. Winners of each episode were shown live to all other users in unison. The below video shows our winners for the first season:
1400 users downloaded the app across the season and this was entirely from referrals - we spent nothing on marketing. Our user base grew each episode and the live video reaction of winners was our main USP.
After Season 1, I was able to apply for the Innovation Award. Being granted this has enabled me to go full time on Liveprize this year and work hard on growing the business.
Liveprize is now raising a seed round of funding, which will be used to fund design work, to source prizes and for marketing. So far, we have about a third pledged from investors, and are looking to close the remainder in the next few months.