Starting a digital tech company when you’re a non-technical founder is a challenge. Common options are: find a developer to build an MVP (or minimum viable product) and bring the idea to life – which requires time, money and effort – or pick up a book and learn how to code. Easy, right?
Well, not exactly. Leeds-based KwizzBit founder Mark Walsh, who opted for the former, recalls how the process felt like “black magic” when searching for somebody to build an MVP for his interactive quiz back in 2016.
“I was asking contractors and developers how much it would cost and, honestly, it felt like a dark art as there are so many different coding languages and ways of doing things,” he says. “It’s like when you buy a used car – you take it to a mechanic and they look under the bonnet at the engine before telling you that it’s going to be ‘quite pricey’.”
“Development felt like a dark art – there’s so many different ways of doing things.”
Mark followed the path of many non-technical founders by bringing onboard a technical cofounder in the form of CTO John Sheard, who came from a project management background. Together they were able to play to their strengths, with Mark leading on marketing and sales and John overseeing KwizzBit’s technical development.
“You need someone who’s got some technical knowledge inside your business – even if it’s just to make sense of the things that you’ve been told,” says Mark, who pitched for investment for KwizzBit on BBC’s Dragons Den back in 2017. “I know a lot more now, but you still can’t do everything and today I ask for advice from people that really believe in what we’re doing and have the same vision as me.”
Played in pubs and other venues across the country, KwizzBit invites participants to compete in quizzes against leaderboards and each other using a smartphone. It has evolved in the past two years from a platform with one question type, to one with more than 1500 quizzes and five different question types in a bid to keep gameplay interesting.
Mark launched it as the first product under his new company Rocket Horse in 2016 after selling his shares in Rock and Roll Bingo – a pub game that he invented in 2007 after scrawing the idea on the back of a beermat. A variation on traditional bingo, it replaced numbers with popular music clips.
“Rock and Roll Bingo was extremely popular and worked well, but it was entirely analogue and I knew that my next venture would have to be tech in order to scale faster.” he says. “After selling it and having two kids, I wanted to do something new that would solve my old Rock and Roll Bingo customers’ problems – the main one being drawing people into their venues.”
Signal to succeed
In addition to a standard subscription service offered to venues, which costs £20 a week to run unlimited quizzes, KwizzBit offers a bespoke white labelling service which customises the platform’s interface for use in a wide range of scenarios. “We can add an interactive element to anything from a sales meeting to a corporate event with 100 people,” Mark says. “It’s effectively viral marketing.”
In a bid to scale KwizzBit, the company aims to break out of pubs and host quizzes with corporates and much larger audiences. It could even make its way to stadiums thanks to developments around next-generation wireless infrastructure and 5G connectivity in consumer smartphones.
This could see opposing sets of fans go head-to-head, playing quizzes during half-time at football matches. Similarly, gig-goers could answer questions about bands in arenas for a chance to meet them afterwards, and Mark is currently talking to cinemas about the possibility of hosting quick quizzes before films start to give customers the chance to win free popcorn.
“We’ve always looked at KwizzBit right from the offset and thought about where, and how, we can add value,” says Mark. “There’s 101 different things we could do, and as long as we make it very easy for people to join in and play our quizzes, then we can create repeat visits for venues.”
In order to grow the company and scale its tech, KwizzBit is currently looking to add a C# full-stack developer to the team who can shape the product’s – and the company’s – future. Mark wants 1 million people to be playing KwizzBit by the end of 2020, targeting at least 5% of the UK’s 20,000 regular quiz-playing pubs.
“We have a great tech landscape in Leeds with the likes of Sky, Direct Line and First Direct, but it can make hiring difficult,” says Mark. “We can’t offer developers an £80k salary, a beer fridge and gym membership – but we can offer the ability to innovate as part of a team that gets on well and actually makes things happen.”
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