(note: the italian version of this article is available on 7th Floor online magazine)
Animoto was born a bit by chance (see the garage story) and with a very definite dream. Says Brad: “Our passion is automating the creative process for creating video content that has the type of production value you’d expect to see in film or television. Simply put, when users upload their images and music to Animoto our technology should be able to infer the best way to put it all together into a video – all with a click of a button. We want anyone to be able to make professional looking videos, not just super technical people who own and know sophisticated editing software“.
Animoto was founded by four 30-year-old buddies which went together to high school and three of them to college too. Their common link has always been that they’re all incredibly passionate people who love to work hard and inspire each other. Brad specialized in enterprise software at company called Onyx Software, while the other three found themselves working in film, television and music.
Animoto is based on the freemium (free + premium) model. Registered users can create 30 second Animoto videos for free. Creating a full-length video costs $3 USD or $30 USD for an annual all-access pass that allows for the creation of unlimited full-length videos. “We’ve also been experimenting with opt-in advertising that we call ‘Distractions.’ We’ve found that there’s lots of commercial demand for our technology so expect to see some interesting developments on that front in 2008“.
Brad explains their starting funding: “We bootstrapped our first six months to create the Animoto.com alpha release. We launched the alpha site to friends and family in March 2007 and the feedback was very positive (albeit, it was from our loved ones). While we were thrilled that our alpha testers were loving Animoto.com, our stomachs sank a bit as we started our budget number crunching“.
It takes a lot of processor power to render each unique video creation with a high quality production value, not to mention the bandwidth and storage needs.
“If our site was to become as popular as we had hoped the cost to run the infrastructure was going to mean that we’d require a fairly substantial infusion of cash which is something we wanted to avoid in order to maintain our ownership. We spent a lot of time planning for success so instead of rushing to launch Animoto.com publicly we took a step back and decided to completely re-architect our technical infrastructure on Amazon Web Services (AWS)“.
They decided to sacrifice nearly four months to move Animoto.com to AWS, but they knew it was the right thing to do. During that period they continued to improve everything about the site and, more importantly, that extra time gave Brad enough time to find the right investors for Animoto. “With the new technical infrastructure our capital requirements were smaller. In fact, our capital requirements were so small that I was able to look no further than our family and friends to raise sufficient funds to complete our Series A private placement“.
The site was launched as a private alpha in March 2007 and the private beta in July 2007. “Once we felt the private beta was solid we picked August 14, 2007, as our public launch date and a couple weeks before launch we invited a bunch a tech bloggers to take a sneak peak“. Tech bloggers loved the service and wrote favorably about Animoto and August 14th was the D-day for the press release which made them public.
“In hindsight, we probably should have focused less on the tech circles and more on mainstream audiences; that’s where our marketing focus is now“.
Animoto allows users to retrieve photos from sites like Picasa, Flickr, Facebook and SmugMug to create videos and during 2008 the team will concentrate in strengthening the links with these and other communities.
“We see social platforms like OpenSocial and Facebook as great ways to get more people familiar with Animoto. The very nature – and brilliance – of a social platform, however, means that social networks like those from Google and Facebook can benefit from the value of apps like ours without needing to acquire companies like us“.
In any case, during the first months of Animoto’s life, several companies have expressed their interest in what these guys are cooking. “It was pretty cool to hear from Google and be invited to their campus to join their OpenSocial initiative just a few weeks after our public launch“.
advice for entrepreneurs
- There’s nothing better than working with people you really trust, admire and are inspired by
- Prove the feasibility of your idea as early as possible
- Plan for success; failure means you simply move on to the next idea
- Always take more investment than you think you need if it’s available
– birthdate: Aug 2006
– employees / age range: 7 full-time & 4 part-time / 23-32 yrs old
– target audience: anyone who has access to digital images
– pc, mac, linux or who cares as long as it does the job? “I use a PC for my business function but all of our engineers and designers use Macs. Our entire web infrastructure is on Linux“.
– success: in the first four months since launching, Animoto video creations have been viewed more than 10 million times.
“We thought Animoto videos from MySpace bands would account for a large percentage of these views since Animoto is the perfect music video creator but it’s been amazing and inspiring to see the different types of videos our users are creating with Animoto: snowboarders touting their latest insanities, Facebook-fanatics crafting their latest “who-am-I” video profiles, football teams reliving their big Friday night win, animal-lovers that can’t stop sending us videos of their pets, online daters trying to score just one date with a normal person, DJ’s recreating that last night of Burning Man, models and actors working on their portfolio submissions, jazz quartets experimenting with live performance visuals, bikers bragging about the latest mountain they’ve conquered with evidence of bruises and blood, nature photographers showcasing their latest spread, real estate brokers looking to get top dollar for their listings, third-grade students surprising their teachers with their class presentations, illustrators discovering how to inject their art with even more life, conference speakers needing to kick-start their sleepy audiences, party organizers promoting the next hot bar scene, car enthusiasts boasting their new rims, brides creating the perfect wedding videos, aspiring film writers producing clever comedy shorts, memorabilia collectors showing off their collections, new parents proudly announcing the arrival of their new one, and even families keeping in touch with their sons and daughters serving in Iraq“.
His interests include anything that involves physical activity but favorites include football, mountain biking, running, skiing, snowboarding. His latest hobbies include photography and home improvement.
– Past experience that was useful for launching Animoto: “At Onyx Software, I managed various teams and was always involved in the selling and implementing of our software. I use my sales and management skills everyday at Animoto. Near the end of my tenure at Onyx I managed the team that provided a lot of the reports to our Board of Directors. At the time, Onyx was a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ. I’ve found the skills of being able to analyze a company from a top-down and bottom-up perspective essential“.
– What digital app/site/service has changed your working experience for good? “the iPhone”
– Digital entrepreneurs you admire? “All who give back in an philanthropic way“.