Filmaster (@Filmaster), a Polish startup that is one of the culprits behind the Reaktor startup mansion, released its Android app today after testing it in festival partnerships for a few months. The revamped iPhone app with major usability fixes was also released last week.
Filmaster combines social movie recommendations with a local element by allowing users to check in at the movies or check screening times. It also develops partnerships with film festivals and provides social and local mobile app support for them. The local features currently only work in the United Kingdom, United States, and Poland.
The founder, Borys Musielak (@michuk), always wanted to build a movie-related startup, his love of movies inspired by Roman Gutek’s New Horizons film festival. He refined his vision when spending long hours commuting on the posh Virgin train (with a laptop and wifi) between Coventry and his job as an investment banking consultant in London. He wanted to combine movie info, reviews, and recommendations in one polished service. This holistic approach to a quality movie experience is indeed what might give Filmaster its edge.
The company is based in Warsaw, which has its pros and cons. On the whole, Borys thinks that running a startup out of Warsaw is “definitely harder,” and would be easier from San Francisco, New York, or London. However, being in Poland does have its advantages. Namely, it’s considerably easier to find great developers that don’t use up all your funding in a few months. Also, planes are cheap, Borys is in the US 2-3 times a year for different events; same goes for London or Berlin. As he says:
It would definitely be a good idea to move the business development team to California if we focused on B2B, but for now, as we are mainly a platform for consumers, focusing on getting a lot of traction by providing the most relevant recommendations and the best experience for our users, being in Warsaw is not as bad as it looks from the civilized world
The Filmaster team now consists of 8 people, aided by hundreds of volunteer editors who update movie information, add trailers and photos, and take care of content quality. This is mainly achieved thanks to the Creative Commons license Filmaster is using and promoting. The company received a 100K EUR grant from the EU in September 2010 and seed funding from HackFwd in July 2011. If all continues to go well, they will be seeking Series A funding in the second quarter of 2012.
As part of my effort to map out the startup ecosystems in various countries, I asked Borys about his mentors:
Our mentor and advisor is Chris Kowalczyk (@kkowalcz), a film buff and startup investor, founder of HardGamma Ventures and GammaRebels. We’ve met before I founded Filmaster as we were both active in the net neutrality battle against the Polish government. We later met when I started looking for seed funding for Filmaster and he recommended us to HackFwd (as the program is referer-only). We then together promoted Filmaster at South By Southwest 2011 in Austin when we launched our iPhone app, and we are in constant touch till now to discuss the future plans for Filmaster.
In conclusion, I asked Borys what the best movie he discovered through his own service was. Here’s the answer: “Definitely Harakiri, a complex Japanese samurai tale, definitely one of the best movies ever made, yet still lacking recognition.”