Two internet-savvy friends who decided to put their university studies to one side and set up their own business are celebrating after their company raked in a six-figure turnover last year.
Timothy Armoo and Ambrose Cooke, both 21, and from London, established Fanbytes, which helps brands such as Nickelodeon, GoPro and Adidas run collaborations with social media stars to reach their YouTube, Instagram and Twitter audience.
The friends, who predict who the next Zoella or Jim Chapman will be by how big their following is, started the firm a year ago and have seen its success sky-rocket – with predictions to earn seven figures in the next year.
Speaking to FEMAIL about his brainchild, Timothy, who is a student at Warwick University but spends most of time in London working on his start-up, said: ‘We can predict who will be the next breakout stars on YouTube based on some super geeky algorithm that we’ve created and brands as such New Look, Sephora, and Adidas are all hopping on board.’
After coining the idea, Timothy called on Ambrose to be his business partner and says he will never forget how he and his now best friend first met.
He recalls: ‘We were at a leadership event, and I remember one of the speakers mentioned the importance of networking with the phrase “look to your left, look to your right, your future business partner might be next to you”.
‘Ambrose looked at me to his left. We bonded over sports, books and then I started building Fanbytes asked him to join.’
Timothy, who sold a media company at 18 which netted him some notoriety and some cash, invested £3,000 of his own money into the start-up, which he says was inspired by his younger cousin.
He said: ‘I remember my little cousin buying a bunch of new stuff, random new hats and trainers and I asked him why he got them. He mentioned that he was influenced by KSI who is a YouTuber now.
‘When you see your own family members having their purchasing habits being changed by this random guy in his bedroom somewhere you’re instantly alerted to the power of YouTubers. Similarly, we saw that these guys were micro celebrities in their own right and needed a way to monetise their audience.
‘YouTube is quite unfair to creators, taking 45 per cent of fees from adverts so we knew that they’d need a better way.
‘There are a few players in the space but everyone keeps using random slow management companies and we just decided to build a website which makes it as easy as buying an ad on Google or Facebook. And brands such Disney, Nickelodeon, Sephora have all signed up.’
So how does the concept work? Clients tell Fanbytes about their brand and they then help build a successful campaign.
Whether it’s downloads, traffic or general social buzz, the team of creatives promise to utilise their clever algorithm to help clients find the perfect influencers to collaborate with based on gender, age and audience location and track the clicks, views and engagement.
Timothy raised funds for the company with the help of a company called Beauhurst, which he originally interviewed for but didn’t get the job because of his lack of degree.
He and the company founder stayed in touch and when Fanbytes was taking off, he asked him to help with investment. Not only did he invest but he also got one of his investors to invest.
They also got Nicholas Wheeler, the founder and CEO of Charles Tyrwhitt, the global retailer specialising in men’s formal wear, on board as an investor. Nick is also the husband of Christine Rucker of The White Company.
The team also have Charles Songhurst on board as an investor and advisor and with his experience from Mckinsey and heading up Corporate Strategy at Microsoft, they say Charles bring a wealth of knowledge into the world of big business and how to grow successful enterprise companies.
Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘fake it until you make it’, they completely winged it at their pitch.
‘We went to meet New Look and told them that we had this network of YouTube stars and would like to work with them. They called our bluff – and then we had to deliver. So we stayed up all night and found some YouTubers and did the campaign, from there we were able to land larger deals,’ explained Timothy.
The men, along with Mitchell Fasanya, their Chief Technical Officer, also managed to enlist world famous footballer, Ronaldinho, as a client.
‘He used one of our YouTubers to sell his golden segways. The video went completely viral and now is on 1,000,000+ views,’ he said.
And the future certainly appears to be looking bright for the fledgling businessmen.
‘As for projections, we tend to keep that internal but given that we started on January 2015 and did a six-figure year, our valuation is about seven figures.
‘I’ve never paid too much attention to that though, valuations of tech companies are kind of crazy now.
‘We also want to move more in the political realm and be able to use our powers to drive actual social change in the world. Imagine being able to lead a charge in making education fairer to UK students merely through creating viral campaigns online. That’s power and real influence!’
Sharing his vital tips for other budding entrepreneurs hoping to follow in his footsteps, Timothy said: ‘I think the first thing is obsessively learn. The key thing that has helped us is that we have some of the best investors we could ask for and we are continuously learning from them, as well as books.
‘Secondly, be prepared to fail, this isn’t easy but it’s also not rocket science. Most people don’t succeed because they don’t want to try and think that they need to be ready to jump.
‘You’re never going to be ready, everyone – and I mean everyone – is making it up as they go along, once you remember that, you realise that there is nothing really to be scared of.’