An estimated one in 2 million lobsters off the shores of America are blue. The odds of finding one are about as good as picking the “social video app” that’s going to be the next big thing among a sea of immitators. Stereotypes aren’t right 100 percent of the time, but they exist for a reason, and in photo and video sharing, the tendency for an early stage investor to quickly lose interest when pitched on companies in the space has been well earned. Most of what has being created is iterative at best, and certainly not transformative. Against this backdrop of preconceived negativity, any new market entrant has its work cut out for it.
Entering the market today with $2.5 million in funding from JK&B Capital and ATA Ventures, Flip video pedigree, and a host of potentially disruptive ideas, Fall 2012 DEMO conference startup Givit is looking to be the company that ushers in the Social Video 2.0 era. It has an uphill climb, for sure, but the company actually took a series of pleasantly out-of-the-box steps, quickly distinguishing itself as anything but a “me too” product.
The key innovation of Givit for iOS is its focus on highlighting the most interesting moments within recorded video and enabling real time editing while recording.
“It may be harsh, but most of the video content we create is uninteresting to anyone we’d share it with,” says ATA Ventures venture partner, former head of marketing for the Adobe Creative Suite, and Givit head of strategy Johnny Loiacono. “We believe people would rather see two minutes of little Billy’s soccer team highlights than the 26 minutes they recorded.”
In Givit parlance, a “highlight” is a seven-second video segment that can be captured during or post-recording, with the touch of a single button to grab the previous seven seconds. This segment can then be expanded, shortened, or shifted with a drag and drop interface in the app’s editor (available post-recording only). An unlimited number of such highlights can then be combined to create a final highlight reel.
The idea behind the product is that recording video is simple, but unedited footage is typically boring, and editing it in a way that makes it interesting is hard. Givit’s real time highlighting interface actually makes the process quicker and far more straightforward than is typically the case.
Givit offers effects as well, but not the type of irritating, overdone pseudo-vintage filters that have invaded other similar apps. The company instead focused on motion effects, including slow-motion and speed-up, as well as music and transitions to polish the highlight reel. Because the editing is completed locally, all changes can be previewed right on the device and without connectivity.
Music clips included within the app currently consists of approximately 20 tracks organized by theme, such as action, drama, funny, or happy. The content is licensed by Givit from independent artists, meaning that it can be shared free of messy copyright issues. In a cool twist, music volume and “transparency” can be adjusted from zero to 100 percent to allow for the natural video sound to play.
“The social video category needs a simple solution to make creation and sharing easy,” says Kostello. “We’ve rejected complexity for only the most useful video effects and controls people will want, giving them real power over their video.”
The newly launched app includes the obligatory social sharing features, including publish to Facebook and YouTube or share video privately and securely by email. Givit also offers a fully-synchronous micro-social network that enables in-app sharing, re-sharing, and commenting. The permissions afforded to viewers and recipients can be limited to reshare or download. The app offers users 5GB of free cloud storage to permanently share videos created within the app (so long as it remains among the 25 percent of startups that “make it”).
Givit is a new dba brand of VMIX Media, a company that provided the backend video technology and storage for Cisco following its acquisition of now defunct Flip line of cameras. When the tech giant decided to shudder Flip, its Flipshare service was integrated with Givit, which has since evolved beyond simply offering online storage. VMIX is in the proces of restructuring, following its pivot from a B2B to a consumer-facing business.
The company faces a litany of competitors in the mobile video creation and sharing space. On the sharing side are generation 1.0 services like SocialCam, Viddy, and Klip. Newcomers with more innovative editing functionality include iMovie, CinemaFX, Magisto, Videolicious, Vyclone, Streamweaver, Ptch, and a bevy of others. None that I’ve come across offer real-time editing.
I’ve discussed in the past the commonly asked question of whether the average consumer is ready for video creation products. Smartphone and broadband penetration have unquestionably put more video-creation power into the hands of consumers, but many believe that consumers are currently neither comfortable enough in front of the camera or proficient enough behind it to make the social video model work. Givit was created expressly to solve this issue of complexity.
“Our target market is soccer moms, grandparents, and people that aren’t willing to look at a manual,” says ATA’s Loiacoco. “I learned in my Adobe days that when you introduce a timeline to people, that’s very problematic. We keep telling people we’re not editing we’re simply highlighting. It’s all about telling stories as simply and powerfully as possible.”
As to whether such a product can become a viable business today, the investor and board member turned executive says, “I look at the numbers, and ask, ‘Is the amount of video being created and consumed on these devices increasing?’ The answer is that every single point of measurement says it’s increasing dramatically.”
Ask notable early stage investor Chris Dixon about the current focus on user growth ahead of business models and he might tell Givit that 10 million users aren’t what they used to be.