11 Lessons Learned from Mobile TV Startup TheChanner

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By Nina Alastruey (Founder & CEO, TheChanner) It was on a trip to MipTV, a TV conference held in Cannes, while contemplating a wi-fi enabled PocketPC, when the first idea about theChanner came to me.

Mobile, Internet.. That meant to me the way for people to discover a new world of content and news wherever they come from. Mobile devices would be the centric personal device, allowing user interaction over the internet. I imagine viewers around the world meeting others, sharing their thoughts, participating, and deciding the new premium TV for the future.

It took me one more year to start the business, and then, it was easy to convince David, my partner (our children where still too young).

My first idea was starting new TV channels: indie films to rent and vote, morning news with audience discussions and interaction and a travel UGC channel, were among the original channel ideas. I felt theChanner should start as a mobile search engine for all those new channels, helping them get known, allowing people to talk about them.

It was the moment to look for a team able to develop a mobile media player to make every device understand whatever live stream arrived. Tough. And the moment to look for funding as well. Tougher:

  • "Nobody will watch TV on mobile. It will have to change the way content is presented (as micro episodes of a movie?) and the way TV is shot to make it viable. Screens are too small."
  • "Wi-fi? ..and will you connect to Wi-fi through Bluetooth?"

I decided that it would be much easier to develop a Beta and allow investors to understand it live. We worked on the Beta, filed a patent in New York, and applied for an IT loan from the Spanish government. The second personal mortgage was taken out. It took more than one year to get that IT focused loan for the company. Three new investors came to the company and we formed the team that is building theChanner today.

I moved to the Valley and we started to develop the new social live TV platform -- this time decoding in real time on the device -- remotely. At that moment our largest market was the US with a 30% of total viewers participating in the Beta, followed by UK where we reached Top 10 in entertainment apps (right after Shazam).

We had tremendous success at Mobile World Congress 2010, demoing Social Live Television on iPhone and Android-with-an-almost-ready-NDK-but-almost-ready-only and wanted to go to market ASAP. April would be a good month. With the complexity of mixing our player in C code with Javascript and with Objective-C, we decided to focus on its development more than in the social roadmap. We knew watching TV was the first step.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned:

  1. There is a place in the world for every business. If it is about IT, come to the Silicon Valley when you have the idea. Don’t wait. There are plenty of ways to get first funding and people joining the project at that time. Projects will be developed quicker in the right place than in any other one.
  2. Don't spend years doing market research. A start-up innovating in a market works with uncertainties, it is part of the game. Better be rapid to envision the future and understand possible trends.
  3. Ask for everything you need. You already have a "No" as an answer. Later on you will be asked for help by others as well.
  4. Help comes from unexpected ways. Not everybody is looking for a compensation.
  5. Customers say to you what they want. Then it s a question of budget.
  6. Sometimes customers don't know what they want. Then let them play with the product while you realize how to engage this group.
  7. VC's advice is not always useful: "Dog fetch the rock". Try to iterate because your customers are asking for it.
  8. There is an investor for every type of business. It is all about identifying that one, wherever that is, and look for the right contact.
  9. Advisors are very good. They are even better when they have the same idea on how something should be changed.
  10. If you are not going at the speed you want, work on the plan to go faster than any other. Soon.
  11. Insist, perseverate. You have the vision.

Now we have in theChanner 3,000+ daily sign ups, and 700k+ viewers, that are watching TV and meeting around it. They are enjoying TV on tablets and phones, while looking to expand their social experience. You will find us in the new Honeycomb Samsung Tablets as well.

Today, theChanner is focused on developing a disruptive new social approach to live TV, bring free tools for TV channels to interact and monetize their audience, together with the offer of new premium content our viewers would like to watch.

It is our pleasure to invite you all to discover and enjoy the new world of internet television with theChanner:

  • Get the Android version here
  • Get the iPhone and iPad versions here

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Nina Alastruey is the Founder and CEO of theChanner. Nina’s background is in film production and television and has worked at the upper levels of the entertainment and advertising industries. Before establishing theChanner, Nina was General Manager of Piramide, Spain’s largest advertising production company. Prior to Piramide, Nina was Audiovisual Industry Director for the Catalan government in Spain. Nina holds has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and holds an MBA from ESADE Business School. Follow her on Twitter at @ninaalastruey.