Authors need to be able to write well. That’s a given. Storytellers also require another skill set: the ability to compose engaging narratives.
Beemgee provides an “outlining tool” for people who want to tell their story but feel intimidated by the big blank page. Since telling stories is a defining human need, the founders figure that the potential market is gigantic. A YouGov poll says that 60% of Britons want to be authors.
To tell a great story, you don’t just start writing. You outline a plot and develop the characters. Even if you’re authoring a memoir or a marketing campaign, you need to work out the dramaturgical function of your characters in the story. The Beemgee web tool is designed to help you with such matters as structure, dramaturgy, and outlining plot.
Beginning in Berlin
It all began in a café in Berlin, Germany. One of the founders, Olaf Bryan Wielk, himself an author with extensive experience in the publishing industry, was asking a filmmaker friend of his, Amos, how he outlined his films. Talking about it, they realized there was no web-based tool dedicated to helping with this task.
So Olaf analyzed the market, and asked an old colleague, Robert Becker, an IT guy with his own web agency, if he wanted to partner in order to build a simple outlining tool for storytellers. Robert said yes – not quite realizing what he was letting himself in for.
Robert and Olaf, with Amos’ help, conceptualized the tool. As yet it had no name. “Speaking names” like plot-builder seemed ungainly – and the domains were not available anyway. Somebody suggested a phrase that stands for a classic plot: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again.
Boy meets girl dot com seemed misleading, but this was the seed of the name Beemgee – a word you can use as a noun or verb. Have you beemgeed your story yet?
While Robert and Olaf worked on the business plan, Samir came on board as Chief Developer. The case made it to the finals of Berlin’s biggest business plan competition.
[Image founders Olaf Bryan Wielk and Samir Rachidi. Credit: Leo Seidel]
By the next Leipzig Book Fair, the team had a prototype up and running of a tool with which to develop characters. Marketers could adapt it to define personas, but the core user group was and is novelists and screenwriters.
What about money?
The idea behind Beemgee so appealed to some people in the publishing industry that a six-figure offer (Euros) was made – which the team turned down!
“It was the hardest decision we have had to make,” CEO Olaf Wielk says. “The deal represented a measure of security for our future. But it was a future we didn’t entirely want, since it entailed the danger of losing control over our product.”
Their own resources were almost at an end by the next big event in their calendar, the Frankfurt Book Fair. Running on the fumes of their own capital, they presented a dummy version of their next tool, a plot outliner.
Through their membership in the startup club of the German publishing industry, they met a private investor who was immediately interested. The problem was, he didn’t want to come in on his own. By chance, on the same day, they actually met the man who was to become their second investor. It took half a year before Olaf hit on the idea of introducing the two business angels to each other. And another half a year before the contract was finally signed.
Happily ever after
All through those uncertain times, the team plowed on. And even grew, though nobody was getting paid. They turned Beemgee from a basic prototype into sophisticated web-based software.
By now, the two initial tools have been optimized, combined, and joined by a third layer of functionality, with many features in the pipeline Beemgee.com has thousands of free users, and since October 2016 been gaining paying Premium users too. Which is good news for the team.
The company is now looking to scale. International marketing costs money, and the founders are willing to consider investment proposals. But investors beware – these guys are picky, and have turned down a six-figure offer before!
About Olaf Bryan Wielk
Olaf Bryan Wielk is co-founder of Beemgee, the web tool dedicated to story development. He also coaches authors on dramaturgy and structure. After graduating from Glasgow University with an MA Hons in English Language and German he was called to Berlin to teach at the Humboldt University. He has since worked for top German publishers, before launching his author software company in 2015.