The next of our Verge Influencers is the amazing Calum Leslie. Calum is a young entrepreneur who already has a lot under his belt.Â Calum won various UK wide competitions at High School including Young Consumer of the Year and Young Enterprise, and during his final year of school Calum set up his first company.Â He has rubbed shoulders with hugely influential people, including Adam Dell, Lee Walker and Bob Metcalfe, and amongst all of this, Calum still managed to graduate with an Honours degree in Law from the prestigious University of Edinburgh.
Calum co-founded 20:20 Multimedia Group based in the UK in September 2012, and launched the amazing app Wooju in early 2014. We spoke to Calum about his ideas in creating such an innovative app, the ultimate Wooju question, and his influencers.
What inspired you to create Wooju?
So I decided to go and study abroad for my third year of university, I studied law in the UK then travelled over to Austin, Texas to study further. When I arrived, I wanted to do the most typically American college thing I could do, so naturally I joined the fraternity. Turns out it was an incredible network, but at the time it was a lot of fun. We had a bunch of parties and it was really something to be a part of. So, one evening I found myself at a party and I was talking to a girl from one of the neighbouring sororities – this is a real story – and mid conversation she reached down and pulled out her phone and took a picture of me. I was a little taken aback – I’m not sure if this happens a lot – but it had never happened to me. So I asked her why she was taking a picture, and she told me that she wanted to ask her friends if they thought I was hot. So, instantly, I started thinking about all the different questions people like to ask and get opinions on. For example, lots of people read all the product reviews on Amazon before they even think of purchasing the product, and these are reviews of people they don’t even know. So it occurred to me that a lot of people heavily rely on the opinions of others, and as I delved deeper I found out that there’s over 86.5 million questions that are asked by people on Twitter every day. The issue with Twitter and other social media is that there is no way to ask a question and get a quantified outcome, you can’t get a poll or take results from it. The idea stemmed from that initial event, and as I delved deeper I looked into the kind of things that people like to ask, I realised that there was a gap in the market for a question asking application.
How did you get into the actual creating of the app at university?
I finished my law degree back in Edinburgh, but in the during my time in Austin I found out that the place is a real technology hub, behind San Francisco and Silicon Valley and everything else in the US, Austin’s the 3rd or 4th biggest tech hub in the US. So whilst I was at law school I took a class with Adam Dell called law, business and innovation. Meeting Adam was an incredible experience, he became a mentor to Wooju eventually. He did 5 minutes on law each week, 25 minutes on something he just found interesting that week, and an hour for every week he brought in one of his buddies – so Bob MetcalfeÂ came in , Lee Walker came in, I got to meet all of these amazing people while I was at university and did the very cheeky un-British thing, I left the class early so I could catch these guys on the way out, I introduced myself and gave them my business cards and asked if they had 10 minutes to sit down and have a coffee. I talked to all of these guys and came back to the UK completely obsessed with technology! I knew that I didn’t want to become a lawyer, I wanted to do my own thing. I pitched Wooju to a couple of people I knew around the investment community, and one of our investors said he loved the idea, but the problem was I still had a year left in university. Launching an application is extremely time consuming, you work 24 hours a day, and so I couldn’t balance it with my studies. We agreed to work together and opened up a company called 20:20 Multimedia, the company built apps for clients. It gave me a backing on how to own a real business, how cash flow works, how to employ people etc. In 2013 we started working on Wooju, it took 3 months to build it, we then started building our team and launched on 2nd April 2014.
How would you say Wooju differs from other similar apps?
The way that we position Wooju is that it’s a question-centric messaging app. So there’s no one out there at the moment that centres questions around a messaging app. We see ourselves as having a few competitors, Jelly is one of our competitors, which is made by one of the founders of Twitter. But Jelly is factual based, rather than opinion based like ours. There’s also an app called Ask Em – which lets you take a picture and ask a question on a forum, but what we noticed when we were building Wooju is that people want a certain amount of validation when they ask a question, if someone posts a question on the internet sometimes you can feel like your opinion isn’t valid. We brought the text messaging aspect and paired it with the online social validation aspect – and that’s how Wooju was born. We’re question centric in a messaging app, and that’s how we gear ourselves away from everyone else.
I’m sure you’re aware of what people can use other apps like this for… is this something you’ve thought about whilst creating Wooju?
I’m a lawyer by background, so something that I made sure that we focused on from day one is privacy. There’s a number of things throughout Wooju that exemplify that, we have a basic privacy code and guidelines for what people should and shouldnt be using the app for. We also have a report button, so if you receive anything that is personally offensive or if it’s nudity or any other content that we try to restrict on the platform you can report it to us, we will look into it and at the user, and if it’s deemed inappropriate we will delete that user. You can also delete images, so if it’s not severe enough to want to report it you can delete the image to make sure it won’t pop up in your inbox. The way that Wooju works is person – person, so you essentially have to add someone before you can receive images from them. We’ve also now introduced the public opinion where you can send a question to 50 people on your user base, you can switch this off if you don’t want to be a part of the public opinion. We tried to build in a number of different report mechanisms and privacy codes, to prevent people using it from inappropriate means. But like anything else on the internet, if people are going to use it for the wrong reasons they will, all we can do is attempt to restrict that as much as possible.
What would you say is the ultimate Wooju Question?
The majority of people use it to ask ‘Do I look good in this?’ so to change it up and have a bit of fun I’d probably dress in something I definitely couldn’t afford and send it out to my friends asking that question, maybe with a cane and a top hat. Something like that would be a fun way of using it! Something that we’re moving into which opens up a world of opportunity for Wooju users, is for them to ask a question with a picture on Wooju and then Tweet about it, any Wooju user can reply to the question through this platform and they get the results. This gives users the chance to Â gather results in a quantitive manner, the question gets a lot larger than asking your friends, you can tap into current affairs and worldly issues with Wooju. It’s very versatile.
What influencers did you have that led you to create Wooju?
I picked up Richard Branson’s book when I was in high school, from that moment onwards I wasn’t really doing anything else. I didn’t have an idea then, it wasn’t until Wooju came along. We did a number of small ventures, we competed in Young Enterprise and won the national award for Innovations in I.T, all that kind of stuff was insanely influential to me to go on to create something like Wooju. But meeting and hanging out with Adam Dell and John McGlynn who’s our investor and Chairman, and seeing how these guys run their companies. Honestly there’s nothing as exciting to me than seeing us get a new download on Wooju, or when we get featured somewhere. The most inspiring thing is being able to conceptually come up with an idea in your head, jotting that down and then seeing it come to life in a few weeks. It’s definitely inspiring hanging out with people who have done this before, you can see how much of an effect it has on them.
What is your dream vacation and your drink choice?
My dream vacation would be NeckerÂ Island – I’d love to meet Richard Branson so going there would be a dream come true. I’m a big gin and tonic guy, so Bombay Sapphire gin if I had my choice!
Download Wooju on the iTunes store:Â https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/wooju/id787131926?mt=8