The constant stream of innovation within our industry can cloud the digital realm and make it difficult for marketers to separate the wheat from the chaff. In October 2011, the iMedia Breakthrough Summit addressed this problem by gathering the industry's most dependable trend spotters to identify tech startups with the potential to break through the clutter.
The Breakthrough Summit introduced the iMedia Next Wave Startup Challenge and Showcase. More than 200 companies were nominated to compete, and with the help of an advisory board and voting among the iMedia community, nine finalists were selected to compete live at the summit. From the list of nine, three technology startups were named the 2011 Next Wave winners: Viddy, Keepio, and Receept.
- Viddy, launched in April 2011, is a mobile social application that enables users to capture, produce, and share 15-second clips of video
- Referred to as "a Facebook for products," Keepio is a social network that invites enthusiasts and collectors to track, share, buy, and sell the products and brands that interest them
- Receept, founded in 2011, is an online platform for receipt aggregation and digital delivery
iMedia recently caught up with these companies to find out what they've been up to since their Next Wave victories and to get some valuable advice for other startups hoping to break through. (And not a moment too soon, as nominations have now opened for this year's Next Wave competition. Submit yours today!)
Let's see what last year's winners had to say.
Viddy's CMO Evan White
iMedia Connection: How has winning iMedia's Next Wave competition affected Viddy? What have you been up to since?
Evan White: When Viddy won the iMedia Next Wave competition, we had only been available in the app store for six months. It was an exciting moment for us, as we were given recognition by some of the most influential individuals in the advertising space. Since October, we have been prioritizing our product and community and have grown an active, creative network of Viddyographers around the globe.
iMedia: At October's Breakthrough Summit, you said that Viddy had accrued more than 800,000 downloads. What kind of numbers are you seeing now?
White: To date, Viddy has 26 million registered users and adding 1 million new registered users daily. The user growth has been fast over the past year; it took eight months to hit 1 million, and now we are at 26 million after 13 months.
iMedia: With so many competing social mobile applications, how does Viddy stand out? What does Viddy offer that others don't?
White: Viddy truly is the easiest way for someone to capture, beautify, and share video content. With the touch of a finger, Viddy users can make their life moments by editing, adding a filter and music, and then quickly sharing that video with their friends and family via email, text, Facebook, or Twitter.
iMedia: Viddy has been backed by some big-name celebrity influencers. Any exciting names you want to drop?
White: Viddy is backed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Omniture founder Josh James, Skull Candy chairman Jeff Kearl, Roc Nation (the record label and entertainment company co-founded by Jay-Z), Overbrook Entertainment (founded by Will Smith and manager James Lassiter), ShoeDazzle founder Brian Lee, and professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, among others. We also have a lot of celebrity users including: Snoop Dogg, Bill Cosby, Katie Couric, Linkin Park, T-Pain, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jamie Kennedy, Lennox Lewis, Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan, and Jimmie Johnson.
iMedia: During the last summit, you touched on working with Disney to promote its 2011 film "The Muppets." Tell me about how that partnership ended up taking shape.
White: Disney was looking for creative ways to promote the film, and Viddy was one of the many social media tools they decided to use as part of that effort. The partnership allowed for Viddy's user base to add one to 10 Muppet's characters to mobile videos. In the first month alone, we saw over 20,000 Muppet Viddys created.
iMedia: You have described Viddy as the Instagram of video. What needs to happen for Viddy to achieve Instagram-like success?
White: We are focused on improving our product every day and providing a better experience for the community. We want to build a good business, so we'll continue to seek marquis partners who will drive forward our mission and help us to iterate on the Viddy product and platform.
Keepio's co-founder and CEO Dave Durand
iMedia: How has winning iMedia's Next Wave competition affected Keepio? What have you been up to since?
Durand: We had some great publicity from our win. We have gained a number of members and are still pursuing fundraising. Right now, we are very focused on the pursuit of mobile and are positioning ourselves as "Instagram for the products we love." With this next round of funding, we envision a lot of changes and will be simplifying the overall experience.
iMedia: Elaborate on Keepio's growth. How many members are sharing their interests through your network?
Durand: Right now we are getting close to 10,000 members. Although relatively small, we have some very passionate users. Our goal right now is to focus on building out the mobile platform and then getting far more aggressive on our marketing strategies. Our members want mobile, and it is a natural fit for an application like this. We are excited to fulfill our member's requests. We own another company, called ForestGiant.com, that focuses on mobile development (for companies like GE and Michelin), so this is right up our alley if we can align ourselves with the right investors.
iMedia: In an environment teaming with social networks, how has Keepio managed to differentiate itself from the competition?
Durand: The market is competitive, no doubt, but I think we have something that is unique. Our members are primarily collectors and enthusiasts. They love their products and love having the ability to show-off, discuss, and discover new products. Sure, we are up against the Pinterests of the world, but we are laser focused on the products you own and the ones you want. You won't see recipes on Keepio. In fact, 60 percent of our users right now are male. When we aggressively target the collector and enthusiast market with this next raise, we will be honing in on a niche that has really been longing for a tool like Keepio.
Also, having run a very specialized interactive firm for so many years, we believe that we can create an exceptional user experience wherever you are viewing the site -- on your desktop or through an app -- that will provide an enjoyable, connected utility to our members that far exceeds their expectations.
We want you to keep it all on Keepio.
iMedia: Users are able to buy and sell on sites like Craiglist and eBay. What does Keepio offer that these sites don't?
Durand: This is very true. What makes Keepio different is that it provides a path to purchase. On the sites you mentioned, it is all about just buying and selling. It is not about all the things that happen before and after the point of purchase. That discussion is something that we want to harness at Keepio. That is where a person discovers, learns from their peers, and their purchasing decisions are influenced. That is powerful, and we haven't seen eBay or Craigslist really leverage the power of social influence. We want to do that, and we want to make it fun for our users to find new things they may have never known existed and provide an outlet to buy and discuss those products.
Also, we are entertaining the notion of doing away with our marketplace short-term. We are looking to align ourselves with another company that allows users to select an item and push it to Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and a few other more liquid marketplaces. Once the item sells, it is pulled from the other sites. We do not want to compete with the eBays of the world, but would prefer to align ourselves with them if possible.
iMedia: What is your "dream vision" for Keepio? What's the five-year plan?
Durand: We want Keepio to be the definitive place to learn about products (geared toward collectors and enthusiasts). We want people to use our mobile application whenever they are on the hunt for a new product or looking to add something to their collection. We want people to share the products they own and show them off. The things we own define us as much as our emotions and feelings do (the things we share on Facebook). Keepio provides an outlet to show-off, discover, discuss, and exchange, and we hope it becomes the best place online to do that.
iMedia: What advice would you give startup entrepreneurs?
Durand: Start small. Follow Eric Reis's lean startup model. Learn from your consumer base, and build a prototype that consists of just the core functionality. Make sure people will use it. We were guilty of throwing a bit too much in at the beginning. Our offering wasn't lean enough. Now we are going back to simplify things, which is OK, but not ideal. Every startup you embark on is a learning experience, and what we have learned from Keepio so far is something I am very grateful for. Stick with it, and enjoy the process as much as the destination.
Receept's founder and CEO Kevin Pfefferle
iMedia: Tell me about Receept since winning iMedia's Next Wave competition. What prompted your decision to put the company on hold?
Pfefferle: After our Next Wave win at the iMedia Summit in October, I returned to Cincinnati to complete The Brandery startup accelerator program. Following the program's demo day at the end of October and follow-up pitches in New York City, I had several promising conversations with potential investors. The biggest weakness of Receept was that I didn't have a business-focused cofounder, which left me stretched incredibly thin between the technical and business responsibilities of building the company. This balancing act made it very difficult to secure funding as prospective investors rightfully expected to see constant progress on both fronts.
iMedia: Tell me about your new startup ChoreMonster. What is the inspiration behind it?
Pfefferle: ChoreMonster was one of the other startups participating in The Brandery accelerator program alongside Receept. Founded by Chris Bergman and Paul Armstrong, ChoreMonster is a web and mobile application that gives kids a reason to do their chores using technology that they know and love. I had developed a good friendship with Chris and Paul during the program, and was impressed by their progress solidifying the concept, building a working prototype, and securing seed funding during and following our time at The Brandery. They had a need for a strong technical lead to build out a scalable web app, and that's exactly where my core strengths and passion are. It has been a great fit as the three of us fill the three core needs of any early startup team: the Hustler (Chris), Designer (Paul), and Hacker (myself).
iMedia: How does your experience with Receept affect your approach to ChoreMonster?
Pfefferle: My experience with Receept has made me really appreciate what ChoreMonster founders Chris and Paul do on a daily basis. I have always enjoyed engineering good-looking software, but I'm not a designer. I was lucky to have a great design partner with Receept, so supporting the incredible design of ChoreMonster that Paul is creating every day has been a continued joy in that area. The creativity and detail that he brings to the ChoreMonster world and the monster characters that inhabit it makes my job so much more fun and really has become a competitive advantage for us.
That appreciation is multiplied with Chris handling all of the business development as CEO, which is the part of running Receept that really stretched me. He's a tireless networker, and it's great knowing that he is worrying about investors, business models, partnerships, and everything else, which means I can focus squarely on engineering software. I have a good base understanding of what running the business side of a startup is like thanks to Receept, so it has been very easy for us to discuss what is going on in his work without a lot of extra explanation.
iMedia: What advice would you give startup entrepreneurs?
Pfefferle: Really focus on who else you're going to go through the process of building a startup with. Make sure that you're working with people whose strengths fill in your own weaknesses not only in skills and ability, but also in what they are truly passionate about. By combining the right team of people, each one can focus on what they love doing most, and loving what you're doing is the only thing that will sustain your effort long enough to build a successful business.
Kyle Montero is an editor at iMedia Connection.
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