A conversation with MSM's Managing Director & CEO, Dion Sullivan

“We achieved this important milestone ahead of schedule. This is significant, because it proves that we’re able to do what we say we’re going to do in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

No one knows better than Dion Sullivan that start-ups can live or die by the milestones they set. If you make those milestones, you boost your investors’ confidence and your employees’ morale. But many a start-up has failed, not because its concept wasn’t viable or its employees weren’t talented, but simply because it failed to meet the milestones it had set for itself.

That’s why Dion Sullivan is not only committed to achieving every milestone on or before its deadline, but also to making sure that his investors and other stakeholders are made aware of every milestone success.

Recently, not long after Dion had returned from building relationships with his strategic partners, investors, and other stakeholders during a tour of Australia and China, he sat down with MSM’s newsletter team for a wide-ranging interview on a variety of topics.

The following is a transcript of that interview, edited for clarity and brevity.

Have you reached any major milestones lately?

Yes, indeed we have. Our first major milestone, as you know, was reaching our fundraising goals, which we did back in October. Our second major milestone was to relist on the ASX, which we did in January. Recently, we achieved our third major milestone: Our first playable. And we’ve done it ahead of schedule. It was initially slated for the end of May, but we brought it in about five weeks early.

Could you tell us what a playable is?

A playable is a usable, interactive version of a software program — in this case, our Megastar Millionaire mobile app for Android and iPhone. Until now, the versions that we’ve released have only featured “dummy” buttons and other interface elements that were not actionable.  
The only way that I’ve been able to demonstrate how the app will work has been with a PowerPoint presentation. This is our first release that enables the user to supply input to the app and get an appropriate response.

Does this mean you’re almost ready to release the final version?

[LAUGHS] Not quite. This first playable could not even be described as a beta. “Alpha” would be a better word. It’s not pretty, and it’s got bugs and other quirks that will all be gone by the final version. Rather, it’s what I would describe as foundational — a reasonable representation of what the end product will be.

How important is this first playable in your development process?

Very important. For one, it exists outside of our infrastructure. Although it’s not available to the public, the playable resides in the iTunes store, which means Apple is aware of it and has put it through the initial approval process. It is also fully integrated with YouTube, and since YouTube is owned by Google, it is integrated with Google as well. Between iOS and Android, we’re covering 97% of the world’s mobile devices. That’s a big deal.

Secondly, as I’ve already mentioned, we achieved this important milestone ahead of schedule. This is significant, because it proves that we’re able to do what we say we’re going to do in a timely and cost-effective manner. My trip to Australia was an informational and educational tour. I visited with some of our stakeholders to update them on our progress, and to give them our scorecard on the items that I’d promised in my prior trip.

What were some of those promises?

I said that fundraising would be successful, and it has been. I said that we would complete the hiring out of the development team. That’s been done. I said that the team would actually spec and build the first prototype, and that the prototype would result in the first playable, which as you now know, is also done.

Are you approaching any other major milestones?

Yes. Four of them. The first was conducting our “friends and family” competition, which we’ve just completed a few days ago. This was our premiere pseudo-competition that did not consist of MSMCI employees, and it was a good approximation of what the actual Megastar Millionaire competition will be. It ran for two weeks, and we limited it to a very manageable number: 100 participants. We’ll even be awarding a prize. Right now, we’re compiling the data, which we’ll release in a few weeks. But the important take-away is that we were able to build, launch, operate and now deconstruct a facsimile of a competition.

The second milestone on the horizon is that of third-party qualitative research. We’ve just started to work with a research company in Massachusetts specializing in mobile entertainment and social. They are conducting for us a 4,500-person panel consisting of respondents from Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. The research was launched about a week ago and we already have more than 500 completes. I’ll be getting initial tabulations in the latter part of June, with the full appendixes coming early July.

What are you hoping to learn from this research?

It’s an open-ended survey with more than 30 questions that takes about an hour to complete. It has questions like, “Is the Megastar Millionaire concept appealing to you?”  “If it is, why?” “Is it something you’d consider paying for?” “How much would you be willing to pay?”  “Is it something you’d share with your friends?” And so on.

The answers we get will tell us if people find the concept to be compelling, and if they do, will it be something that could replace something else they’re already doing with their phones. This is quite important, because when it comes to digital technology, specifically entertainment, people are only willing to spend so much time, so something has to give.

The survey will also give us a third-party validation of the premise of that Megastar Millionaire is based on. We plan to release that third-part data to the public market. We also intend to give the data to an investment research firm in Australia, so their research and analytics department will be able to write an opinion paper based on that data. The data and the resulting opinion paper will be invaluable in proving out the Megastar Millionaire concept and in getting third-party validation.

Is there a reason why you’ve chosen to survey 4,500 people? That’s a lot of names.

Yes, it is. From a statistical standpoint, we’ll be able to project those 4,500 completes out to 1.5 billion potential respondents, and that’s important, because it will give us the utmost confidence that we’re building something that people will find appealing. I believe so much in Megastar Millionaire that we’re going to release the results without cutting anything, without editing anything. You are going to see exactly what the respondents say.

You mentioned four milestones. What are the other two?

The third milestone involves the first playable. Thanks to this release, we can now start to have tangible conversations with celebrities and social influencers and brands. Because up until this point, Megastar Millionaire was basically a PowerPoint and a theory. Now we have an actual, functional application. Again, it’s not clean or pretty. But it is something substantial that people can interface with and work through, this is very important to assuring brands and celebrities alike that we are a focused, determined and legitimate digital entertainment technology business.

And the fourth milestone?

The fourth will be the most significant. On September 1, we’ll be kicking off an invite only closed beta that will be going out to a minimum of 1,000 people. These are not friends and family. They’ll be YouTube users who fall into the general genres that we think we’re going to be most transactional with, users who have the minimum viable social graphs. It will be an actual contest that will run for a month, with a $10,000 US prize.

We are going to get all sorts of metadata from this. Adoption rates, usage rates, frequency rates, drop-off rates, attrition rates. What sort of transactions are we seeing from within a social graph? We’re going to have all that data. We’ve already built all the analytics. It’s home grown, built by us, and it’s actually going to be resident within the open beta.

Will you be sharing this data as well?

Yes, we will. So, when I return to Australia and Asia in mid-to-late September, I will once again pull out my scorecard to show that we did what we said we were going to do. “Here are the response rates for the ‘friends and family’ contest, here’s what the 3rd party, independent research revealed and here’s what we’ve learned so far from the September contest, which will still be ongoing. Here’s what we’re pleased with and here’s what the ‘watch outs’ are. Here are the conversations we’ve had with sponsors, with social influencers, with celebrities.”

It looks like it’s going to be a busy few months for you.

Busy, indeed. I need to fit sleep in there somewhere.