Tag: startup

Trey Checkett, BSBA ’22, hopes to revolutionize the way people consume short films from around the globe. So he launched Lumière, a subscription-based streaming platform. It went live in November on lumeriershorts.com, the App Store and Google Play Store. He discusses his startup in this Q&A:

What are you creating with Lumière and why?

Trey Checkett

Today, streaming services are driven by episodic TV (e.g., “This Is Us,” “Breaking Bad,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), documentaries/docuseries (e.g., “The Social Dilemma,” “The Last Dance”), and feature films (e.g., “Joker,” “Inception”). Premier short films are a combination of all three of these. They are the length of your favorite TV show, have the exceptional detail of most any docu film/series and, much like a feature film, have skillfully crafted character development and storytelling.

With entertainment trends today pointing toward shorter, more low-commitment content, it is time to bring short films to the light. At Lumière, we believe we can leverage both impactful and high performing short films to build a strong community and change the short film space for creators and consumers forever. We have made it a focal point within our team to be available on every size screen for most everybody interested and have done just that.

What is the opportunity you’re trying to exploit? What makes you unique?

Every year, short films are celebrated at major festivals like the Oscars, Sundance and Cannes, but they have no consistent place to call home afterward. Today, short films are either uploaded on YouTube and forever lost in its billions of hours of content or are locked up in distribution deals. Short films are extremely hard to access. Additionally, with continued technological advancement, most anybody can pull out their smartphone, take a video, and call it a “short film.”

Because of these two factors, search costs for finding premier, award-winning or grassroots productions are unbelievably high, and impossible barriers to entry discourage consistent viewership. Currently, there is no way to sort through and view the best short films.

This is where we come in. Lumière is the only platform available today that prioritizes curation and customization, all while providing our users with the most premier short films from around the globe. We have eliminated search costs and have made short film consumption enjoyable and easy.

Viewing the best short films should not be difficult and with Lumière, it’s not. We offer every user a bi-monthly, curated stream of five films based on each user’s personal interests, and this is all backed by an organized database of personalized channels and genres.

What does near-term success look like? How will you know if you’re on to something?

Near-term success focuses on converting early adopters to our All-Access monthly plan, strengthening our relationships with the short film community, and partnering with WashU in some capacity. We have aggressive, yet achievable, user base goals of 1,000 monthly paying users by August 2021.

We are prioritizing driving maximum traffic to our platform and building up our following on social media, specifically Instagram. We understand that it is going to take time to build our brand’s identity and drive high conversion and retention rates, so we are working hard to refine our platform where it is needed and expand our available inputs.

How did WashU Olin help you launch your company?

While we do believe there is great potential and utility in our platform, this belief will be validated through our users’ continued actions and feedback over time. Once we begin to see elevated levels of brand loyalty and engagement from both consumers and creators, we will know we are onto something.

Olin has been a great help in providing me with the necessary business frameworks, feedback, mentors and opportunities to succeed. I truly appreciate diverse thought, honest insight and high-level collaboration, and that is what Olin and the Olin community have provided for me.

Most recently, I have been working with a group of Olin MBA and undergrad professors to expand and diversify Lumière. These opportunities to collaborate with business minds at the forefront of innovation and societal advancement have provided me with unbelievably unique perspectives and insights on the entertainment/streaming industry and business in general.

My consistent interaction with these professors and mentors from the Olin community has played a pivotal role in the launch of our company and will continue to be important moving forward.

What was the inspiration?

We believe that the entertainment industry is overly politicized and oftentimes prioritizes big Hollywood names over innate quality of content. Additionally, short films are oftentimes overlooked and discarded in entertainment.

Lumière was created to combat these two trends and bring great short films and cinematic productions to the light. We want our users to have continued exposure to diverse storytelling and unique artforms that are not in circulation today. Simply put, we value the art of premier storytelling over all else.

Olin students traveled to Madrid and Sarajevo to study entrepreneurship and serve as startup consultants in a new undergraduate summer program.

ACCENT’s July Newsletter features the 16 Olin students who studied the impact of startup businesses in cities undergoing economic transition.

While in Madrid, students examined the role of start-ups in the economy after Europe’s “Great Recession.” In Sarajevo, students analyzed the opportunities found in an emerging economy after war.

The students in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on the day of their presentations

The program culminated in a group consulting project where student consultants shared opportunities for growth on a particular aspect of the startup company.

During the program, classwork was combined with rich opportunities to understand the historical, cultural, and economic environment of the European cities. Students visited museums and local companies, toured the cities, and participated in workshops from international lawyers and activists. 

Madrid and Sarajevo are considered ideal cities for start-ups with unique historical and economic environments, dedicated investors, and skilled young professionals.

Students in Olin’s CELect course helped create the marketing plan for SafeTrek, a personal mobile safety app that was introduced to the WashU community this fall. Student-led teams in the entrepreneurship consulting course are paired with startups at the downtown accelerator T-Rex and assigned a wide variety of projects.

“The project for SafeTrek is one of many examples where helping a local entrepreneur also helped the community,” said Academic Director for Entrepreneurship Clifford Holekamp.

We asked SafeTrek cofounder Nick Droege about working with CELect teams on the marketing rollout of the app for WashU:

Have the CELect teams provided valuable contributions to your company?

The CELect teams have been extremely valuable in helping us over the past year. From market research to rollout strategies, they’ve made our jobs easier.

The spring 2017 team was diverse mix of law and business students. Did they bring valuable perspectives?

The spring 2017 team was an impressive group. They were able to provide us with valuable insights on campus climate as we geared up to launch at WUSTL’s campus.

[Related: Check out the Spring 2017 CELect team’s take on collaborating with SafeTrek]

What would you tell other startups considering a collaboration with a CELect student team?

Yes. Constantly getting outside perspectives is extremely important as you’re building a company. As founders, it’s easy to hone in on our strategies based on our lenses of how we should execute. Having a group of young, motivated, entrepreneurial spirited students look at what we’re doing and offer their opinions has made us take a step back and evaluate our approaches.

Safetrek recently announced a $3.2 million funding round with St. Louis-based VC firm Cultivation Capital.

The University is continuing to provide SafeTrek FREE OF CHARGE to all students, faculty, staff and Basic Services Contractor employees. To activate your subscription click on the link below and follow the steps: www.safetrekapp.com/affiliate/WUSTL

Varsity Tutors Online Platform

Chuck Cohn, BSBA ’08, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, started his company when he was a junior at Olin. The personal tutoring company has grown as an online platform nationally since 2007, and has announced its first foray into the global marketplace with the acquisition of First Tutors, the largest tutoring marketplace in Europe. Read more in the Varsity Tutors News Release, Sept. 28, 2017:

Varsity Tutors, the leading live learning platform for private instructors in the United States, announced today its acquisition of UK-based First Tutors, the largest tutoring marketplace in Europe. The new partnership will enable learners in the UK and internationally to take advantage of Varsity Tutors’ market-leading technology infrastructure, which includes on-demand online and mobile instruction. This acquisition, effective immediately, marks Varsity Tutors’ first entrance into the international market, and reinforces the company’s commitment to providing access to expertise in any subject, anywhere, at any time.

Varsity Tutors connects students to over 30,000 experts for online, mobile, and instant instruction via its award-winning digital platform, as well as to in-person experts nationally. Named the 15th most innovative company in America by Entrepreneur, Varsity Tutors has delivered more than two million hours of live instruction in more than 1,000 subjects on its platform. Online and instant tutoring now account for the majority of its business with a product satisfaction rating of 4.85/5.00.

Since inception, both Varsity Tutors and First Tutors have focused on building robust platforms for students and adult learners to seamlessly connect with experts and receive the instruction they need to achieve academic and personal goals.

Varsity Tutors CEO Chuck Cohn“Expanding our platform globally has always been a priority for us. This partnership is a strategic move as we enter Europe by teaming up with the largest tutoring platform in the market,” said Chuck Cohn, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors. “With First Tutors, we continue to expand our reach and scale our technology so more students can connect with expert instructors.”

First Tutors hosts 150,000 highly vetted experts on its platform, and has made more than 220,000 matches since inception. The website allows anyone to search for, browse and contact tutors. Once a tutor has accepted an offer from a student, First Tutors charges a one-time £4.99-24.99 introduction fee.
With the acquisition, Varsity Tutors plans to operate First Tutors under its current business model for the near term.

“First Tutors is excited to bring premier on-demand online instruction to Europe and beyond. The reality of students being able to use their smartphone to instantly connect with an expert across the world was compelling to our team,” said Anita Lee, co-founder of First Tutors. “With Varsity Tutors, we will be able to accelerate our efforts to connect students with tutors regardless of location or subject.”

About Varsity Tutors
Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that connects students and professionals with personalized instruction to achieve any goal. To date, students have accessed more than two million hours of live instruction on the platform. Experts are available to meet in person or through the Company’s award-winning online and mobile platforms, which currently support the majority of all sessions. Varsity Tutors was founded in 2007 at Washington University in St. Louis.

About First Tutors
First Tutors is a global tutoring marketplace that helps families find experts in hundreds of subjects from academic courses, music and languages, to dance, business and computer programming. The online platform ranks 150,000 highly-credentialed tutors based on user feedback and specialist requirements. Founded in 2005, the company is dedicated to allowing students the widest range of choice possible for expert instruction.

Forbes features a new venture from Lori Coulter, MBA99, called Summersalt. The veteran swimwear designer and recent fashion design lecturer at WashU’s Sam Fox School has partnered with seasoned brand strategist Reshma Chamberlin to launch a new direct-to-consumer shopping experience.

Lori Coulter (R) and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin (L)

Summersalt targets millennial women and delivers luxury swimwear in classic one and two-piece designs to your door that are eco-friendly and priced at $95 or below.

Coulter launched one of the first made-to-measure retail apparel concepts to successfully integrate 3D body scanning, mass customization, and computer aided design to create a fully digital and automated supply chain in 2005 in St. Louis. In 2012, she launched exclusive ready-to-wear collections with brands like Soft Surroundings, Cintas and Bra Smyth. Related Blog post.

Link to Forbes article.

Photos courtesy of Summersalt. Above: Lee Litumbe in the Sidestroke in White Sand, Photographed by Nasrin Suleiman, on location in Zanzibar. Below: Jess Kirby in the Sidestroke in White Sand, Mango & Deep Sea, Shot by Craig Mackay.