10 SCREEN PRINTER
Working out how to put “sticky notes” on videos while you’re watching them has taken Wellington entrepreneur Rollo Wenlock all the way to Silicon Valley.
It began with a dusty window... and ended up in Silicon Valley.
It all started with a sleepless infant and a dirty window. Rollo Wenlock, CEO and founder of video collaboration company Wipster, was trying to get his monthold daughter Harper to sleep when he noticed how dusty the windows of his Wellington home were.
“I realised I could sign my name in the dirt and that’s when it hit me – why wasn’t it possible to do the same on top of a video?” And so was born Wipster, a cloud-based video platform that allows people to provide real-time feedback by typing comments directly onto the screen.
“It makes it easy for people to upload, share, review and approve video content collaboratively, rather than having to give feedback by email or phone,” explains Wenlock (who was named after the “Gypsy boy” character in the Rupert Bear stories). “Anyone and everyone can create and share videos now, so the market was ripe.”
The tall chap ( he’s 1.93m) with the ginger beard clearly impressed the right people. Five years on, he’s worked with companies such as Microsoft, Vimeo and Adobe, and the platform is being used in more than 100 countries – including the United States, where around 85 per cent of the company’s clients are based. The possibilities seem boundless: in 2011, video made up half of all internet traffic. By 2020, that’s predicted to rise to around 82 per cent.
Wenlock’s flash of inspiration came on the back of years of struggling to incorporate client feedback into the videos, TV commercials, short films and credits he whipped up for a range of clients as a freelance director/motion-graphics artist.
“At the time, I was working on a television advert and the advertising agency was in Auckland while I was in Wellington,” he says. “It really held up the process having to send them a draft, wait for their feedback, incorporate that and send it back. If something like Wipster had been around years ago, it would have made my life so much easier!”
Born in Britain to an architect father and designer mother, Wenlock spent the first five years of his life touring the English waterways on a narrow boat. Disillusioned with Margaret Thatcher’s politics, his parents moved Wenlock, his brothers Ned and Rufus and sister Juno to a remote rural property on Banks Peninsula. It was heaven for the kids, who spent their free time creating frame-by-frame animations and taking photos (Juno is now a photographer in London).
After two years at Christchurch film schools, Wenlock worked for various production houses, honing the visual- effects experience needed to land him a job in London art- directing music videos. “Two weeks after arriving in the UK, I was managing huge budgets for a Prodigy video. It was crazy.”
When the GFC decimated much of his commercial work, Wenlock came back to New Zealand to start a production company with his older brother Ned. The day after moving to Wellington, he met his partner Gemma, who’s a writer (and due to give birth to their second child mid-march). Last year, the family spent three months in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley exploring business opportunities.
“The end game is to make Wipster the platform the world uses to create beautiful content,” says Wenlock. “That’s not too much to ask, is it?”