Interview: Arran Rice, founder of Wizzed Media
This week, I got the opportunity to speak to Arran Rice, the 17-year-old Chester entrepreneur and founder of online media startup Wizzed Media.
Hooked by Arran’s passion for technology and all things digital, I asked him where it all began.
“I love technology,” he said, “and when I was younger I just started experimenting on the internet. I created a few YouTube channels, started a few websites that I largely left unfinished, but then it all changed when I launched a gaming website in November 2010.”
“It became really popular really quickly and it made me so happy that every day thousands of people were enjoying what I have created. I was hooked.”
In the five years since, Arran said he has created 500 websites (three of which launched this summer) and 200 mobile apps, and the numbers keep on growing as he continues to test new ground.
“Being in full-time education and running a business can be very hard. Especially during exam season.”
When I asked what influenced him in the early days, he replied: “It’s hard to say what my biggest influencers were at that age, it was more of a hobby to begin with - something I enjoyed and still do to this day.”
All entrepreneurs talk about how tough it is getting a business off the ground, the grueling hours you have to put in. I asked Arran about the obstacles he’s faced in his entrepreneurial life due to his encroaching schoolwork.
“Being in full-time education and running a business can be very hard,” he explained. “Especially during exam season.
“My workload can vary alot depending on what I have to do. Some weeks I may work from 9am to 4pm in college, get home and then work until 11pm. Other weeks my hours are significantly lower.
“Planning new projects and technical issues with my sites is when I find myself pretty busy but I really enjoy it.”
It was clear to me that Arran works hard, but at the same time he’s not what people would call a workaholic. He understands the importance of giving precedence to other areas of his life.
“I have a team of employees who work all over the world.”
Arran said: “I make time to relax. I’m still young so I need that balance. I love travelling, so I like to fit in a holiday at least every eight weeks to get a break, even if it’s just for a weekend.”
Next, I asked Arran about his team. While it’s immediately obvious that Arran’s something of a technological powerhouse, running Wizzed Media must take more manpower than he alone can muster.
“I have a team of employees who work all over the world,” he said. “But I tend to give them instructions. For example, my content team are given article topics weekly to be written.”
“I also have an employee who works for the marketing side of the business. He gets more flexibility; we both share ideas to grow the traffic to the sites and then put the ideas into practise to make it work.”
Given Arran’s prolific digital output, I was curious to hear what informs his decision to add a new brand or website to Wizzed Media’s growing portfolio of properties.
“Every single one of my sites have been built with a spark of inspiration,” he told me. “Most of the time a random idea will come into my head, then I will spend some time researching it – looking at areas such as competition, audience size, niche. And if I feel it will work, I will take the risk and develop the concept.”
“I love competition. I love to benchmark my properties against the competition and see how I can innovate.”
He’s working in a vastly competitive industry, as anyone with access to the internet will understand, with a million platforms all vying (and more often than not, struggling) to be heard. I asked him how he plans to step from the shadow and differentiate his venture from giants like the LAD Bible and BuzzFeed.
“I love competition,” he said. “I love to benchmark my properties against the competition and see how I can innovate, grow and ultimately beat competition. The entertainment content industry is massive and it is growing each year.
“I feel all my properties have been built early enough to remain popular even as the market becomes more saturated.”
Arran has decided to concentrate on running Wizzed Media instead of going to university once he leaves college. I asked him where he saw the company heading in the next five years, giving the launch of an office, a physical presence, as an example.
“I actually have no plans to establish an office just yet. I’ve not thought about it. What I love about my company is that it can be ran from a laptop and an internet connection anywhere in the world.
“Many of my employees actually travel the world whilst working for me – it works really well.”
Between now and 2020, Arran explained, he plans to rapidly grow the number of websites and apps he owns while at the same time developing his existing properties.
“I am always open to any opportunity. If I think a new site or app will work, I will do it.”
He continued: “I am in the early stages of developing a mobile game, which I expect to launch in early 2016. There are more entertainment-style sites in the pipeline and I am planning websites for Nigeria and India – both are massively growing internet markets and it would be great to be involved in their evolution.
“But I am always open to any opportunity. If I think a new site or app will work, I will do it and then add it under the Wizzed Media brand as part of the portfolio.”
If he did launch a Wizzed Media office, Arran said, he would set up shop in either London or Silicon Valley (in San Francisco), due to the connections both areas offer to other tech startups and advertising networks.
Arran is due to head over to Silicon Valley for an internship in Summer 2016.