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April 18, 2023 | Shannon Smith

B-Roll Bank is housing all your content needs

A product of Big Slate Media, this content storage and management software won the top prize at the 2023 What's the Big Idea? Pitch Competition.

It started with a drone.

“It was a side gig for me,” said Jonathan Halley. “I was working at a web development company, and I bought a drone one day and was like, ‘I want to fly drones for a living. So I’m going to try and see what I can do.’”

That’s how Big Slate Media was born. What started as an aerial photography company in 2015 has become one of East Tennessee’s largest media production companies under the direction of Halley.

“It’s what we call a content creation agency, which is a totally made-up thing,” he said. “But the idea is that we don’t quite fit in the typical agency category because we have all this production capability. And then we don’t quite fit as a production company because we have all this agency capability.”

What was once Halley and his drone is now a team of 16 full-time staff members in video production and marketing, creating content for the likes of RedBull, HGTV, Clayton Homes, KUB, Bell, and other big and small names in between.

“When we go out and we shoot a 30-second spot, we’re going to come away with more than 30 seconds worth of footage,” said Halley. “That sits on our server and wastes away. Our client never sees it.”

All that video they shoot has to go somewhere, and the recycle bin on the computer desktop isn’t an option. Because in a world of social media, wouldn’t those customers want that footage for future posts?

“Everybody needs to be able to post their stuff, so we wanted to create a way for our clients to log in to our physical server and make it easy for them to find their footage and download it and use it on social,” said Halley.

That’s the premise of B-Roll Bank, a new hardware and software data management tool for production companies and clients alike. B-Roll Bank sells physical hard drives to bigger companies that already have the server infrastructure to hold data, then those companies rent out space on the hard drive to their clients for a monthly subscription fee. Halley said this is in beta testing right now with some of Big Slate’s video clients.

“I think I can safely say that we’ve retained every client we’ve pitched it to,” said Halley. “They’ve stuck around for a year or more. We’ve paid for about half of our storage costs for the year already just in the subscriptions that we have.”

Halley knew this was a good idea, so in order to keep building the software, he took B-Roll Bank and entered in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s ‘What’s the Big Idea?’ Pitch Competition. It’s a 48-hour mentoring workshop that helps solidify branding, a business plan, and more, ending with a pitch competition and the chance to take home a check for $10,000.

“I don’t know that I fully knew what I was getting into,” said Halley. “Those 48 hours were some of the most intense business strategy, marketing, financial advice, and configuration that I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m a serial entrepreneur, I’ve done a lot of this type of stuff. But that was by far and away the most intense 48 hours in my career as an entrepreneur.”

It was intense, but it paid off. Even altering his pitch minutes before going onstage to present to the judges, Halley won the whole thing.

Jonathan Halley works with his mentor team in the 48 hours leading up to the What’s the Big Idea? Pitch Competition.

“It was incredible. I cried a little onstage. It was a heartfelt moment, a culmination of the 48 hours, but also seven years of this idea that kind of bounced around my head,” said Halley. “For someone else, especially a panel of judges like that, to award me with the best idea in the room, that’s really validating and really gave me a lot of encouragement to continue on with it.”

The $10,000 prize will go a long way in developing the user experience and interface for the B-Roll Bank app, as Halley continues with the product’s beta testing. It’ll also help work on how the stored footage is made easily searchable.

“There’s a little bit of sorting and tagging, which currently we have our interns handle,” said Halley. “But the end goal, what we’re raising money for, is to make that AI-powered.”

As the hype of ‘What’s the Big Idea?’ dies down, the lessons learned do not. Halley said his 48 hours with his team of mentors continue to impact his daily work.

“Even in my business now I look at our pitches, I look at how we’re communicating,” he said. “How I write an email now is different based on that 48 hours because it really helped me streamline communication and make sure that I’m explaining things clearly.”

Halley said he’s honored to take home the top prize because of what great ideas he was up against. He’s just glad this pitch competition and other opportunities are available for Knoxville entrepreneurs.

“This gives a platform to people that maybe don’t have the resources or don’t know what the next step is growing their idea,” Halley said. “I think it’s important for people to realize that this exists and that it needs to continue to exist because it’s essential for equity and for the future of Knoxville.”

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