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Startup of the Week – storyboard creation tool Shotbox: "Pen and paper are our biggest competitors" Written by Michelle Kuepper on 14. May 2013

In the 125 years the film industry has existed it’s made massive improvements and advancements – even films from five years ago seem outdated today. Looking at the basics proves, however, that there’s still a lot that can be developed. The majority of film makers and animators still typically use pen and paper when creating storyboards – which is something Stockholm-based startup Shotbox wants to change.
We caught up with founder Viktor Björk to find out why the film industry is surprisingly conservative and how Shotbox’s cloud-based storyboard creator is bringing the film-making process into the 21st century…

Hi Viktor, who are you and what are you doing?

width="183"Hi, I am one of three cofounders of Shotbox. The main feature of Shotbox is the ability to quickly create and edit video storyboards online. Today, most people don’t do storyboards – they think it’s too cumbersome and time-consuming because you generally have to do it with pen and paper.
Shotbox users can upload images and audio to time shots and each time they save the old version is kept, which means they can test out new ideas and timings without risk. Storyboards can be shared, so whole teams can work on it no matter where they are. Shotbox can be used to make anything from advertisements, animation to independant films
We only launched about two months ago. Since then, we’ve picked up some really good traction in terms of users. It is a B2B product, but it is for a field people think is interesting – films and entertainment. People noticed us very quickly.

How did you come across your idea?

All founders worked in the film industry and we were really frustrated with the lack of storyboard tools. I worked in post-production my whole life and I used to hate it when people would come to me without a storyboard and say “I want to do this effect for one shot”. But then you end up having a pre-edit with three shots and more angles than what the director showed you. And it would’ve been clear what you were meant to do if you had a storyboard – even just sketches on a napkin.
It’s like you tell an architect to design your house but don’t print the blueprint and just tell the architect and contractor to talk to each other. That’s the film industry today. And the problem with a hard copy is that the first time it’s easy, but all creative processes are based on the fact you’ll change it a hundred, a thousand times – which is why a cloud-based program is so important.
The film industry is too conservative in many ways. The outcome is creative, but the process is conservative – they think “why change it if it works?” But we believe if we make the storyboard process more efficient, people will do them and proper pre-production again, which will make films better.

What makes you different from everyone else?

We currently have two main competitors– there’s Celtx in Canada, which is a public company. But our main competitors are the big studios and animators, which mostly have their own internal tools. They don’t release these tools to the public – it is proprietary software.
Ultimately, pen and paper is still the biggest competitor – 70 per cent of storyboard artists today still use pen and paper and then scan it in.

How many users do you have?

Over 600 since launching a few weeks ago.

What’s your business model?

During our beta period we won’t charge for Shotbox. We want users to get on board and to give feedback. In the future, I think we’ll monetise it per user, per month. We haven’t decided when that’ll be yet though.

What’s the market potential?

800,000 professionals in the US are working in film, plus there are creative agencies around film – so a total of 2.2m people working in the industry. The rough number is a million that is our addressable market for films. But we also have games companies testing it and they love it, so we think in the future they will also be using Shotbox

Have you received financing?

We’ve bootstrapped so far. But we are raising a Series A this summer.

Are you missing anything?

One thing of going public with the beta, when we released it we were really happy with people signing up – but we realised more than 50 per cent of users were in New York or Los Angeles, so we want to have a base in the US in the future.

Have you struggled to find funding from European investors?

I think the hardest part when talking to VCs, both in the US and here, is for them to actually understand the film market. People are going to cinemas for over $300bn a year. It’s a huge industry and it’s still booming – it’s not the music industry. Film and games are the driving force of entertainment today..

Where will you be in a year’s time?

We’ll have more employees for sure. As far as user figures are concerned, I’m not entirely sure right now – at least 20,000 on a yearly basis. A lot of people view us a consumer product, but we’re actually an enterprise product. So we could charge users a lot more – we could charge $400 per month because we solve such a large problem for the film industry. So I don’t know if I could say 20,000, could be many more.

What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently?

It doesn’t matter if it’s development or releasing the beta or forming the company, I think we could’ve done things faster. We could’ve released beta three months ago. Because you can always iterate and change. That’s the beauty of being web based. My last venture was manufacturing film cameras and it was such a long process, five years just for development. You can’t just call the buyer and say “can you send the camera back on Monday because we want to fix four things”. It doesn’t work like that.
Image credit: Flickr users vancouverfilmschool and JMR_Photography

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