Monday, July 10, 2006
Interview with Greg Pulier, Founder of Interactive Video Technologies
My interview today is with Greg Pulier, founder of Interactive Video Technologies (www.ivtweb.com), a Los Angeles-based firm that is in the video webcasting space. IVT just raised a round of funding from Monitor Venture Partners and Tudor Ventures. The firm plays in what looks like a very hot video over the Internet market, with an enterprise twist.
Ben Kuo: Tell me a little bit about IVT--what do you do?
Greg Pulier: We've been around for awhile, almost six years. We've been focused on selling software to large corporations, mostly the Fortune 1000, enabling companies to create, manage, deploy, and monitor everything related to video as it pertains to presentations, video on demand, or live events. The kind of live events we handle are very large, handling interactivity, synchronous slides, and a wide variety of formats, out to over 100,000 people simultaneously--all while getting feedback from users. Customers use our products to create training materials, press releases, new product announcements, and to allow CEOs to do webcasts to companies. That's for internal as well as external viewing. It's a variety of industries and applications. What's exciting about this is it's not a niche market.
Ben Kuo: How do you compete with companies like WebEx?
Greg Pulier: We don't compete with WebEx, or things like Microsoft Live Meeting. We're in a different space. I'll bet you've never been on WebEx with 20,000 other people, and you probably never will be. We're focused on large audiences, we're focused on presentations, and not on collaborative meetings. With tools like WebEx you usually have a small group where you can take control, share a screen, and everything is WebEx branded. Our stuff is completely branded the way you want, and is customizable to exactly what you want. We also have archives--which are also very customizable, so when you're done with a live event, you can archive it any way you like. For example, you might have a live webcast but choose not to include the question and answer session.
Who we do compete with are Media Publisher and Accordent, although those companies have a different focus from us. Both of those companies have actually raised money recently, and it's good for us that competitors have also raised a bit of money. Accordent is focused on education, where we also compete, with a low end solution, but that's not our primary focus. We're much higher end. Media Publisher is focused on portals, which is not a place where we are playing right now.
Ben Kuo: Why is everyone in this space raising money?.
Greg Pulier: My sense is that the market is really here now. This is the first time we've raised money for the purpose of expanding the company. I have a feeling that the market has finally going crazy. Video on the internet has probably been one of the hottest topics on the Internet recently, from the consumer side, which has been getting all of the attention. Companies like YouTube and CNN are giving video away, and big sides like AOL and Yahoo Video are on the forefront of what the business is all about. The entire entertainment industry is starting to think hard about what this means. It's different for us in the corporate world. Video has really come of age. You pretty much can't name a big company that isn't doing webcasting. In fact, I would almost say that you'd be able to find a webcast--whether live or achived--on the home page or close to it at big companies. And that's just the eternal stuff you can see. Not only is this area exploding on the internet, the use of video is just going crazy at companies. We're excited to be a big part of that.
Ben Kuo: What's the background of the founders, and what's the history of the company?
Greg Pulier: The background is we started before streaming media existed. We've been focused on interactive video from the very beginning. We started out designing old-school interactive video presentations, running off of CD ROMs and kiosks. We've done those for large auto companies to financial companies. They used to run these everywhere, from their stores to training facilities. Slowly but surely, as video became viable on the internet, and we just kept on improving our suite of tools. Our platform enables people to manage and do this stuff themselves. We do have a service side to the company, a small percentage of what we do, but in the long run we tend to migrate it to them. That's a typical evolution of technology like this. It starts as completely services based, to where things mature and customers can do things themselves. That's where we really push hard to get customer to do things themselves--designing content, archiving events, and holding live events. We also tools that the masses can use--not just people who can author multimedia. Our typical client develops media at a big company, but we can also support any employee that wants to take a webcam and record their PowerPoint. For example, say you have a PowerPoint that want to record because you aren't going to be seeing a customer in person. You can bring up that PowerPoint, hit record, and go through the slides. We create a very nice presentation, including an audio podcast and video podcast and where you can jump to any point in the presentation. The point is our products are not just for live events and on-demand presentation.
Ben Kuo: What are you planning on using the VC funding for?
Greg Pulier: On that topic of the masses creating presentations--getting the word out to that type of a market is different from hitting up Fortune 100 companies. It requires more expenditures on the marketing side of things. Technology wise, we're very ahead of the game, but we plan on using some of that funding to keep that momentum going.
Ben Kuo: So it sounds like you might be making a consumer push soon?
Greg Pulier: We want to make sure we really, really dominate the corporate world first. We're doing well and want to solidify that, and grow that. Much of that marketing will be corporate. We're doing big things with IBM, and are focused with them on a few things. People like Cisco and Akamai are also partners. We're focused on those partners because they can really help a small company like us. Our focus right now is on the corporate market, but you might see a consumer push from us in six months.
Ben Kuo: Finally, my last question is--what keeps other people out of this market, and what advantage do you have?
Greg Pulier: Our technology is really the top of the top. It's extremely scalable and very reliable. You don't have to worry if you are going to do a webcast with Charles Schwab or Michael Dell or Bill Gates--these are the types of webcasts we have done. If something goes wrong during one of those webcasts, you're going to regret going with a cut rate solution. We also use open standards--we don't rely on just Windows Media or RealPlayer, we work with all of those, and are browser independent. We work with Firefox or Internet Explorer. Some of our other big advantages are we're very customizable. With our competitors, if you wanted to change your template, you would be engaging in a service contract with them. With us, you just drag out a few things with our software, choose the images you want to use, and you're done. Our software is very mature. Companies like AT&T have been using our software for years, and every time our service contract comes up for review they do a full review of all of the competing solutions before renewing our contract. There are full time employees at AT&T whose job is just running our software. They use our software to run a wide range of events within the company. There are similar stories at Ernst & Young and Deloitte & Touche. We really don't lose to our competitors in our market space.
Ben Kuo: Thanks!