Last year, we spoke to ACMI X resident Gemma Pepper about her experiences developing the Audioplay app (co-created with her sister Zoe) with the support of ACMI’s Xcel Accelerator, a program designed to connect creatives with the start-up world. In that interview, she also discussed switching between art and business and what it’s like to be a woman in the start-up scene.
Since then, Gemma has expanded her audience and tapped into new international markets with the launch of Audioplay in Singapore earlier this year. ACMI X Community Coordinator Amber Gibson sat down (virtually) with her to talk about how she brought her app to new markets, and for advice to start-ups looking to do the same.
Amber Gibson: For those who don’t know, tell us how Audioplay creates playful audio experiences for kids.
Gemma Pepper: Our experiences are all about real live play, so we often work with theatre makers who are skilled in creating stories in real time. We map out the story for each of the characters, work with voice actors to record the script and then layer the audio of the story world adding a musical score and sound effects. We work with a team of talented professionals who really make these elements sing. We also like to test the audio with kids along the way, to make sure it all makes sense to play and that the story is really engaging for the target age group.
AG: What makes your product different from other kids’ entertainment?
GP: There are a number of differences; firstly we are screen-free, so we use audio to tell the story and kids physically play out the action, using simple household items like blankets and chairs to create the physical landscape around them. This means we are actively encouraging imaginative play for kids, play which is heightened by amazing audio.
Audioplay is also different in that our stories are told from multiple points of view simultaneously. Each player is a different character and they hear the story in the first person. It’s a really exciting format in that there is no good vs evil, there are just different points of view and kids can come to appreciate different sides to one story. This story structure means we can tackle the complexity of conflict in a whole new way.
AG: Audioplay recently launched in Singapore via the AppStore, tell us about how this opportunity came about?
GP: A few years back we met the team from The Artground, a creative space for children and families in Singapore. Through a recent phone catch up with them we learned that the COVID-19 lockdown measures were being extended in Singapore whilst school holidays were being brought forward. Knowing that families were doing it tough through the lockdown we decided to fast-track our launch to get Audioplay out to more families there.
AG: What was the process of launching an app in the Singapore market?
GP: Launching in Singapore has been a fast and furious process. We have been making a number of new connections, getting advice from contacts on the ground and reaching out to local blogs and media outlets to get the word out. Thankfully the app didn’t require any modification to launch however we are yet to release our Android app, which will be an important next step in the Singapore market.
AG: What has the response been so far?
GP: We are learning a lot and trying a range of different strategies. We have had some great reviews from family focused blogs, but it will take a little while longer to see the real results. That said, for us it’s about a longer-term relationship with our audiences, so we aim to learn through the experience and keep refining the app and the content.
AG: Has COVID-19 impacted your business in any way?
GP: We have just had to refocus our efforts. We had been doing a lot of partnership development work in Europe when the crisis started, so travel plans and meetings needed to be put on hold. Similarly plans for live events and presentations also needed to be put on the back burner. On the other hand we have had a lot of interest from families who are looking for new activities for kids during the lock-down. We have been focused on getting the word out there and connecting with as many families as possible.
AG: Where would you like to take Audioplay in the future?
GP: We have very ambitious plans for Audioplay but it’s important to break the journey down into achievable steps. At the moment we are refining the experiences we create for kids and collaborating with new artists to explore the creative potential of this new digital space. There is a lot of potential to create new exciting experiences and we are starting to explore those ideas at the moment.
AG: Do you have any tips for app start-ups wanting to break into the international market?
GP: We have really sought to move fast in response to current conditions. I think it’s really important to know your product and know your audience so you can stay responsive to changing needs. For us it’s been a process of trying a range of strategies to connect with new audiences and tracking the data to measure what’s working and what’s not. We are learning and lot and constantly adjusting our approach as we go.
Visit the Audioplay website to learn more the app.
Amber Gibson is the community coordinator at ACMI X. Over the past four years she has managed co-working spaces throughout Melbourne and Vancouver, Canada. Connecting people is her superpower and she uses it daily to help strengthen communities across the creative sector and startup industry.