Picking the wrong movie these days can be a costly mistake. After all, with movie tickets costing upwards of $10.50 a pop and Netflix boosting its prices, movie lovers can’t waste their time on a bunch of duds.
Crowd Buzz founder Ram Singh, a former Microsoftie and self-described movie lover, wants to help out with a new mobile application called FlikPiks. Like the name suggests, FlikPiks relies on one’s social media stream on Twitter to recommend movies.
FlikPiks just launched in the Apple App store earlier this month, integrating directly with Netflix and Fandango. The service is built on top of the same backend engine that powered Seattle’s Mombo.
We chatted with Singh for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight, discovering how his love of Bollywood movies led to the creation of FlikPiks.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Our app recommends new movies for you based on your likes and dislikes, and movies recommended by your friends. You can add suggested movies to your Netflix queue or buy tickets on Fandango directly from our app.”
Inspiration hit us when: “While following Bollywood filmstars on Twitter like a fanatic, especially @priyankachopra, I noticed that there were lots of Tweets about just about every movie, and often trending words too. I felt that a service that came up with movie ratings purely based on the Tweets would be pretty useful as compared to ratings from a handful of critics, and this engine could come up with better personalized recommendations based on what a user or her friends have Tweeted.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap. The operating costs are not to the point where we would need VC or angel investment.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Technology that can understand English text in Tweets about movies and automatically figure out if the person liked or disliked a movie, and a recommendation engine that uses collaborative filtering techniques.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Choosing the technology stack we built on – even though there was an initial learning cost, it worked out to not only be economical but also boosted productivity. Also, building everything in-house instead of outsourcing.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Only time will tell.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Zuckerberg for making Facebook what it is today (and Evan, Biz, Jack for Twitter) and really instilling the social DNA in the rest of us.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Hollywood and Bollywood studios start using the app to find out the buzz about their movies, and start lining up at our doors for more data that may not be currently exposed.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We have very high accuracy in our sentiment engine and without that there would be no trust in the ratings and recommendations. You can try to build a sentiment engine yourself, but remember it is not for the faint of heart, and your grandma can’t teach you how to build it either.”
We are truly unique because: “It is simply impossible to have any other team that is as passionate about movies AND social networks AND technology as we are.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “So far the hurdles have been small – learn new languages and platforms and build the product. The real hurdles lie ahead of us, and only time will tell which ones we overcome successfully and which ones we don’t.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Do it only if you are passionate about building useful products for customers and definitely not for the money, and only do it with a team of people you can really trust as you will go through tough periods when the team can break apart if there is not enough trust.”