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Business: Paus
Region: Manchester
Service: Creative Scale-Up

Paus is a streaming platform for independent movie makers that launched in March 2020. Consumers can watch any of its short films for free with no adverts, but can make a discretionary tip payment at any time, with an average tip of £11.50 currently being paid per film.

Sole founder Rishi Kapoor set up Paus after gaining industry experience working at several multinational media companies such as Universal Studios, Warner Bros. and Disney, and his start-up has benefitted greatly from support provided on the Creative Scale-Up programme. Despite having to cancel the formal launch of Paus, which was due to happen around the start of the UK’s first national lockdown, Rishi and his growing team have managed to secure investment and raise awareness of the service amongst movie makers and film fans.

Streaming start-up receives support from Creative Scale-Up programme as it aims to democratise the movie world

Paus is a streaming platform for independent films powered by tips rather than adverts. Launched in March 2020 just as lockdown began in the UK, Paus has had to build up its audience through a pandemic after abandoning its original launch plans. Founder Rishi Kapoor has still managed to establish Paus as a viable independent alternative to the mainstream movie providers, attracting loyal and generous film fans looking to view the latest short films from the hottest new talents. Rishi talks to us about how GC Business Growth Hub’s Creative Scale-Up programme has helped him to overcome the challenges of being a solo founder and aim even higher.

Unlocking the power of tipping

In recent year we’ve started to see a shift away from adverts and ad-revenue online towards direct monetisation of content through subscriptions or payments, and that’s what we offer. People can watch movies for free and then pay a tip to the filmmakers. It’s not a donation, but it’s a discretionary payment to them and gives consumers the chance to put their own value on the content they’ve consumed.

For filmmakers, the clear benefit is that they earn more per view than they could anywhere else. The average they earn elsewhere is around 70p for every 1,000 views, so on Paus it only takes one person in 1,000 to give £1 and they’ve already earned more, though obviously the aim is for them to receive much more than that. We premiered a film called Girl on the Side earlier this year. Although produced in 2017 it hadn’t been released because the film maker didn’t want to upload it to the platforms that were available at the time. This was her first ever film and she’d made it without any formal training or qualifications.

Within the first 90 minutes of it being uploaded to Paus, she had earned £4,500 in tips for the film with tips averaging at around £75. The average tip across the platform currently is £11.50, which is more than a monthly subscription for Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ and people are paying it for just one short film.

Don’t let people tell you something is impossible

The main challenge I had when starting Paus was that as a sole founder without technical expertise, it was tough to get the business off the ground. I attended a seminar once where the speaker said that being a sole founder without that expertise made it essentially impossible to make it work, so it’s important to me to let others in that position know that it really is possible.

I managed to learn some code to patch things together at the very start and some of that code is still there, having been revamped of course. But it’s still in there and driving thousands of pounds worth of donations, so the success we’ve had with Paus so far shows that doing this really is possible if you give it a try. While I was getting started, I came across GC Business Growth Hub and their advisor has been the biggest help I’ve had in getting to this position. He helped us raise investment and played a huge role in shaping our financial projections. He’s gone far beyond his core role to support me and has been the next best thing to having a co-founder.

The Creative Scale-Up programme has been really helpful because as a founder you have a habit of working in your business all the time rather than working on your business. It’s a bad habit to get into and it’s very hard to get out of it, but this programme has helped me to focus on doing the work that really matters, working strategically rather than operationally.

We’re aiming for bigger and better things

The PR module has been particularly helpful too because at the moment we’re focusing on growth, creating links with festivals, getting more films and aiming to be ready for Series A funding by the end of this year. We already have award-winning filmmakers coming to us without any marketing because they’ve been referred by others who have seen the benefits of working with us. In November we did a crowd-funding event and raised £130,000 from CrowdCube and another £220,000 from angel investors, which showed that people believe in Paus and what we have to offer.

We’ve taken on new staff to work on design, branding and HR and we’re also looking at working with theatres to livestream shows while we’re still in lockdown. It’s another example where we believe there’s a market of people who will pay more if you let them pay what they want to watch it.