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.

North & South - - In This Issue - SHARON STEPHEN­SON

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?”

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