Dressed in iconic red, blue and gold, Wonder Woman stares out from one of the posters that line the walls of We Got Pop’s London office.
But it’s the startup’s founder who’s the real hero for tens of thousands of people who work in film.
“What everyone expects is what they see on screen—cutting-edge technology,” says Kate McLaughlin, who spent nearly two decades working for huge film franchises like James Bond and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The reality of working in the industry, she explains, couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I saw firsthand the daily pain points, spending 16-hour days delivering projects that involved a lot of copying and pasting,” she recalls. “It was all organized offline, in emails, conversations and bits of paper lying around.”
Pop to the rescue
In 2013 McLaughlin started We Got Pop to fix this manual nightmare.
It’s an online platform that connects production organizers to cast and crew, and has been designed to streamline the “find, book, manage, pay” process, she explains.
“It's like an Airbnb but for films, with HR and communication tools built in," says McLaughlin.
A huge success already, We Got Pop today connects a community of 25,000 film professionals and was used in 30% of all U.K. casting last year.
It has supported the creation of around 1,000 films, TV shows and commercials to date, with credits including both Star Wars, James Bondand Mamma Mia film franchises and hit TV series like The Crown, Black Mirror and Humans.
The 400 people who worked on the set of Wonder Woman in 2016 used We Got Pop to simply tap out at the end of their working day. “Normally you'd have long queues and a team of people scribbling on bits of paper and trying to work out the maths of all the overtime,” McLaughlin explains.
While a casting agent for a newly released film like Ready Player Onewould have been able to create digital lookbooks of extras, and then save and share information all from one place.
“This is an industry that is very behind the times, but we’ve had early adopters across film, TV, indies and massive shows,” says McLaughlin.
Building We Got Pop
McLaughlin runs We Got Pop from a townhouse office in Shoreditch (one of the London’s creative corners). It’s on the kind of smart cobbled street you might spot in a Bridget Jones or Paddington movie (yet more franchises that have benefitted from Pop). The new Mission Impossible film even had scenes filmed around the corner, adds Mclaughlin.
But the company has had the creative industry at its core from the start.
In 2015, the company’s first angel round—of just under half a million pounds ($660,000)—included funding from Pinewood Studios (of Harry Potter, JamesBondand Star Wars fame). “When you’re a small fish, to have a name like Pinewood out there, it was helpful validation from the industry,” the founder recalls.
We Got Pop announced another round of €2.3 million ($2.7 million) earlier this year, led by Octopus Ventures.
Closing this while heavily pregnant and then with her newborn daughter Robyn was one of the biggest challenges McLaughlin has had to overcome, she says.
But with the support of her husband and her team, McLaughlin was able to bring her baby to pitches and business meetings, and breastfeed her when needed.
Trusting her team to do what she couldn’t was key to overcoming this work-life juggling act, adds the founder. “Letting people have a crack at things, that’s core to our culture, we have a lot of great people and we trust each other to do their best,” McLaughlin says.
Heading for Hollywood
It’s perhaps no surprise that McLaughlin has also been keen to take Pop to America.
“The U.S. is very important to us as a lot of the big decision makers sit there,” she explains of the company’s 2017 New York launch. “It's also an exciting market as I think they're 5-10 years behind in terms of technology in this space.”
It’s a feat that has involved focusing on the devilish details, she adds, both in terms of Americanizing Pop’s language (renaming digital “Chit” timesheets as “salary vouchers” for example) or allowing for different kinds of regulation.
“We’ve had to make sure all the relevant stakeholder are brought in, like the Screen Actors Guild [SAG],” says McLaughlin of the powerful American actors union.
The future of film
McLaughlin is now gearing up to raise another undisclosed funding round towards the end of 2018. And, although the business is focused on cast and crew, her platform could in future connect to other location, facilities or equipment services, she says.
With We Got Pop freeing up time (and money) by streamlining film production, McLaughlin hopes to empower creatives to deliver the most innovative content they can.
“When there's no time to find a better way of doing things, processes stagnate,” she says. “We want to be best in class across the industry.”