Creating a new platform for short film – Janvier Wete of Minute Shorts

| Daniel Sevitt

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Regardless of whether they come from a technical or creative background, one of the shared goals of entrepreneurs is the determination to solve a problem. For Janvier Wete, CEO and founder of Minute Shorts, the problem was how to get wider distribution and generate revenue for short films.

Janvier, born as you might expect on the first day of the year, began his career, aged 20, by selling the pilot for a reality TV show called “Made in Brixton”. He went on to work for companies like Channel 4 and Vice Media.

Then in 2017 he got frustrated with the process of entering a short film he had made called “L.I.F.E.” for consideration by some film festivals. “I thought, what if I made my own festival on my own platform?” It was this resolve to find a better way for short film makers that got Janvier started with Minute Shorts.

Janvier Wete, founder and CEO of Minute Shorts

The barriers to entry for filmmakers have never been lower and there is no shortage of high-quality short films being produced. The biggest challenges today are discovery and monetization, and these are the problems Minute Shorts is tackling.

A filmmaker with an idea

Before Minute Shorts launched, Janvier was a filmmaker with an idea. He knew that he didn’t have the technological know-how to execute his vision.

“I put up posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, saying that I had an amazing idea, but I needed to connect with someone who could code it. The only responses I got were from agencies trying to charge me way too much money to build my app. Then I asked a question on Quora, and a guy called Julian answered and suggested that we meet for a coffee to discuss my idea.”

Julian helped Janvier simplify the vision and came up with the question that appears today when you open up the app or visit the website, “How many minutes can you spare?” Visitors choose 5, 10 or 20 and then Minute Shorts serves up a short film to fill the appropriate time.

Janvier continues, “I told Julian that if he could make this for me, he would be my business partner!”

It may seem an unorthodox way to go about recruiting your first hire and building an MVP, but with Julian Vifor on board, Minute Shorts launched the first iteration of its mobile app in 2018.

In March 2022, Minute Shorts released the latest version of its desktop app as well as mobile updates for iOS and Android.

From the earliest days of the app, Julian and the developers decided that Minute Shorts would be hosted on Azure. “There were a number of factors in that decision,” Julian said. “The overall cost for development and maintenance of the solution, coupled with the range of products offered for a video streaming solution and the intuitive dashboard, were key.”

Once the app was up and running, Minute Shorts was ready to tackle those original goals of discovery and monetization.

Monetizing a dream

Janvier says, “I knew we wouldn’t have a problem reaching filmmakers and people in the business. My goal was to bring in fresh eyes and introduce new people to the idea of short films. We started putting together monthly film-screening events and inviting the public to watch a curated set of short films around a particular theme. We’ve run several of these themed short film events and the people that attend them go on to download the app and share it with their networks.”

The arrival of the pandemic made hosting live events almost impossible, but Janvier believes it was enormously beneficial for Minute Shorts as people stuck at home during lockdown were searching for fresh content to consume at home. “We started hosting online events with up to 3,000 people watching a livestream and some big brands started noticing and asking to partner with us.”

For now, the app is free, but Minute Shorts is generating revenue through sponsorship of live events and content deals. The company has signed deals with cinema chains in the UK to show short films in front of wide release movies. In addition, Minute Shorts has entered into a partnership with the ad-supported Samsung TV Plus channels available on Samsung TVs and select Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets. Minutes Shorts is committed to sharing 50% of the revenue it makes from advertising and sponsorship deals with the filmmakers who contribute to their library.

Dealing with imposter syndrome

Along the way Janvier still had a sense of imposter syndrome, like many other first-time founders. He started the company as a filmmaker and found himself doing business deals and hiring a team of technicians and salespeople. He made the smart decision to find a mentor to help him prioritize and focus his energies within the business. Manfred Orth went on to become a non-executive director of the company. Janvier says, “Manfred helped me focus on my strengths which are around finding creative solutions. We spend very little on marketing but we think creatively and use that to generate revenue streams like putting short film back into the cinema or doing content deals with Viber, the messaging app to host short films on their platform.

Focus on diversity

From the very beginning Minute Shorts has been a champion for diversity. Roughly 60% of the content hosted is documentary and their site boasts that “50% of our films are directed or produced by womxn. 50% of our content comes from minority ethnic communities.”

Janvier and Minute Shorts have built up considerable momentum since launch. We are proud to have Minute Shorts as part of Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.

To learn more about the platform and how it can help founders at all stages, visit us here.

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