“Video is an unfair advantage you either join or lose” [SPONSORED]

By Sarah Lacy , written on August 11, 2015

From The Sponsored Desk

Magisto was founded as a little-known Israeli mash-up between two kinda-hot trends: User generated video and artificial intelligence.

The problem? An engineer named Oren Boiman wanted to make raw footage into actual decent, watchable video. So he solved it the way an engineer would-- with software and artificial intelligence.

Fast forward to mid-2015 and the first trend is now scorching hot-- between Facebook’s video ascendency, Meerkat being the darling of SXSW, the rise of YouTube mega-stars, and Twitter betting on Periscope to save itself-- and the latter is scorchingly controversial.

So what’s a startup to do amid such promising turbulence?

(This post is part of our Hot Seat series and is sponsored by Magisto. Pando retained full editorial control over the piece.)

Sarah Lacy: Well, your space has changed since we last talked.  

Oren Boiman: We are living in a space that changes as we speak every month. It’s the most fluid thing in the world. We are seeing disruptions over disruptions over disruptions. It’s amazing to see how serious the key players are taking short form video right now. It’s not even close to what we saw a year ago.

I’m sure you noticed that somehow nine months ago your Newsfeed in Facebook became 50% video over night, and those videos started to autoplay, grabbing all of your attention. I think the change was dramatic, and it changed social media from being this static journal to something where everything is moving all the time.

There are so many opportunities for people to use video in ways they weren’t doing before. It brought a lot of people to think, “How do I actually use and create video?” There are not a lot of good answers for that.

The market was dormant for a lot of years and then suddenly woke up and woke up in a huge way.


SL: What about Periscope and Meerkat? That’s been another big force in user generated video this year.


OB: That’s another great example of this thing that we’ve termed “Video 2.0.” Not a lot of things happened since YouTube emerged in 2005, and now it’s just exploding. Meerkat and Periscope in a way have taken something that was tried again and again through the years, live streaming finally just got to this threshold, and the market was finally ready. It finally started to seem appealing.

There are a lot of obstacles inherent to video that need to be dealt with. Video is not even remotely close to photos when it comes to complication, but it’s also 1000 times more powerful. It’s not just the technical aspect-- the encoding, the compressing, the streaming and all those other initial barriers. But once you even get a form of video that works the question is who is going to watch your thirty minutes of video streaming if they don’t know what you are going to talk about.


SL: So what changed product-wise that suddenly made life streaming appealing?


OB: Think about the “Instagram for video category.” It was getting a lot of hype, and then it was just dead. Some of the things that happened, took several generations to experiment and fail is a lot of the reason why was they were trying to copy things that worked for photos or copy things that worked for TV broadcasting. This is a new form of media. It is very, very unique. It needs to have its own solution.  

Just to give you an example, consider, autoplay video. It has different requirements. It needs to capture your attention very fast. When we design for autoplay video, how do we create the first few seconds to capture your attention? That might be a totally different decision if you are actually hitting a play button. When you design the audio, you might start with someone saying something important or you might wait because the opening will be muted. You might want them to say that later on, once the autoplay video catches your attention.

When it comes to live streaming, with all those trial and errors, some form started to emerge for this age.


SL: So as you watch everything happening with Facebook, with the rise of autoplay, with Meekat and Periscope, what does this mean for you guys? Your market is changing dramatically all around you. Do you adjust your strategy or just stay heads down and run your own race.


OB: You have to adjust your strategy. We are a startup and that’s the good thing about being a startup. You can be agile and adjust yourself and not be a dinosaur in a changing market. It’s a completely different market with completely different opportunities.

People are creating video in the orders of tens of millions per day. Photos are billions per day. We think videos will catch up so that’s more than two orders of magnitude bigger-- that is where the world is going to move in the next two to three years.

It’s like nothing we’ve seen before. We expect the market will penalize someone who is not prioritizing video. What’s going to happen is not just you get less impressions but also how low quality the impressions are in terms of competing with the video in their field of view. Go ahead and try to compete with that. It’s just more engaging.

Video is an unfair advantage. You either join or lose. Photos and text are just becoming more and more invisible. That’s happening very, very fast. But that’s also the challenge. There is simply no other way to create that amount of content at a high quality without something like Magisto. We’ve invested years of going deeper and deeper into the art of story telling, and now it’s starting to pay off big time.

What’s happened in the last year changes the market and the opportunity and our strategy.


SL: Is there an issue with focus here? There are a lot of different directions you could go as a company, given the many different explosions of video going on right now.


OB: Yeah, video is now going in so many directions, it’s hard to tell what’s going to be bigger. What we are focusing on the 15 second to 90 second video that lets people tell a better story by telling it visually. The ability to create that kind of product and stretch it easily across all the different use cases.

We are trying to avoid things that will take us in directions we don’t want to be in right now. It’s already a big enough market. It might even be too big. Our focus is on personal video story. That’s our core brand and product.

We want to supply the means for producing that kind of content and people will take it wherever they want.


SL: Here’s a question you probably didn’t expect. Let’s talk about AI. You have some artificial intelligence that helps create these videos. Recently there’s been a lot of posturing about the dangers of AI in the tech world. On the one hand, you have Marc Andreessen noting the only technology we can create today from a movie like “Ex Machina” is the door card reader. On the other hand, you have people like Elon Musk coming out against AI weapons. What’s your take on all the posturing?


OB: AI and a lot of the things we’ve worked on are happening on a bigger scale than I could have thought. It makes Magisto so much more intelligent and more like a fully professional video editor.

But at the same time we are no where close to the “un-useful” AI technology people worry about. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right point in time for us to come up with some rules. Just because we are not expecting to see killing machines tomorrow, doesn’t mean it isn’t the time now to ban them. It’s harder to change the rules once it happens. It’s the right time to set some rules on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of what people can gain from AI.

We should even be thinking about fully automatic driving machines, and whether they are OK or not. They might make a decision to run over a kid because of a bug. What’s the difference between that and a weapon? We need to make the decision now because it’s the right time to ask those question before we see those machines on the road. These are deep moral questions and we need to try to get a consensus. It’s better to go that way then find the equivalent of a nuclear bomb, because people want to get their first and don’t stop to ask these questions.

SPONSORED: Magisto: A New Kind of Video Storytelling. Try it now.