Catherine Prosser – cofounder of Stagebitz

Catherine Prosser is a former stage and production manager for theatre with additional experience in designing & making props, costumes and puppets, festival and event management and venue operation.  A graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, Catherine began developing software solutions for the professional theatre industry in 2006, when development on Production Genie® Theatre Software began.

What made me really start was that we just couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better way to do things then we were currently faced with.

Catherine began working on StageBitz™ in 2010.  In-between product development and professional practise, Catherine has also served on a number of panels and boards, including four years on the ABC Advisory Council, as a board member of The Street Theatre and Canberra Youth Theatre and a peer on the assessment panels for artsACT’s Theatre & Dance and Film & TV funds as well as the ACT Festival Fund.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen? 

Each year millions of props, scenery and costume items are created at a cost of billions of dollars. Many of these items are used only once, resulting in a massive waste of time, effort, resources and money for the industry. This is a common and constant problem faced by the entertainment industry in Australia, USA, the UK and the world over.

StageBitz solves this problem by providing a collaboration platform in the cloud for directors, designers, makers, buyers and managers to capture the design, technical and usage information they need to get their projects up and running. It also provides an automatic company inventory feature which will allow companies to manage their assets as well as hire or sell unwanted items online.

What made me really start (and it was the same for my co-founder, Mat Lawrence) was that we just couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better way to do things then we were currently faced with.  We were sick of each having our own lists, people not having the latest version, wasting time and money because we were reinventing the wheel and so we each started picking away at the problem.  We joined forces 2 years ago.

How do you make money?

It’s an online subscription, so people pay for access to the project and inventory management tools we provide.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months? 

We’re currently investigating our first mobile app, which will let people take photos of their inventory items and get them into the system as easily as point-and-shoot.  The time it takes to document things is one of the biggest hurdles to having an effective inventory system, so this will make that all sooooo much simpler

How do you make ideas happen?

If you talk about something for long enough with as many different people as possible, eventually all the pieces will fall into place.  So you have to be persistent an maintain the passion!

What does your typical day look like?

Start work about 7:30.  Skype with Mat at 9am (he’s in Sydney, I’m in Canberra).  And then, it all depends.  Mat’s core job is the product development, but I would spend roughly 20% of my time on product development with him, 50% on customer conversations, introductions and support and 30% on all the business administration side of things.  At least once a month Mat and I will spend a couple of days together planning, and I usually have at least one trip interstate to visit customers as well.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

The main thing for us was getting traditional investors interested in the creative industries.  We had to familiarise them with a market they had never come across before.  Also, because we were non-tech co-founders it has been expensive; we had to pay developers to create the product.  Mat and I couldn’t just code away of an evening after we’d finished our ‘real’ jobs, like so many tech start-ups do when they’re beginning.  We had to get professionals in from day one (a fact that our customers now are probably profoundly grateful for!)

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Try and say ‘Yes’ as often as possible.  Yes, I’ll have a coffee with you.  Yes, I’d like you to introduce me to your colleague.  Yes, I’ll share my story with you.  Yes, I’ll come to that event.  Yes, I’ll give you my feedback.  The more you open yourself up to opportunities, the more they fall in your lap.  Most of the people who have been the greatest help in helping StageBitz get to where it is, were people who I would never have met normally – they were all second and third degree connections and totally unexpected in many cases.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment? 

I can’t wait to see what companies come out of the Creative Enterprise Australia investment program at QUT – they’re doing early stage investment in creative businesses – wish they’d been there 2 years ago!

What about internationally?

Julie’s Bicycle (UK) and Broadway Green Alliance and the Centre for Sustainability in the Performing Arts (US) are all doing great things to improve the environmental sustainability of our industry

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

We can provide structure and support to  grassroots ideas and make them effective for the community and our business in a way that individuals can’t (unless they turn their idea into a business).  For example, theatre companies have been trying to share their props, costumes, etc for ages, but it’s never been very effective.  With things like Facebook, Flickr and DIY websites, that’s started to improve things.  But it takes someone to devote their full time and energy to making it genuinely useful and practical.  So now we’re going to see companies be able to use their physical and intellectual resources in way they have never been able to do before which makes them more efficient, more environmentally sustainable and able to produce better products.  So if you have a business, I would say look for opportunities that let your skills support something new in your community, because it will work out to everyones advantage.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

www.shoeboxed.com.au  Never. Transcribe. A receipt. Again.

www.cardmapping.com  If you have to plan a project, software, anything, this is a great way to get your ideas out of your head and organised into a strategic plan of attack!

www.mybalsamiq.com  We couldn’t do StageBitz without this.  It’s a wireframing tool, but so much more.  If you need to plan websites, you need mybalsmiq.

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter? 

Mark Scott, Managing Director of the ABC

Stella Young, editor of RampUp

aaaahhhh…. I don’t spend enough time on twitter!

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We’d love to meet some people interested in helping us with screencasts and webinar stuff to make it easy for people to learn how to use StageBitz!

Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good-looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.

If we all jumped at the same time, do you think we could change the rotation of the Earth so we could squeeze just one extra hour into the day…?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Anywhere with a good outdoor area and good coffee.  I love meeting friends outdoors, under trees. Which is why I love Canberra.

What is your favourite song by an Australian artist at the moment? 

I’m a sucker for anything Neil Finn.

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

Yes… I just don’t know what!

Make sure you sign-up to join our amazing community for Australians making ideas happen.

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