You don’t want a plastic surgeon operating on you with a pocket knife. It seems straightforward, but there really is a right tool for every task, and using a generic or approximated version is a bad idea – especially in the most demanding and precise situations.
The same logic applies to cloud storage services. Everyday locker and syncing platforms like Dropbox, Box, GoogleDrive, and SugarSync are great for consumers and businesses dealing with basic documents and the occasional media file. For creative professionals that need to store and collaborate on massive and complex media projects, however, these solutions are entirely too blunt.
Enter Gobbler, a purpose-built media cloud platform for video, music, and photography enthusiasts and professionals. The product, which launched publicly in 2011, is equal part storage, organization, and collaboration built specifically for the way creatives work. Today, the company is announcing an integration partnership with Avid Pro Tools, a best in class audio software, and revealing $1.5 million in new strategic financing from creative celebrities including One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, Jared Leto, and Lady Gaga business manager and tech investor extraordinaire Troy Carter.
Those who create media at scale depend on multiple devices: desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, and a bevy of external storage devices. By the same token, each project can have thousands of component files and hundreds of different versions. It can be an organizational nightmare, trying to remember which device holds the most recent version of a project, then worrying about maintaining access to that device at home, in the office, and on the road.
And all that’s before we even consider the threat of data corruption.
“I’ve never met someone who’s a creative who doesn’t have a story about data loss,” Gobbler co-founder and CEO Chris Kantrowitz says. “This is true even for people who have decent practices around backup, although many people don’t even tackle the problem because its been too intimidating.”
The key with Gobbler is that it’s not meant to be everything to everybody. It was built for the unique demands of the media creation space, by professionals who have dealt with them personally for years. The platform can comfortably handle media files or sessions of any size to be shared within the interface, something that would be painful within most standard cloud services.
Gobbler is targeting users who manage multiple gigabytes of creative projects. This does not mean the elderly couple who took 10,000 pictures of their cruise to Tahiti, but rather those individuals who are editing these photos in software like Adobe Photoshop and LightRoom. The same applies for those composing or editing audio and video projects. Whether you call them enthusiasts or pros, this audience is exponentially larger than it was a decade ago due primarily to declining hardware, software, and storage costs. Prior to Gobbler, these users by and large relied on easily forgotten or damaged external hard drives, a $6 billion per year market, or wrestled with generic cloud solutions like Dropbox that are ill-suited to handling these big, inter-connected files.
“We’re solving the most challenging pitfalls that artists and media creators face when sharing and protecting their work,” Kantrowitz says.
Avid Pro Tools is the audio software of choice of the industry’s top composers, editors, and mixers. The Gobbler integration allows the cloud service to locate and monitor Pro Tools sessions and assets regardless of where they’re stored, when they’re accessed, and how massive the files are. Changes are synced in real-time, even as users continue to work on a file, so that they’re always backed up securely off site and all devices have access to the latest version. Most importantly, Gobbler allows easy collaboration between multiple users of Pro Tools. When a project has multiple files that sync together, as do most films, for example, the system manages all those elements even as multiple are working on them simultaneously.
The integration with Avid marks a shift for Kantrowitz’s Gobbler. Initially, his sales strategy was very much B2C (business to consumer). What he realized is that while industry giants like Adobe and AutoDesk offer users their own proprietary creative cloud services – which some love and others loathe, and which are available exclusively within their own ecosystem – the vast majority of other companies producing creativity software and hardware are stuck offering the blunt instruments of consumer cloud services.
With this in mind, expect Avid to be the first of many integrations for Gobbler as the company takes a more B2B2C approach, allowing complementary businesses to sell the service on its behalf. The ecosystem of creative tools can be divided into media creation and distribution. Today’s integration tackles audio creation, which leaves photo and video creation, and distribution for all categories.
Gobbler’s unlikely to getting access to users of Adobe’s Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere through a direct integration, but fans of Apple’s Final Cut Pro video editing software are a prime target. Further, as connected hardware becomes more commonplace, building Gobbler directly into still and video cameras also holds a lot of appeal. Imagine taking a series of photos on your Canon DSLR and having them automatically synced to your Gobbler account, where they are ready for editing on your device and software platform of choice. On the distribution side, I would look to public-facing platform services like Vimeo, SoundCloud, Flickr, iTunes, and the like as ideal partners.
Like its mass market competitors, Gobbler offers a free account – 5GB in its case – and several paid tiers of increasing storage size. Plans range from 20GB for $4 per month to 250GB for $120 per month. On a per gigabyte basis, Gobbler is more expensive than Dropbox, et al. But in reality, users are getting both storage capacity and also a SaaS media management and collaboration software, making the pricing highly justifiable.
Gobbler is bound to face more competition going forward, whether from Adobe and AutoDesk removing the shackles from their creative cloud service, or Microsoft, Drobpox, and others turning an eye to the creative market. But the company has built a ton of credibility and goodwill among industry professionals. Any category newcomers would have to play catchup in terms of domain expertise, industry relationships, and brand identity.
The startups biggest challenge likely comes down to execution. The company not only needs to get its product in the hands of the millions of creatives out there currently relying on external hard drives, it needs to make sure it delights them 100 percent of the time. It’s one thing if Dropbox goes down for a few hours, or a file is corrupted somehow. But Gobbler is positioning itself as mission critical software for an industry dealing with multi-million dollar projects. A high profile failure is most likely the thing that keeps Kantrowitz up at night.
Gobbler has been growing users at approximately 100 percent per month for the last six months. The company spends little to no money on marketing and relies mostly on viral, word-of-mouth growth. It seems to be working, as Kantrowitz reveals that 68 percent of all users joined through the referral of an existing user. Commensurate with this growth in users, the company has doubled its team from 10 to 20 in the last six months.
In total the company has raised approximately $4.5 million. The latest financing, which has been largely unstructured and completed on a rolling basis, comes after the company announced a formal $1.75 million Series A round in January 2012.
That Kantrowitz has attracted industry celebrities to invest in Gobbler shouldn’t come as a surprise. Before starting the company, he was creating the live concert visual effects for some of the biggest musical acts in the industry. Hi sister and co-founder Jamie also happens to be an early MySpacer and one time head of international operations for the social media company. Today, their startup’s office, which is in the original Los Angeles Pony Express building on Hollywood Boulevard, is just blocks away from several of the most famous recording studios and entertainment offices in the world.
Notable celebrity investors include the above mentioned Tedder, Leto, and Carter, as well as Japanese singer-songwriter Yoshiki and former William Morris Agency chairman Jim Wiatt, among other high profile names who wish to remain anonymous. On the more traditional tech side, the company is backed by John Frankel of FFVC; Earthlink and Boingo founder Sky Dayton; SurveyMonkey CEO and Launch Media founder Dave Goldberg; LowerMyBills founder Matt Coffin; former Omniture CEO and current Adobe head of worldwide operations Mike Herring; former MySpace co-founder and CTO, and co-founder of SGN Aber Whitcomb; Facebook VP of platform Dan Rose; founder and former CEO of Tradescape Omar Amanat; former MySpace CEO and founder of Science Media Mike Jones; and others.
“Worrying about how to organize yourself is the antithesis of being creative,” Kantrowitz says. “If we can do that for them then the only thing they need to worry about is their work.”
“When we get people to a place where they finally feel totally protected – and organized – it changes their entire psyche and allows them to focus entirely on being creative.”