Lilipip, With Recent Focus on Animated Ads, Looks to Keep Growing Without Venture Capital
From architecture to kids’ videos to online animated ads, Ksenia Oustiougova’s path to founder of Seattle online ad company Lilipip has been unusual. To start, the company was funded not by investors, but on credit cards. The good news: after shutting down the kids’ video version of Lilipip and retooling to its current incarnation, Oustiougova is now paying down the debt.
Oustiougova said Lilipip’s change of focus in the summer of 2008—from children’s videos to online marketing ads—had a straightforward motivation. “We ran out of money. It was as simple as that,” she said. “Either reinvent or close down. And I’m not a quitter by nature.”
Now, together with more than 150 independent creative contractors around the world and a director of business development, Oustiougova makes one-minute animated videos for small businesses. Her team currently works on about four projects at once, she said, but they hope to get up to their capacity of 20 at a time eventually. Oustiougova and the director of business development are not yet salaried, taking a cut of the proceeds from each project, but Lilipip is bringing on four project managers as Lilipip’s first employees in the next six to 12 months. Now starting to pay off her credit card debt, Oustiougova has no plans to look for outside investment.
Asked why fundraising isn’t part of the plan, Oustiougova gave several reasons, among them: “The entire process takes months, and it takes away focus from sales; second, suddenly you have someone looking over your shoulder telling you what to do—we are breaking a lot of conventional rules, and I want to build a company where people don’t feel like they work, but feel like they play.” She added, “I am not interested in growing huge. I want to build an excellent business, and we won’t be necessarily big. But investors want a certain return at a certain time that might force us to do things faster…Some things just take time to get very good, like good wine—you can’t speed it up.”
Lilipip’s animations are mostly used online, Oustiougova said, on businesses’ websites, Facebook, YouTube, or other social marketing sites. She has also seen them played on TVs at trade shows, or used in presentations to clients or shareholders. Lilipip will encode the videos into any format its clients need for free. Many small businesses like having their ads available on their cell phones to share on the go, she said.
“This is really a tool to tell their story in a uniform way through all the new social media channels,” Oustiougova said.
Oustiougova’s first entrepreneurial steps came when, after leaving a career as an architect, she began making PowerPoint presentations for her son to teach him to read in English and Russian (her native language). Her friends soon started requesting custom videos for their kids, and … Next Page »