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324 - Bitstrips, The Irritating App!

 

 

Tom Hayes (Canadian accent)

Well, you... you’ve probably seen them all over Facebook and Twitter feeds; Bitstrips, the app that lets you make personalized cartoons starring you, yeah! Joining us live is Toronto-based Bitstrips creator, Jacob Blackstock.  Thanks so much for joining us. Now, take us back to the beginning of this.

Jacob Blackstock (Canadian accent)

Oh, sure. You know, me and my friends used to always make comics together, it was one of our favourite activities, we put each other into our comics, try to make each other laugh, entertain each other, and we thought, “We’re having so much fun, why can’t everybody have this kind of fun?” So we made an app for it.

Tom Hayes

So... so how does it go from an idea to actually something you see on Facebook every day that millions are using?

Jacob Blackstock

Years of toiling! Yeah, just, you know, we’ve been building this for like seven years,  a lot of artwork, a lot of programming, a ton and... a ton of work went into it.

Tom Hayes

So, it’s comics and technology. How do you actually marry them together?

Jacob Blackstock

You have to find artists and engineers, and get them to play nicely together!

Tom Hayes

Is that right?

Jacob Blackstock

Yeah, which is tricky.

Tom Hayes

Now, you’re doing this at the beginning with no money, no resources, I’m assuming, right? So how do you get all these people on board?

Jacob Blackstock

Well, we... you know, we bootstrapped it ourselves at the beginning, kind of put our own money and our own time into it, and just kind of got the ball rolling that way, then schools started using it, and that started bringing in some... somerevenues and we just kept evolving it over the years, and now we just got this new funding from Horizons Ventures in Hong Kong.

Tom Hayes

Yeah, OK, so tell me about this. Somebody’s on board now?

Jacob Blackstock

Yes, we’re funded.

Tom Hayes

How... and how did that happen?

Jacob Blackstock

They basically discovered us. The person who runs Horizons, Solina Chau, she’s like this brilliant financial technologywizard, who also is a lifelong fan of comics and animation, and she found Bitstrips, fell in love with it, got in touch with us and we made a deal.

Tom Hayes

What’s that like when the phone goes and somebody wants to invest millions into what you’re doing?

Jacob Blackstock

It’s like “Wow!” Kind of like pretty exciting, yeah.

Tom Hayes

So where do you want to take it from here?

Jacob Blackstock

Well, we see Bitstrips really as an amazing new way to communicate, and a way... a new way to interact with your friends, and, really,  a new medium for self-expression: speaking through comics is a really powerful way to get your message across and we want to...

Tom Hayes

Investors like to see it as a marketing tool, so how do you generate money going forward?

Jacob Blackstock

Well, you know, there’s all kinds of ways you can do that in the future, you know, people want to put themselves into their favourite media and things like that, but really right now we’re really just focused on making it as much fun as possible for everyone who’s using it.

Tom Hayes

OK, Jacob, thanks so much for joining us.

Jacob Blackstock

Thanks for having me.

Tom Hayes

Right, nice to meet you. Before we go, you created a Bitstrip from... for Mel and I right here on the...


Jacob Blackstock

Yeah, yeah, there it is! There you guys are, and I’m in there, too.

Tom Hayes

Of course, you had to put yourself in there.

Jacob Blackstock

Yeah, and you guys are getting frosty!

Tom Hayes

Hey, you know what, that’s nice, that’s not too bad! You know, I like that.

Jacob Blackstock

Yeah, and here we are.

Tom Hayes

And there’s... there’s in the newsroom, at the evening desk, really. Is my hair really that messy?

Jacob Blackstock

You know, you can adjust that! 

Tom Hayes

All right, thanks again.

Jacob Blackstock

Cool! Thanks for having me.