How did I first started the studio without external investment?

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Many people asked me how I bootstrapped my company when I first started. In fact, for the past 10 years since I first started, I’ve been bootstrapping my business, till today. (Read past article with regards to getting the right investors)

(Reference: Bootstrapping in business means starting a business without external help or capital. Such startups fund the development of their company through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses. Generally at the start of a venture, a small amount of money will be set aside for the bootstrap process.)

When you first get started, try to keep your overhead as small as possible. We have tried working from home and linking everyone up via FTP. DIY most things on our own. From assembling our own PC / network to basic decor of the office.

In 2007 – this was the first time – I setup my own permanent facility. I was first offered to produce 3 episodes for an animated series project. The project only lasted for 6 months. (Don’t do it like me. Ha ha. Try to ensure you have a project that can last you for at least 12 months. Else it’s too risky.) That is how I started.

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(Our first permanent office at Beach Road. We did all the decor and installation, ourselves)

1) FINANCES

When I first started, I had maxed out all my 4 credit cards to buy equipment and furniture. 2 of my cards and the 2 cards of my wife. You need to ensure the first 30% down payment can repay your credit card bills and at least last you for 3 months.

2 Important Things to cover: Labour and Rental. (Try to get an office with at least some basic renovation e.g air conditioning to save cost) If there is something simple you can do on your own to save cost, do it. (I have painted the office myself. This time, the network is more complex. Luckily my lead TD helped me to set it up as I have to doubled up on training and line producing.

For Hardware and Software, pay by installment: Else, it will wipe out your down payment. One of the sources I used was Hitachi Credits. This is known as hired purchase. There are also other sources of installment plans in the market. (Its fortunate that 3d software these days allow you to pay by usage per month) There are a lot more resources these days as compared to when I first started.

You need to ensure you control your cash flow well. Else, you will be in trouble later. If your down payment CANNOT cover your initial cost – (3 months rental, 3 months labour cost, 3 months installment for the Hardware / Software) then you know the project budget probably cannot sustain you and it’s too risky to go ahead.

You also need to make sure the second payment comes in at least one month before you use up the down payment. Therefore, make sure you deliver the milestone on time so that you can collect the second payment.

2) KNOWING THE WHOLE PIPELINE

Before you start working on a series, make sure you are familiar with the whole process and pipeline operations. If it is not you, someone senior in the team must have experience in this.

3) ASSEMBLE YOUR KEY PEOPLE

You need to ensure you have a few key people (or your close friends whom you can trust) who can fit into some of these key roles. (Modeling, Texturing, Rigging, Layout, Animation, Effects, Lighting, Compositing, Editing, IT support.)

Besides the above roles, we were also working on story development and pre production. Hence we also needed to ensure we had expertise in these areas.

4) HUMAN RESOURCE

You cannot suddenly assemble so many people at one go. You probably need to build your network and relations through time. (Read our past article on Maintaining Healthy Relationship with Potential Employees ) So that when the time is right, you know you are ready to assemble the people together. Based on my own experience, you need to have at least 50 artists (from start to finish) to produce 2 episodes a month.

It might sound very straight forward. But one really needs to plan carefully before execution. End of the day, you need to ensure you will not be in debt if the deal does not work out smoothly. Do the above only when you have secured a project.

Hope the above helps you.

 

Establishing multiple revenue streams

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(Working with our partner – Presence Pictures)

In business, we are always facing changes. Whenever there is a change, its like a Tsunami. It wipes out those who cannot hold on when it comes. Entrepreneurship is about persistence. It’s about holding on and staying alive during these times. As long as you are fast to identify the new wave and move with the change. There is a chance to survive.

Diversification is a must for survival. You need to have multiple revenue streams. So that if one stream is facing danger, you have other streams to depend on.

In Tiny Island, we are always looking at new advance technology that has potential to propagate. Technology means nothing without Creativity. We treat Technology like a pencil. By understanding how the technology works, we can creatively create new engaging product.

But R&D in new technology could mean spending indefinitely with no results if not handle with care. This is especially difficult for small companies.

So what we do in Tiny Island is we form an alliance with technological and business partners so that we can provide a variety of services which makes us more competitive.

For Example: We team up with consulting agencies who are strong in locating MNC clients. At our end, we use our creativity to push the technology beyond its boundaries with the help of our technological partners. With this, we provide a list of new media solutions. (Stereoscopic 3d, Auto-stereoscopic 3d, AR, VR, MR etc) to our clients. We leverage each others strength and form a strong consortium. Together, we appears to be a much bigger organisation which helps us engage a variety of new businesses and opening new markets.

Many startups die within the first few years. Or many never even reach the sea and stay within the shore. (Keep depending on local market) We started the company with zero external investment till today. Through this strategy, it helps us pull through 10 years and many tough times. Believe it or not, we are now getting outsource work from countries like Vietnam and China even though we are from Singapore (ranked as the most expensive country in the world) You may wonder why. In order to survive, one need to provide a unique service that others cannot provide. Else why should others pay you a premium if all you can provide is what others can already do and even at a cheaper cost than you. Moving to new market is the key.