NY Video 2.0 May Meetup Recap
The NY Video 2.0 Meetup co-hosted by Streaming Media East was last night at the Hilton. There were over 500 people in attendance, making this the biggest meetup yet.
Overall, this was a great meetup and quite entertaining. In honor of the American Idol finals, Yaron invited three VCs to judge the presenters and offer constructive feedback. Also, at the end of the night, the audience voted via SMS text (www.pollseverywhere.com) to determine the “winner”. Like American Idol, the VCs’ reviews impacted the audience judging at the end. Quick summary below.
EkkoTV – Andrew Sternthal, Co-Founder & CEO
Ekko TV is an online distribution platform that strives to aggregate video, audio, and IM to promote conversations. In the demo, 3 people talked amongst themselves through a webcam, as they watched a video together. One person can control the video while the others watch. You can do this with IM as well. While it’s an impressive platform, I have to question the value prop. Chris from First Round Capital wondered how important it is to engage people with live video real-time. I agree that this might be a “nice to have” but not a pain point for most people out there, especially with video viewing. With the growing multi-tasking culture brought on by the web, I wonder if people are going to feel less compelled to engage in real-time social video viewing. I do think there is an audience for this, but my gut tells me most people would prefer just IM aggregation and not have to deal with the chaos of group video viewing and the attentiveness that this would require. That said, I think there are instances where this type of technology could be very useful (e.g., online poker, focus groups). It just depends on how they want to position their business and where they can make the most impact.
Vusion – Michael, Account Director – The VP of Marketing was supposed to present but couldn’t be there, so Michael stepped up in his place. I think Michael did a great job stepping in at the last minute, but I think the original presenter could have sold the product a little bit better. Michael started off with a few powerpoint slides that showed the market opportunity (I think they should always do that). The slides indicated that right now, people watch on average 40 hours of TV per week. By 2012, 15-20% of this time will shift over to Internet TV (sidenote: look at CW’s troubles as an example of this shift from TV). On top of this trend, laptops are selling at a faster rate than desktops, which supposedly signals that people are using their laptops as entertainment/video viewing devices. The main point is that there is a rapidly-growing market opportunity for high quality, long format online video. According to Michael, 95% of current broadband users have the capability to watch DVD-quality videos over the Internet (1MB/second), and 80% have the ability to watch streaming HD-quality (2MBs/second). Vusion’s demo was impressive as Michael streamed a full-screen high quality video with no pixilation, no noticeable buffering, and instant forward scanning. There are certainly competitors out there but I don’t think Vusion has to be the market leader to do well. We’re heading to a point where the standard online video will be high quality.
BestTV – Oded Felled, Founder & VP BD – BestTV allows businesses to launch and manage their own video portal. They provide white label enterprise software that allows a company to integrate and manage content easily. Unlike some competitors, they stay away from doing anything on the front-end. Instead, they provide a 200-page SDK to the businesses and allow the in-house folks to develop and manage their content. One VC made a great point that if they are essentially giving the power of content management to the client to manage, it’s unlikely that their target clients are going to be big companies with large financial resources. Rather, it will be the little guy who needs to save on costs and are willing to do it themselves. I think this was an interesting point by the VC, but it can work the other way too. Rather than getting bogged down on execution, BestTV can manage their business with a smaller staff and focus on sales. I have to imagine that their variable costs are going to be small and margins high, if they don’t have to provide the resources to execute on portal development.
Magnify.net – Steven Rosenbaum, Founder & CEO – Steven was the best presenter of the bunch. Magnify showed off Magnify Publisher which focuses on helping bloggers find videos and photos to upload to their blog. The value prop centers around “discovery” and making multimedia blogging easy. Steven says that multimedia blogging will explode, which sounds about right. Magnify Publisher allows a blogger to search popular video and photo sites (e.g., youtube, flickr) within the blogging program (e.g., wordpress) and seamlessly move video/photo content of their choosing into their blog post. Magnify is smart to move into the blogging space and I think Publisher is in a great position to help bloggers. My main concern is how do you make money off of this? People who write blogs expect to use blogging services for free, so is Magnify banking on selling it as a premium service? Or perhaps the blogging site will pay for it to attract more users. I’m just uncertain how much revenue this could generate in the long run.
Adotube – Joshua Winograd, Chief Revenue Officer – Adotube is a contextual advertising company that is publisher-centric. They give businesses the control in deciding how to implement ad campaigns (e.g., what type of ad units, etc). Their ads are also lead-generation so you can click on the ad that is overlaid on the video and be sent to that business’ website. Unlike some competitors, they have some very unique ad units such as animated characters who walk across the screen to promote. The big issue raised by someone in the audience is that the ad units that were presented were so customized, that it could take a lot of resources to use them, which ad agencies may not want to commit. Although I don’t know how many different types of ad units a business can choose from, the animated characters shown in the demo (while very cool) was also distracting to me. Depending on the program being shown, I’d be wary to throw in an advertisement that disrupts the viewing experience.
After the presentation, three VCs commented (Chris from First Round Capital, Danny from DFJ Gotham, and Charlie – sorry, I didn’t hear where he was from). Chris and Danny chose Best TV as the start-up with the most potential. Charlie chose Magnify. Yaron then opened up the polls for the audience to vote via SMS text. Not surprisingly, when we all voted, Best TV and Magnify went head-to-head with Best TV winning by a hair (2 votes). It was actually like watching a horse race as we could see votes changing in real-time.
Personally, I voted for Vusion. The category of high-quality streaming video is growing rapidly, and even if there are competitors in the space who are trying to make this work, I think there’s enough money to go around. I also liked Best TV but as Charlie (from the VC firm I didn’t catch the name of) put it, they’re a “purveyor to the weak”, meaning they won’t cash in from big clients with money to spend. They’re going after the clients who don’t have the money to spend and are willing to figure out how to do it through their 200 page SDK.
If you want to see video of the event and read more about the presenters, I recommend going to http://www.centernetworks.com.