Sarah Tierney’s Colony website won the Website of the Year award at the 2016 British Small Business Awards.
Colony is a pay-to-play online tv and film streaming service that gives audiences a closer look at what went on behind the scenes of the films they are watching, offering storyboards, deleted scenes and insights from the creators.
The judges commended Wearecolony.com for its sophisticated website functionality and design, and a user experience boosted by the site’s geo-specific homepage modules.
What were the barriers that faced you when you started the Colony website?
One of the hardest challenges we faced when starting the website was raising finance. We are a venture-backed business and we were very fortunate to receive early investment. Quite early on we won SeedCamp London – a leading first round fund and accelerator in Europe – and that was a really pivotal moment for us; we raised significant Seed investment off the back of that which supported our growth”.
Colony is a global film streaming platform that is looking to create new models for film audiences and I would say that this industry is a little risk averse. There have been quite a few start-ups in this space that have had mixed success, so an early challenge for us was gaining confidence.
What makes Colony different from some of the other media streaming providers?
Firstly, the Colony website is based on a transactional, pay-to-play service instead of a subscription which means we can have a really eclectic catalogue rather than trying to provide for a wide generalist audience, we can double-down on fans and engaged audiences.
The other point is that we were global from day one –we currently have registered account holders in 125 countries – and a lot of our competitors started territorially and then grew. We started this journey around a vision that the market is transitioning away from domestic and more towards that of a global commodity.
We also take on a lot of extra content with exclusive rights such as deleted scenes, storyboards, creator comments and scripts for films that the fans want.
You are an Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning film maker. Tell us more about your previous work and how that has inspired you to start the Colony website.
I worked as a producer for 12 years and I did a range of work for TV and independent films. I started work in short film production, the space in which I got the Oscar nomination; that was very early on in my career.
In 2004 I founded a production company which focused on quality, issue-led films around the world that was mainly for broadcast TV. I managed that for six years and we were very successful; we won a couple of BAFTAs and that’s work that I am really proud of.
By 2010 my feeling was that the TV and film sectors were not paying enough attention to the transition to digital. I didn’t feel that there was a widespread adoption that there should have been.
There is a real opportunity now to connect content owners directly with audiences and have them reap the benefits of that. That was the motivation for me: creating a better user experience with better content but also to create a better model for the industry with integrated marketing and direct access to the audience.
How will winning Website of the Year affect your business? Where do you see Colony in five years time?
Awards like this are really very valuable to businesses of our size and where we are in our growth journey. Its great validation of the technology that we are building as we are a tech business and our entire business platform is based around that, its the right award for us to win!
We are now entering a scale-up phase where we will be doing our Series-A investment next year and for us its just about growing our market, our user base and also, I think, investor confidence, which awards like this can help with.
What advice would you give to companies looking into improved their website or someone who is just starting out with a new business?
The cornerstone, for me, of any business is the team. My advice would be to find people who are better and smarter than you and hold on to them because I have always thought that the value of any business is the team and that is where we are very fortunate. Our team all understands the vision and where the company is going and they are all incredibly motivated and skilled people.
Founding a business is a pretty isolating thing to do and its really tough, but I have taken a lot of strength from the team that I have surrounded myself with.
How has success affected both Colony and yourself?
The business is still very early and we have seen some very encouraging early traction but there is still such a long way to go. I just continue to work very hard but it is exciting to think about where things will go.
Congratulations to Colony on winning Website of the Year, we look forward to seeing further success from the company in future.