One of the companies to keep a close eye on when looking for innovative technology is Animoto. I was interested in this video application that can transform slideshows into a multi-media experience and contacted Rebecca Brooks. She answered a number of questions about this company that has been receiving a lot of press lately. Animoto won the Webby award for “Best Services and Applications” website and was also the winner of the SXSW awards for the “Best Film and Video” website. Check out the Webby acceptance speech here:
Animoto describe itself as the quickest, easiest way to create and share breathtaking videos. It’s a web, mobile and social media service that generates professional quality videos from user pictures and video clips. It uses what it calls Cinematic Artificial Intelligence that analyzes the user’s pictures and music and applies sophisticated editing techniques to create a unique video every time.
Animoto started in humble surroundings. A team of four pulled all-nighters in the cramped New York apartment of co-founder Stevie Clifton. This team, that also consisted of the other founders; Jason Hsiao, Tom Clifton and Brad Jefferson started work in August 2006 motivated by the changes in communication and media brought about by digital imaging and the internet. The company was founded a year later. With a diverse background in television, film, music and software the team is still together 3 years later. It now consists of about 20 staff and operates from a spacious loft in New York having outgrown first the apartment and then a small office in downtown Manhattan.
Here’s a Animoto Demo with unseen images of Marilyn Monroe in partnership with LIFE.com:
What hasn’t changed is Animoto’s technology choice. While all software is developed in-house, it is hosted externally. This outsourced hosting allows Animoto the flexibility to deal with more users at a moment’s notice with minimal upfront costs. An example of this was a spike in video creations from 25.000 to 750.000 in four days following the launch of a Facebook application that couldn’t have been handled if the hosting was not outsourced.
Animoto users can go through a number of steps to create videos online. They can first upload their own images and logos, wether it’s business material or holiday snapshots. In a second stage text slides can be added and the order of the images can be changed, this is also where some images can be given higher visibility. In a next step pre-licensed music is selected or music can be uploaded. Once all the elements are in place Animoto creates a dynamic presentation that works with the music to create an audiovisual showcase.
Animoto users range from consumers who want to present their holiday pictures in a different way to companies looking to showcase products and services. While Animoto started small, with the help of friends and family and an early investment from Amazon.com, it has now raised more capital from Amazon.com, Madrona Venture Group and SoftTech VC to grow the business.
While building the company and obtining financial backing it has grown a large group of fans that constantly provide them with insightful feedback on improvements. It has learned to take this dialogue with users very seriously in an effort not to get distracted. In the meantime the exposure the company and its technology has had in the media is impressive with numerous mentions and interviews in both new and more traditional media, there’s definitely a buzz around this young company.
Animoto’s first product was targeted at consumers and was the only product for most of the first year. In June 2008 it launched a solution for businesses looking to produce quality online content. Animoto for Business and Photography quickly became one of the main sources of revenue. This solution is priced at $249,- and takes the video to full length, makes it white label, licenses the content for commercial use and adds in a number of other features. For consumers that want more there’s an upgrade for $30,- this takes the length of the video from a short 30 secs to unlimited.
Animoto has been cashflow positive since October 2008 and has 850.000 users with a fast growing number of business users on top of that. On the photography front, Animoto is working hard to ensuring a position as the industry’s standard video production tool. It also has a very successful Facebook application and an iPhone app. It has partnered with the Stock Media industry through iStockphoto, even attending their iStockalypse event this year.
With the launch of integrated video Animoto is aiming at companies that want to gain a competive online web-presence with engaging video content. The company has a partnership with Getty Images who provides video for this feature. So what’s next for Animoto? With video now introduced the team takes feedback from users and integrates the most popular requests into the product pipeline. The white label option and the ability to add text were examples of this. The company will continue to work on these ongoing improvements mixed with significant product launches. The team would like Animoto to be the easiest, most popular & accessible video editing tool for consumer.
This team feels video is going to be a key driver in helping businesses to gain a competitive online web-presence.