Kosta Jordanov is thousands of feet upin the air, on a plane that takes him back home to Sofia. This is how his lifestyle looks now, courtesy of his company’s recent expansion. Its operations are divided between San Mateo in California – just one-hour flight away from Los Angeles – New York and Sofia.
Back in 1998 the company was merely his side project. “As a matter of fact, iMediaShare started as a half-a-person-project,” Kosta says jokingly. He was already a seasoned entrepreneur when he started iMediaShare, with two successful exits – one prior to and one after the dot com bubble.
The company started out without any business plan attached to it. In fact, the team didn’t take it seriously at all. “We were just a couple of nerds who were playing around with technology. Basically, what we were doing was sharing photos between our PlayStations,” says Kosta. “It was kind of fun and we kept playing with it and ended up asking ourselves – wouldn’t it be cool if we could also share video content? – and that’s how it all started.”
iMediaShare’s promise is that it can make media discovery and sharing astonishingly simple. The cloud-based mobile app uses patented technology that allows content-sharing across various platforms and devices. Its key features include HD video delivery in 3D optimised in real time, delivery of on-demand video content to any TV set, and seamless integration with a multiple range of devices – TVs, game consoles, blu-ray players, audio systems and media boxes.
Since its inception, the company has grown at a steady rate and there are no plans for hurried advances. With a total of 700.000 dollars in investment capital from the startup’s three main investors LAUNCHub, Teres Capital and Bianor, and a current revenue run rate of an equal 700.000 dollars, the company has two main categories of income monetisation: ad-funded and subscription-based. According to official company data, there have been more than 5 million downloads so far and the current monthly viewer rate is 1.2 million, with tens of millions of media files served per month.
An emotional roller coaster
From the outside it seems like the business has had a smooth transit, getting to the place it now is, but Kosta says it has really been an emotional roller coaster. “One day you feel like you’ve just conquered the world, the next you think you’re closing down the company. But if you want your business to have any kind of future at all, it is essential to emotionally navigate these ups and downs, which all come with the territory of having the responsibility of managing your own company”.
In terms of team management, nothing is off the table when it comes to making important decisions, although Kosta sometimes seems to be willing to go with Ford’s theory of management: “I heard this saying: ‘If we know the facts, let’s go with the facts. But if all we have is opinions, let’s go with my own’.” Still, it is not a benevolent dictatorship of sorts, he assures me. The team of 20 aims for consensus but resorts to unbiased input as often as possible, such as A/B testing, for instance, simply because “gut feeling is not a very good driver.”
This may explain why, although very aware of the importance of velocity and building momentum, Kosta restates the need for it all to come down to the fundamentals of business, which may include a slower pace of user growth and a perhaps-not-so-astounding return on investment (ROI) at the end of the fiscal year.
The right thing to do
Admittedly driven by the innate challenges that startups bring about, there is an important personal development factor involved in his career choice. He says it’s curiosity that keeps him going, but ultimately, he says somewhat romantically, it all comes down to becoming a better man.
In that regard, he doesn’t look at entrepreneurship as an opposition to, say, being employed; instead, he thinks of it more in terms of freedom which, by his definition, isn’t absolute, nor is it reserved to the chosen few who end up leaving their corporate careers to start companies: “It’s all about the freedom to do what you believe is right for you. And that may very well happen while you work for someone else. You most certainly don’t need to be an entrepreneur to have that freedom.”
Recently, he took on a mentoring gig at LaunchHub, which he seems to be taking very seriously, even though he says he doesn’t have any cookie-cutter advice for anyone and tries to steer clear of standard recipes. They never seem to work, he tells me, pointing to the uncharted road his own company embarked on.
The new “one-syllable brand name”
Perhaps one of the biggest news soon to come from the HQ of iMediaShare this year is their up-and-coming rebranding.
Flipps – that’s what the company will be called starting this autumn. It was an in-house choice which stemmed out of everyone’s consensus that the current name was both too accurately descriptive and too long to pronounce. When Kosta broke the news about the name change to Tim Draper, the famous venture capitalist behind successful companies like Hotmail, Skype, Baidu, Tesla and Space X, Draper said: “You do realise that there is only one other one-syllable name company out there that is successful? [in reference to Merck]. So you have two choices: you either change your name or you struggle hard to be the second exception.”
And by the looks of it, they have no intention of changing the name again anytime soon.