Start-up Interview: Female Entrepreneur Katie Lips of Virtual Gift Store, Little World Gifts
Since Apple first announced the iPhone on January 9th 2007 they have grown in popularity. With users growing into their millions, the race to build the best app has increased in momentum, after the announcement in June 2007 that the iPhone would support third-party web applications. Here Katie Lips, serial entrepreneur and Co-Founder of the recently launched Little World Gifts, talks about her fascination with the web, delivering virtual gifts and the desire to create something infectious.
Tell us about yourself?
In June 2009 I began work on Little World Gifts - a new venture in an exciting time in the evolution of mobile and its convergence with the web. I’ve been working with mobile for a while; recently as a consultant to brands; devising iPhone and mobile 2.0 strategies. I have been watching, and often write and speak about the App Store phenomenon and its effect on the rest of the mobile industry. So I’ve been involved in mobile for many years and previously cofounded Treasuremytext.com a popular SMS archiving service as early as 2004. Prior to that I was fascinated in all things web and began my career in digital agencies.
What is Little World Gifts and how did you come up with the idea?
Little World Gifts is a mobile virtual goods startup. We’re aiming to redefine digital gifts by making them mobile, 3D, interactive, and well, just way more gorgeous than what has gone before. Little World Gifts has just launched its first app on iPhone which for the first time brings interactive 3D mobile virtual gifts to users. The business delivers Gift Stores full of exciting content to users on iPhone and Facebook, and offers a compelling platform for brands to deliver branded virtual gifts to mobile and web users.
Do you have any direct competitors?
There are several very interesting players in the online and mobile virtual goods space; companies we watch closely. For example companies like Zynga and Playfish delivering social games on the web, whilst not direct competitors, are very interesting to us in terms of monetizing social gaming on third party platforms. They also show just what can be done if you can get it right in the virtual goods space. In terms of mobile, we are absolutely the first to deliver 3D virtual gifts on mobile, but of course there are other players exploring location based and reward based mobile content business models. It’s a young, multifaceted, and rapidly developing market.
Who is your product aimed at?
Firstly we aim to deliver fun packed gift stores for users on a range of platforms starting with iPhone and Facebook. Our users are fun loving, tech savvy, social types. At the same time we aim to deliver a best in class mobile marketing opportunity to global brands. We already have several signed up and will be launching high profile branded content later in 2010.
Do you have any great presents planned for the future?
There are loads of reasons people buy and send gifts and of course, eventually we aim to offer gifts for any occasion. Working with partners enables us to deliver really stunning gift ideas - things you’d never even think of. I wish I could tell you some of the great gifts we’ll be launching in conjunction with partners in Spring this year!
Who is in the Little World Gifts team?
I set up Little World Gifts along with cofounder Paul Stringer; we’ve worked together for many years. As we needed to develop the business and product really quickly, the team, since starting in June 2009 includes a Creative Director, a couple of freelance developers, uber talented 3D artists lead by 3D expert Tian Cocker, and Jonathan Deamer who’s our Communications Manager. In addition we’ve been developing our board of hot shot advisors; we’ll be announcing some high profile names soon. So we’re growing!
Has entrepreneurial spirit always been in your blood?
Absolutely. I’ve always seen myself as creative & entrepreneurial - which I think are the same things? I love designing things that people will love to use. I also love the challenge of building a business around a good idea and working to bring lots of people together to create something ‘infectious’ - and profitable!
How much funding do you require and what steps have you taken to achieve this?
We have already had a round of seed funding and are now aiming to close a Series A round in Q1-Q2 2010. Pitching at events like Next Women Pitching event in late 2009 has allowed us to really hone our proposition and pitching skills. We now have a strong proposition having proven our B2B and B2C models. Now our product is out there on the market, the challenge is to grow quickly and stay several steps ahead of the competition.
Has the recession had any impact on how you are approaching your start-up?
Whilst we should learn lessons about being really efficient and streamlined, about making clients’ and partners’ lives easier, and about building uniquely appealing products, we’re certainly not going to let the recession stop us!
What single piece of advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting an online business?
For anyone starting an online business: make something new or its not interesting, don’t be afraid to do things differently from the herd, just go for it. That was 3!
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