Dubsmash is one of the most hyped German startups in the world. It allows smartphone users to make dubbed music videos and recreate movie scenes. Within seven days of launching in November, 2014 it was the most downloaded app in Germany. Following this, it took off around the world being downloaded millions of times and shared by numerous Hollywood celebrities. Jimmy Fallon even used it with Selena Gomez on The Tonight Show.
We spoke to co-founder Roland Grenke about how a startup from Berlin achieved viral success.
How did Dubsmash start? What was the inspiration for you and your founding team?
We began in 2014 with a team connected by a strong interest in mobile video and quotes. We love to communicate in quotes – parts from movies and speeches. We built this into Dubsmash so it was an app we loved to use ourselves.
It began with a simple idea: video as a medium was underused. It’s difficult to create and not something everyone can handle. We had worked on other app projects before and then we took what we learned from those projects and built them into Dubsmash.
We focused on three things:
1) Simplicity – It was super important that it was easy and fast to create videos.
2) Creation – It was not only about letting users do it in a few steps but giving guidance, assisting with sound bites. This gives you a frame of what to say, how to act on camera.
3) Communication – The majority of people share on mobile messaging services and integrate Dubsmash into daily communication.
From the beginning, Dubsmash was very successful. Can you give advice for creating a viral success?
Our focus was never building something with viral success or viral marketing. Our focus was always product-centric. We always focused on building a great product that people loved to use multiple times and then recommend to friends. That is the viral effect. If you build a great product that is integrating in existing networks where you can share content, then there is a viral effect.
We haven’t been too focused on marketing. Product is still our main focus because we know that leverage that comes out of really good product is so much more powerful than external marketing techniques.
We also never focused on celebrity users. Looking back, it didn’t really enable our success either. It was more following on our early success.
What were your major challenges in building Dubsmash?
If you are building a company you always have 100 challenges. All the great consumer-facing companies are really good at building fast and trying things out. No company builds everything perfectly from beginning – there is always iteration.
If you think about Berlin, it’s a great place to be a startup but it’s still quite young. There are not as many consumer-facing companies and therefore not as much knowledge, expertise or resources.
What advice would you give to those looking to monetize their app or company?
You always have to look at what product your building. We are very consumer focused. We have a lot of users in different markets but the most important part, in our space (the mobile/communication space) is checking back after different points, before focusing on monetization.
That said we’ve tried out different things. We are experimenting but it is a new type of platform and there is no blueprint of how to turn on monetization.
No company builds everything
perfectly from beginning –
there is always iteration.
After your initial success in Germany, how did you expand internationally?
We started with the idea to build internationally. We already had three or four languages. The interesting part about Dubsmash is that it is quite flexible, which is why it is successful in different markets and regions and to people with different cultural backgrounds. You have the ability to upload sounds, which is really beneficial for users, for example, in Indonesia and India. Building a flexible platform was important.
What are the next steps for Dubsmash?
We are still iterating and working on next big steps. We are active in over 150 countries and over 35 videos are shared per second. When we started we focused on creation. What we are building now is the communications platform. Building our own platform is our next big step.
We want to bring joy to communication. Video is a significantly richer way to communicate and we think video will replace a lot of communication. We hope to help people do that in a fun and interactive way.