Last week, the Festival of Media Global 2013 happened in Montreux. I was fortunate enough to be invited as an official blogger (again!) and I had the chance to interview Mr. Risicato, winner of the startup competition M.A.P. (but in 2012) with his startup VideoHub. Many thanks to Anthony to answer my few questions. Here they are!
Could you introduce yourself with a few words about your career so far? Why did you start Videohub, what was the Eureka moment (if any)?
I’ve been a digital native for 18 years, working at the intersection of marketing and technology. I was fortunate to work at DoubleClick (now part of Google) starting in 1998, just as the digital economy began to take off. That experience, of bringing Brands to Technology, got me “hooked” on this whole Internet fad… My interest in VideoHub was spurred by seeing the opportunity to solve real challenges for marketers and publishers and to move the video ecosystem forward quickly.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey so far?
One of my favorite quotes is from Arthur C. Clark, circa 1961:
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Much of what we do at VideoHub is fairly sophisticated, and that can often seem like “magic” to our clients. The critical work for us is to create a bridge for clients from what “is” to what is “possible”. The journey to date has been a successful one, as we see brands embrace video (and VideoHub) as their path to understanding the true value of video.
For most people, starting a video ads platform could seem quite crazy with ubiquitous presence of video giants like Youtube or Vimeo. You know, you’ve probably faced the silly question “What if Youtube…?”. What would you like to tell to people who face these questions and who are afraid by potential huge competitors?
We love a strong market! In the end, if you, or any company, can build and market solutions that resonate with clients, the rest takes care of itself. However, we do make sure that what VideoHub provides from an analytics standpoint can coexist easily with whatever systems/tools clients currently use. For example, if you already have an ad server, that’s great and we can just plug VideoHub into that workflow. On the other hand, if you need a full “stack” solution, our platform can handle that. The trick is flexibility.
How long have you been working on the project before getting customers or investors? And what did you get first?
We spent about a year doing market trials, product testing and beta tests. This allowed us to appropriately package a solution that the market wanted, rather than us just guessing at the market needs. I am fortunate in that VideoHub is a “startup within a startup”, and a separate division of Tremor Video, Inc. so everyone from our investors to our employees are aligned.
What is your best souvenir so far? And the worst?
Winning the Festival of Media’s Hot Company of the Year was really great for us! I have a very short memory for “worsts”, so NONE!
What are the key challenges for a startup in the media industry?
As I mentioned, being able to have a product that fits into a client’s workflow, solves a pressing need and focuses on the long-term value of the product tips the scales in your favor as you bring a new product to market. Marketers and publishers have limited time and bandwidth, and you must be able to show them that what you do has both immediate AND long-term value. Missing either one makes for a difficult hill to climb.
Can you give us tips and tricks to deal with big brands, as a startup?
One thing I learned long ago, is that big brands have a way of doing business, and you must respect that. If you believe you can change the worldview of a Fortune 500 brand with a PowerPoint deck, you may want to reconsider your approach. Building trust and credibility with big brands is key to having a long-term relationship and a rapidly scaling business. Don’t get me wrong, large brands will test here and there, and push some time and attention into a specific project. But if you want a brand to say, “you are my solution, let’s go”, you better understand their business, how you fit and create champions within the organization.
And about internationalization? How tricky is this?
International is super hard to do right. Many US startups believe that if they just drop a few bodies down in a country, sales will magically happen. Doesn’t really work that way, as too many international clients have seen that movie before, and suffer from a lack of support after the deal is done. My advice is to choose careful which markets you want to enter, ones that are strategic to your business. These are not necessarily the largest markets, by the way, they are ones that are a good fit from a product, business and culture standpoint. Once you have a foothold in those key markets, then you can look to expansion.
What did the award “Hot company of 2012” by M.A.P. change for Videohub?
Suddenly, we started receiving inbound requests to understand what VideoHub is and does and how to use it at their agency or site. That had a meaningful impact on our sales and marketing efforts. It’s always nice when your phone rings as a startup!
What was the best advice you’ve received so far?
Best advice I ever received was,
“Don’t mess up. But if you do, FIX IT.”
This simple guideline drives home 2 really key concepts:
- Set the bar really high and strive for excellence without compromise.
- However hard you try, you will miss the bar occasionally, so own the mistake and get busy correcting it immediately.
If you live by that simple guideline, you are putting yourself in a position to succeed. Now you just have to do it!