Feature Story: David Chan is following tech firms based with Extreme Startups to make a documentary film. But he’s facing some startup challenges of his own, namely with fundraising.
Sitting among the fledgling tech firms in the open concept loft that is Extreme Startups, David Chan is unique.
His video production startup Fidelity Format isn’t technically one of the teams in the incubation program here. Instead, Chan and his colleagues are following the startups dedicated to the gruelling incubation period and making a documentary about it. Day Job is still in production, but there’s a trailer available for it and that’s in part because Chan is facing the same major challenge as the startups he’s filming – raising funds.
He’s turned to crowdfunding in a bid to keep his documentary production afloat. But Indiegogo wasn’t the ideal platform for him to use – just the only option on the table. With just five days left in his campaign, Chan has only raised $1,820 of his $25,000 goal. We chatted with Chan about his crowdfunding experience, the production of Day Job , and more at Toronto’s Extreme Startups space:
Not your average Day Job
Brian Jackson: Why is Day Job an important film to make?
David Chan: We think it’s important because there’s this huge community in Toronto, this tech community, and I don’t think enough people in Canada understands that it exists and it’s here. It’s a great thing to attract attention to Toronto, and these startups aren’t flying out to Silicon Valley and moving their business there. We want to build the community, it’s a pretty small world here. I think it should be positive for the community to highlight what startups go through and how we struggle. All this risk and everything that’s at stake drives your passion. It makes you stay up those extra hours at night building your company. I think there’s something admirable about that and you can get on board even if you’re not a tech startup.
Contribute to Day Job on Indiegogo
BJ: You are a startup making this documentary about startups. Tell me about about that.
DC: There’s a good and a bad side to that. The good side is that it’s interesting to me when we interview the CEOs. I get to ask them if they’re going through what I’m going through. If they struggle with hiring people and having to let go people. Because when you’re really early on, doing that affects you a lot. It affects you financially and emotionally and business-wise. Because you’re hiring people that will represent a huge portion of your company at the moment. The other side of it is we share the same hours that we work, the same kind of leadership roles. It’s interesting to talk about it and what it’s like to be at the top of your company in the early stages. It’s not as glamorous as people think it is, you’re not the CEO of a large corporation, you’re the CEO of three people and you don’t even want to necessarily walk around with that title. What we’re doing right now is a lot of responsibility and accountability. We often talk about how lonely it is, we have to make sure everyone else is OK. Asking how we can make your job easier while at the same time pushing them. How can I push them in a direction that will help me?
Crowdfunding platforms lacking
BJ: Talking about challenges of startups, you’re also trying to fundraise to keep your business running right now. Tell me about the challenges that poses while also trying to put together a documentary.
DC: Oh man, where do I start. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to face with my company to date. We’re trying to raise money while filming something, that’s kind of the challenge that independent movie companies face. I don’t have a marketing team, I don’t have a campaign manager, it’s all us, we all wear multiple hats. We’re a service based startup, so we’re not just one of these companies trying to raise an angel round, a seed round in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. We’re just looking at what it takes for us to make the best documentary we possibly can. So we’re trying to crowdfund $25,000. This is the first time I’ve done it and I’m definitely not an expert at it.
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BJ: You’ve been raising money on the Indiegogo site. Tell me about that experience.
DC: For us, it kind of started off as a tumultuous occurrence. We dabbed at how we were going to raise money and what we were going to do. Finally, we decided we’d commit to Kickstarter. We went through a couple weeks of planning, thinking about what we could produce, what sort of tiers we could offer people, analysing what people had done right and not done right in the past. Then it just didn’t work out. You have to be an American citizen, you have to have an American social insurance number, all this stuff. So we went to Indiegogo, reluctantly, because it’s more of a charity site. You go there to donate because someone’s in trouble, so it’s just charity. For us, we’re trying to build money to build a film, so you can watch a film. There’s an exchange in that sense. It’s difficult to bring awareness to the site, to Indiegogo, there’s less people that just naturally browse through it. There’s just not enough people who don’t know that Indiegogo exists. I feel like if I could really meet someone and tell them what we’re trying to do, the universal themes of human struggle would help them engage with us.
BJ: Where are you at with the production of your documentary and what do you plan to do with it?
DC: Filming wise, we’re about 85 per cent of the way through. There’s two more weeks left in the program, so we’re going to film that and the demo day, which will work for our climax. We’re trying to raise money to follow the teams as they travel. Some of them are going to India, some are going to New York, some are going home to Saskatoon. We want to follow them to end the documentary on a strong note, to see what they’ve done with the money they raised and what they’ve accomplished after the huge excitement of demo day. From there, we’ll finalize the video and hire a second editor, a motion graphic artist to make it as best we can. Then we’ll put it up for online distribution and have some different screenings. We want to have a couple of screenings in Toronto, where we’re based, we want to go to New York and to San Francisco – we want to be able to see how many people we can get involved with this. We want to see how far we can take this as a company that started with nothing.
DAY JOB: Official Trailer from Fidelity Format on Vimeo.