Polar Bears, Documentaries and Stadiums.
Today is my first international interview! I had a great Skype interview with Kylee Ingram from Habitat. She is also the founder of Elevator Entertainment and Team Tap so it was great to hear her insights across several different businesses. Kylee has worked in everything from sports television production to documentaries and running Not for Profit projects.
Hi Kylee. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Can you start by telling me a bit about your background?
I started out in Sports television. I worked at IMG. In England you would have known them as TWI sports. I worked on the surfing world tour and the soccer world cup. I thought I had the dream job and I used to spend half my time traveling the world. One of the best projects I worked on in my twenties was a project called Hi5, IMG’s flagship at that time. It was an imaginative adventure sports series. Sports is an amazing thing that travels across countries, and so many people watch it but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine myself there for ever. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled anymore there so, I quit and went back to do my masters in sustainable development.
Where did your journey take you after your masters?
I set up a company called Australia documentaries so I could do productions, and look at issues of sustainability, and social issues. I started doing work for NGO’s around Australia and I made short videos commercials with a creative company for the not for profit sector. That was a lot of fun but I began to wonder where that was going. I ended up taking on a business partner and we got a grant. We expanded the company and we did more castings and we had a lot of staff for a number of years. It was a great, fun, fast time but, it also was a lot of people management and I didn’t feel as creative. I felt there were always fires I was putting out and there were big overheads for us. It can be quite stressful bringing in that money each week.
One of your products is called Habitat, can you tell me a bit about that?
Habitat is a game where you can adopt an animal that is endangered. They have to play mini games and have to undertake real world actions to keep him, or her, alive. The kids chose a polar bear by three to one so, that is why the polar bear went into production. And they are adopting these polar bears. We chatted to 7-12 year olds and we asked them what environmental behaviours they thought they were in control of so there are 51 behaviours in the game and kids can see how much land, water and carbon they are saving by modifying these environmental behaviours.
How did you come up with the idea for Habitat?
When I worked in television we used to ask the production manager to look up grants that were available. She found a grant for games that went beyond purely entertainment value so I started to research that type of game.
Habitat came to me in the middle of the night, I woke up and I wrote it down. The next day I got up really early and I made this really simple PowerPoint presentation for everyone on the staff. So kids are going to adopt an animal in danger due to climate change and incorporate real world behaviors to improve the impact of climate change into the game.
What is your vision for Habitat?
I would love for it to be the most effective environmental game in the world for kids. I want to explore that brand and get a broadcast partner to create an animation series.
What research did you do to create Habitat?
I read a book about Digital Habits and did a lot of research about building the right community, rather than building a big community. I don’t worry too much about these social media numbers.
Can you tell me more about the virtual pins that are featured in the game?
We put virtual pins that kids would run around the world and click. Kids are going out 70% less than they used to. There are some studies that are being done that found kids have got 4 minutes of unstructured play outside per a day. So, we put these pins in and kids can go to the location to collect them and can trade them like trading cards.
What impact has Habitat had?
Parents have contacted me and said ‘my daughter is now telling me to turn off the lights’ so it is clearly working. Having government funding has been great because when you are doing a project like Habitat, that has great social and cultural benefit, it is hard to kind of say, “this is the definite revenue model”. I’m able to reach as many kids as possible, I wanted the funnel to be wide open so it is really lucky we got this funding.
You also have a product called Team Tap, can you tell me a bit about that?
I was sitting at an AFL game, in Australia, and I was sitting there a bit bored. My friend had stopped answering my 50,000 questions I had about the game sometime before! At the half time mark, these two guys were invited out onto the field to kick a goal and there was this sponsor. No one was paying the slightest bit of attention to what they are doing, they’re looking down at their phones.
I was thinking that money from the sponsors could go to something so much better than these two guys kicking a ball. It came to me as a digital wave…. could we create a digital wave to send that money to charity? I got in touch with a sports team and I said “imagine if you gave that to us and we gave everyone in Australia an opportunity to spend that money by tapping their phones together and sending it to a certain charity.”
What is your vision for Team Tap?
Team Tap has the opportunity to be used around the world as one of the top fan engagement tools out there. We have just created it as a white label so it can sit in people’s apps and we’ve been chatting to some premier league teams to use it.
I don’t think I’m much of a Global CEO. I don’t want to manage teams anymore so I suspect Team Tap will be going into somebody else’s hands. I think Team Tap needs somebody with a lot more business acumen than I have.
So you've got WWE on board, tell me a bit about that.
They are such a great client, they don’t take themselves seriously, they just get on with it and they’re innovators. Team Tap has been used for three events and WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) was just so ecstatic about it, I think we got an email that said "we couldn’t be happier."
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
I learnt I don’t really like to manage people. I have figured out this year that I am not good at managing up and across; I am very laissez-faire about it. I have realised that this kind of attitude around that does not always work, which is interesting. I think part of being strong and growing is to be able to be quite honest with yourself about what you’re not doing well.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR DEVELOPMENT TEAM?
I found that development has been one of the hardest areas for me in the last five years. It’s really hard to find a developer that communicates really well. You need to be very specific and clear. You have to be really careful about what you think is implicit and explicit in the whole experience.
Also, I don’t want to be stuck in one specific technology. Habitat is done on a completely different platform to Team Tap, for example. That is one of the other reasons I stuck with freelancers, I don’t want to really build a development team around the technology. I want it to remain really flexible and agile and have each of my products built with the right technology.
Books & Tools
Can you give me some books/tools that you like?
Advice and Final Thoughts
YOU HAVE A LOT GOING ON WITH DIFFERENT PROJECTS, HOW DO YOU SPLIT YOUR TIME?
I am trying to split 50.50 between Habitat and Team Tap. I really had to scale back on Australian documentaries and close a lot of projects. I just said “Right. I need to just focus on these two things.” I put my money into Team Tap and Habitat, it’s a shame that they both came off at once. It’s something that I wouldn’t have chosen to do, I would have chosen to do one at a time.
HOW DO YOU THINK WE CAN ENCOURAGE MORE WOMEN TO START BUSINESSES?
I was lucky that I started out in sports TV. I went across to the Korean world cup and it was 300 producers from around the world and I one of two women. So I was used to being in an all-male dominated space. You have to have confidence in yourself.
I’ve never accepted that I am not as smart as men. I've been at sports events for Team Tap and I've walked into a group of guys to introduce myself and two of them just rolled their eyes at me. It is moments like that you've just got to brush it off and get on with it because at the end of the day I know I’m doing something that is unique.
FINALLY, WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO ANYONE THAT WANTS TO START A BUSINESS?
Go for your smallest viable product. Work out what is it exactly that you need and what is the smallest iteration of that you can create to take to market.
Interviewee - Kylee Ingram @kyleei
Interviewer - Lauren Hine @HineLC