I invited Constantin over to YHP to talk more about his business, Crane TV and his plans for expansion.
Constantin Bjerke is the Founder/CEO of Crane.tv, an premium online video-magazine.
Kindly give us some background information about yourself?
My background is quite varied but I always knew that I wanted to run my own media company. Every decision I have made throughout my career has been with that in mind. Early on, I worked at a production company and then worked in finance at Lazard before completing my MA. After that I took a role at Citigroup which gave me an excellent grounding to start my own business and taught me a lot about how to work with clients. I’ve always been passionate about cultural content and making it accessible and entertaining. This is exactly what Crane.tv is all about.
How did the idea for Crane.tv come about?
In 2008, I saw a huge gap in the market for telling stories in video and I was fed up with printed magazines, because they are never really up-to-date. I wanted to make culture and the stories behind great creatives accessible and entertaining and easy to consume. For me it was about taking a step further towards democratising culture and elevating talent.
Also people’s lifestyles are becoming increasingly cosmopolitan with people travelling all the time for work and pleasure. One of our goals at Crane.tv is to create content that is accessible, current and relevant to people according to where in the world they are, whatever the time zone.
Tell me about how you got into business?
I didn’t want to pitch Crane.tv as merely a concept so we spent about a year building up our video content without accruing huge overheads in the midst of a financial crisis. Once we had something tangible it was much easier to go to market and equally, attract creative people to come and work for us.
How have you been able to fund it?
We have three key revenue streams: advertising and sponsorship around our content and platforms, licensing and syndication of our content to third parties and fees from our work with brands.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
Starting a business during a global financial crisis is certainly not for the faint hearted. The first few months, perhaps even year were by far the most difficult. When you're in the early stages of creating a new company you feel in constant flux between excitement and exhaustion. Not much sleep was had but it was a thrilling time.
How have you gone about getting traction to the business?
Driving traffic to our editorial publications, attracting new commercial business opportunities and generally getting our name out into the world are constant priorities. Securing traction depends on a mixture of things. Getting in front of the right people is key but you must have quality content and compelling business ideas to support you. We continue to build partnerships with the likes of the Guardian and the Huffington Post, and we are diligent when it comes to quality. Everything we produce, whether it’s for for the magazine or a luxury brand, must be of an extremely high standard.
Our editorial content helps drive commissions through to the agency business because brands want to communicate to their audiences in a more editorial way which is exactly what we help them achieve
What's your business model?
We’re a digital storytelling company with two main business units: editorial publishing and branded advertising. Although different, both depend on original video content.
Our editorial publication covers the latest cultural developments and key trends across five verticals: art, design, fashion, lifestyle and travel. We monetize our content via sponsorships and advertising as well as licensing our videos to 3rd parties.
Our branded entertainment business works with premium brands to help them develop their storytelling especially in video. Our clients include American Express Centurion, Ralph Lauren, BMW, Swarovski, Hennessy, De Beers, Jaeger-LeCoultre and COTY amongst others.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
When building a business and developing a brand persistence is crucial – you have to strive on pressure. It is important to bring in the right people, recognise challenges quickly and spread the word constantly. A problem shared is a problem solved.
What do you expect from yourself and Crane.tv for 2012?
We hope to continue to innovate across the digital storytelling world. Expansion and growth will be key themes throughout the year as we continue to move into new markets such as the USA, Brazil and China.
I’m extremely excited about this year as we are moving into a new phase where we can start to harness the fruits of our labour moving beyond the obstacles of a young start up business.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
The most important piece of advice I think is to persevere. Running a start-up or embarking on any kind of new business set-up means you will be faced with multiple challenges everyday. You have to stay committed and continue to believe in what you are trying to achieve. Just as crucial is that you tell everyone, absolutely everyone, what you are doing. If you’re passionate other people will be, especially if you have something new to say. Lastly…choose your investors very wisely!