Small Business Owner InterviewSteven Berman, my dad, owner of First Level Entertainment Group Inc. Interviewed by: Zach BermanNichols College, Business & Society (MGMT- 100-08)
Describe the entrepreneur’s companyFirst Level Entertainment Group, Inc. is a development stage company emphasizing entertainmentthrough the development of mobile applications.Q. Type of business structure (Sole proprietorship, Partnership or Limited Liability Partnership, LLC, SCorporation, C-corporation)Public Corporation (non-trading, fully reporting)Q. Why did they choose this structure instead of another?The best structure to raise capital and provide an exit strategy.Q. Product or serviceFirst Level Entertainment Group, Inc. is in an early stage of development company in the emergingmobile applications (apps) market focusing on the monetization of mobile apps through multipleplatforms and concepts. We are currently developing five (5) mobile apps. The first is scheduled tolaunch in the 1st quarter of 2013 and can reviewed at www.vipwink.meQ. How long they have been in business?We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Florida on June 2, 2008.
Background of BusinessQ. How did they get started?The three founders met through a mutual friend and all had a desire to combine their talents and enterthe mobile technology apps market.Q. How did they finance their purchase of the business?To date the company has been privately funded.Q. Why did they start the business?To develop unique solutions and make money.Q. What is the owner’s training or background in the business?There are three active board members. Two have backgrounds in venture capital and the third is aserial entrepreneur.Q. How does the company today compare to the company when it started?Completely different. Originally the company was pursuing opportunities in digital music. InNovember of 2011, the company changed its business model and core products and developmentprojects.
SuccessesQ. What have been the successes?The company has signed licensing deals with over 15 highly recognized celebrities, islaunching its first app, VIPWINK early next year, and has submitted the first of threepatent applications.Q. What is the most rewarding aspect of running the business?Having an idea, often an idea others don’t quite see, pursuing it, risking a lot in theprocess and then enjoying the success, or sometimes plotting a different course whenyou fail.Q. Why?It’s in our blood. We love to create and build something.Q. What are the critical success factors for this type of business?There are several. First to market, be well capitalized and protecting the IP if at allpossible.
ChallengesQ. What have been the challenges?The technology is changing so fast. You could build something that becomes irrelevant before it’s completed, yet youhave no invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in software development.Q. What is the most challenging aspect of running the business?The many hats you wear throughout the day.Q. Why?Some situations require patience and a softer approach. Others the complete opposite.Q. How did they overcome the challenges?You quickly discover who is best at what and don’t let your ego get in the way of letting someone else do somethingthat you would like to do, but they are better at it.Q. What are the fatal flaws in this type of business?The technology is changing rapidly, the model of how to generate revenue is a work in progress and there are a lot ofunknowns. More so than any other vertical.
CompetitionQ. Who do you consider two of your closest competitors?Any 16 to 20 year old, probably on a beach in California thatwrites code and has ideas.Q. How does the business try to achieve competitive advantage?With VIPWINK, the celebrities we are signing up are “thefranchise”. With three of the other mobile apps, we believe theycan be patented.Q. How do you keep your customers satisfied? How do you buildcustomer loyalty?Asking them what they want, and then building it when we havea consensus and there are business economics to support that.
Marketing/StaffingQ. What type of strategies do you employ to market yourbusiness?A combination of mobile as well as highly target SEOand PPC campaigns.Q. When considering new employees for yourbusiness, what type of qualities and fit are you lookingfor?Passion, out of the box thinker, someone smarterthan me.
The FutureQ. Does the owner plan to stay in business for theextended future and, if so, what are some of their futureplans/goals for the business?Develop five (5) apps by the end of 2014, be profitableby the 1st quarter of 2014, and secure at least onepatent on one of our current mobile apps.
Unique QuestionsQ. How did you come up with the VIPWINK APP idea?I was talking to a famous NFL football player, andafter he shared his concerns about Twitter I had theoriginal concept for VIPWINK.Q. Which of your apps do you think could be mostsuccessful?Without question, AMITHERE…it could turn the mallindustry upside down.
Unique Questions (Cont.)Q. What’s been the response from celebrities to theVIPWINK app?They love it, they will finally have a way to monetizetheir millions of followers and determine who THEIRtrue fans are.
SummaryDon’t ANYONE ever tell you your idea is stupid. Itmight be, but come to your own conclusion. If youdetermine your crazy idea just might be a good one,THEN you need to make sure there solid businesseconomics. What I mean, is not every great idea willmake enough money to support the cost of pursuingit.