Monday, April 16, 2012

Why Mobile Video Startups are Driving Changes

My second "expert comment" piece for StrategyEye, UK based digital media intelligence firm...

EXPERT COMMENT: Vidquik CEO on why mobile video startups are driving changes

As Vidquik CEO I have my biases of how the ubiquity of video communications will affect current consumer habits. As a trend watcher, it's interesting to see how new video services affect and create new user behaviours and how it will eventually affect enterprises (a.k.a. the consumerization of enterprise software).

Two startups to watch in the mobile video space are Tango and Tout. Tango, a video communication service for mobile, is a peer-to-peer service similar to Apple's FaceTime, but it is cross-platform and not limited to just iOS. Its service has grown faster than Skype's initial growth rate. Two months after launch late last year, it hit over 4m users and now boasts over 23m users. Tango handles 2.5m call minutes everyday and the average call is four minutes in length.

Tout is a real-time video messaging service. It provides an easy-to-use video messaging service with a 15 second limit for each video clip. Over 13m visitors since it launched 11 months ago and over 3.7m in the last 30 days. Between 2-3m ‘Touts' shared across the social stream every week.

I recently spoke with Michael Downing, co-founder and CEO of Tout, to gain some further insights about his company and his thoughts on the mobile video space. The thesis and founding behind Tout was fascinating. Michael explained that Tout is a technology spin-out from SRI (Stanford Research Institute) and was based on SRI's long-standing thesis on the evolution of the web experience. They believe the next stage of the web will move beyond print concepts - dominated by text, flat and primarily a virtual experience - to a more "human, real and visual experience closer to a TV metaphor."

Michael explained that two products came from this general thesis, which was very interesting to learn. The first was Siri, a new voice interface that empowers users to "talk to the web." This is the primary differentiator in Apple's iPhone 4s and what some people called the greatest threat to Google.

Then there is Tout, which easily allows people to capture short 15-second videos through your smartphone. It was encouraging to hear from Michael how SRI's thesis runs similar to my viewpoint that video will become the de-facto form of communication versus text in the coming decade. He didn't go as far as my belief that video would replace SMS-based communication or even tweeting, but his response was insightful:

"I am not so sure that simple video messaging replaces SMS/texting anytime soon - but we do believe that overall the ‘social stream' is becoming more visual in nature... Pinterest is actually a great example of this. We believe there are specific kinds of applications that will help spearhead this more visual form of engagement on the web, these are applications wherein it's easier to look at your smartphone and talk directly to it as opposed to type something out on your keypad - and where the visual nature of your response/comment adds unique value."

I agree with Michael that there is an important trend to take notice of is that the web and our interactions with it are becoming more visual. This is important not only for startups, but Fortune 500 companies to begin incorporating into their online products, services and communications effort because online consumer preferences and behaviours eventually enter the workplace whether companies are ready for it or not.

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