15 de julho de 2009

Two startup exec profiles under perspective

It was around two months ago when I learned about QuickTV, a video delivery startup based on UK. When I got to their website the service wasn't ready yet, nevertheless I decided to subscribe to their blog's RSS just to know when they turn beta. And as soon as they turned beta I could realize how similar their service is when compared to my company's service. We both run under SaaS model, and we both play in the online video arenas. The most evident difference between us is that they are greatly funded by angels and VCs, something that I'm still working on.

Today I got the news that they hit the front page at Microsoft's startup promotion website (www.microsoftstartupzone.com). In a brief interview, QuickTV's co-founder Nick Bell talks about the company and his personal profile. Since our companies are so similar, I have decided to add my own answers to the questionnaire right below Nick's. This was fun thing to do. Check it out.

Who are you?
NB - Co-founder of Quick.tv and serial entrepreneur.
RA - Founder of Tee(V), second time entrepreneur after almost ten years.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘company of the day’ per Microsoft?
NB - Flattered.
RA - Hmm, I'm going to skip this one.

What did you do before creating your company?
NB - I have successfully founded and exited three startups prior to launching Quick.tv. I sold the first at the age of 16 whilst still at school!
RA - I have worked as a business consultant for five years initially, then I moved to knowledge management and sales training areas. In both cases I worked for international IT companies in Brazil.

How did you get the idea? What s the genesis?
NB - I came up with the idea whilst watching the movie Fight Club. In one scene Edward Norton’s apartment is shown as the Ikea catalogue. Product descriptions appear in the video – I suddenly thought, how great would it be in online videos allowed you to do something similar, then idea then snowballed.
RA - I have sold, implemented and used both intranet and e-learning systems (LMS) for many years, and I have always felt there were something wrong about them. They were too complicated to be used by the average employee of any company. Then I had an insight that learning in the company should be like using Google and YouTube working together in a common platform.

What do you sell? What is your company’s mission?
NB - www.quick.tv is a web-based ‘Video-as-a-Service’ platform, allowing the injection of dynamic and interactive features into online video clips. Aimed at business users, productions created through Quick.tv transform the viewer experience by prompting them to click on items within the video.

A full range of intuitive drag’n’drop tools include hotspots for e-commerce, real-time voting and graphs, RSS feeds for live data, forms for viewers to apply for offers, hyperlinked text and image overlays, chapters for ease of navigation and more.

The end-to-end service delivers file transcoding and storage, player and play-out options and detailed analytics both on the video itself and the viewers’ use of the interactive features. It even has an editing tool to re-cut video clips online.

Templates and style sheets make the deployment of large numbers of interactive videos easy, leaving users free to monitor the increased monetisation and viewer engagement benefits the service has to offer.

RA - Tee(V) is a SaaS "video as a service" platform as well. It allows companies to build subscription based services to their customers and partners, and, of course, monetize on them.

Customers can create their own channel delivery structure with content segregation to service partners and customers differently. Even our customer's customers can benefit from the service by creating their own video delivery structure to meet their specific communications and training needs.

Our service also delivers file transcoding and storage in a "cloud CDN".

What is your market?
NB - Any business which is using online video that wants to enrich the viewer experience, and add monetization opportunities to their assets, in particular, publishers, e-tailers and agencies.
RA - Any business that had experienced difficulty while implementing e-learning in the past. Specially e-learning for customer and/or partner education.

Any clients? References? Partners?
NB - We are about to unveil a host of big name users from national newspapers to high street retailers… watch this space. We currently partner with several advertising networks such as Inskin and Doubleclick and work closely with content distribution network CDNetworks.
RA - Yes, a middle size IT company with offices in 8 countries in Latin America. They train technical resources in around thirty different sales channels and services partners using our solution. Extending their reach while keeping cost down was imperative for them.

Funding history? VCs? BA?
NB - Having initially funded the business with my business partner Tod Yeadon we have now raised circa £1.2m from a mixture of angels and VC fund North Star Equity Investors.
RA - I founded it myself. When I got the first deals in, it became easier to invest in infrastructure and product development. I'm already speaking to two angels and a VC interest in the company.

Growth? Internationalization?
NB - Just launching we are very excited about the growth prospects of Quick.tv we are looking to open an office in New York early next year.
RA - Not for now. We are concentrating all our efforts in niche markets in Brazil, doing face-to-face sales and improving relationship with customers.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?
NB - 8/4
RA - 3/1

Are you hiring? If yes, what? Where?
NB - Yes we are hiring developers and sales superstars in London and Newcastle (UK).
RA - No, we are fully noded company.

Which platform are you building on? Why?
NB - Quick.tv is built on a ASP .net platform with SQL DB. The application is FLEX. We are also working on a “top secret” Silverlight 3.0 project!
RA - We are also ASP .NET with SQL Server. We use ffmpeg for transcoding. Something tells me we may be moving to Flex in the future, with Adobe Media Servers for encoding and streaming in the back end.

Do you have any Software IP? Is there something that you’re the only one to do on the market?
NB - Our software was built from the ground up. We have the most advanced interactive editing tools – our intuitive drag and drop environment makes it possible for people to achieve stunning and engaging responses very easily. A lot of work went into making the user experience painless but powerful.
RA - Yes, some of the business rules we run in the service are unique in the market. We'll be patenting them soon.

Who’s your role model?
NB - Larry Page and Sergey Brin – so clichéd I know but I love what Google has achieved in such as short space of time.
RA - Ricardo Semler for management; Jason Fried for software development and lifestyle; Seth Godin for marketing and innovative thinking.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet areas?
NB - SAAS businesses which help business make more money.
RA - Definitely SaaS. The closest it is to core business, the better.

Looking for funding? If yes, how much?
NB - Yes c£3m.
RA - Yes, but can't tell how much.

What about the BizSpark Program? What do you think? Are you going to join? Why?
NB - The BizSpark Program has opened up several opportunities for us and provided a very solid support network. I often meet with Bindi to discuss new ideas and use her as a sounding board. Our developers love the free software too.
RA - I like the program! Just don't know if applicants from Brazil can be accepted.

Any advice to young Software entrepreneurs?
NB - Don’t give up and network, network, network!
RA - Close a couple of good deals. Build reference with them. Take your prospects to talk to them about how they could benefit from the service you're offering.

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