Wednesday, May 21, 2014
How Epoxy Is Helping Content Creators Make Their Video More Social
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Are you a content creator for the web? It turns out, nowadays, creating the content is only a small part of your job description The most successful YouTubers, studios, brands and agencies today are intensely focused on using social media to engage with fans, get that content out there, and grow their audience. Los Angeles-based Epoxy (www.epoxy.tv) launched yesterday to help content creators do just that. We spoke with co-founders Juan Bruce and Jason Ahmad about Epoxy's mission, its roots from projects at Team Downey, the production firm of Robert Downey Jr., and why social is so important in today's content world.
Explain what Epoxy is and how it works?
Juan Bruce: What we are doing at Epoxy, is we develop software tools for online video channels, allowing them to connect with their audiences where they audience connects most, which is social media. Right now, what that means is a set of apps for distributing video out to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and some tools to help engage and build audiences on the back end.
What's your background, why did you start the company?
Juan Bruce: My background is in design engineering. I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, working for BMW's technology office, and design firm Ideo. I then went back to Stanford for business school, and ended up coming down here to Southern California to run a design studio for an Ideo competitor, Continuum. They're similar to Ideo, in that they're doing broad design and innovation, and consumer understanding and research, in areas from medical devices to mobile devices, cars, and digital. As part of that, I started working for entertainment studios and networks, and saw the shift in consumer behavior to online entertainment. That was my first, deep dive into entertainment.
One of our small clients there was Team Downey, the production firm of Robert Downey Jr., where we were helping to figure out the digital side of the company. In the process of doing that, they convinced us to come run that business, which is what I had been doing for the three years prior to Epoxy. At Team Downey, I was investing in digital media startups, producing and developing projects, working on social gaming and mobile gaming. Most recently, we created a web series.
While we were working in the gaming area, we saw that they were run in a very intuitive way, with dashboards and tools being used heavily to run those businesses. When we started jumping into web series, we were surprised to find there wasn't anything similar. That's when I roped in my co-founder, Jason here, who I had gone to Stanford as an undergraduate with, who had been in New York running a startup engineering team. I asked Jason to come take a look at those issues around video and to come to LA.
Jason Ahmad: My background has been pretty startup heavy. I have a computer science degree from Stanford, and also had worked at BMW in New York. I had also built desktop analytics software for customers, such as banks. After exiting that, I ended up in the consumer Internet space, at all kinds of companies in New York.
How did you guys figure out what was needed for content creators?
Jason Ahmad: Neither of us were YouTubers or from online video, and didn't come from that world---our experience was more from the technology and design aspect. But, we had one really nice advantage, because we were at Team Downey, which allowed us to reach out to the most innovative people in the business, to try to understand what they were doing, what they were thinking, what their strategy was in the market, and to understand the tools they were using.
Juan Bruce: We interviewed dozens and dozens of the top Youtubers, those woh were rising quickly, talked with MCNs, talked with the digital side of the traditional entertainment studios, and talked with brands who were doing some very innovative things with online video. One of the most interesting things we noticed was the social aspect was such a key to the medium. In fact, we started to see that online video is a social medium, and that a lot of the most successful YouTubers were spending a lot more time managing their social media, and building and audience and fan base than actually producing content.
That was a real gamechanger in the way we were viewing things, especially having been in a traditional entertainment company like Team Downey. We realized there was a whole other aspect that was the key to online video. We decided to create this toolset, starting with social, with the mission of helping Youtubers who were already social become more proficient and powerful at their daily operations, and also help those traditional entertainment companies act more like the nimble, social Youtubers. We decided to embody those operations in a toolset.
Why get some funding and make this into a separate company?
Jason Ahmad: That's a unique story. We had been looking at for use at Team Downey, internally. However, we were lucky enough to know some really forward thinking venture capitalists, and talked to them early in the process, trying to understand what was in the market. We wanted to get feedback about our tool, and understand as we were building our prototype what they were seeing in the market, how useful they thought it might be, and ended up talking to Mark Suster at Upfront Ventures.
Juan Bruce: I had known Mark previously, and while we weren't looking for funding, since Team Downey was funding this all internally, as soon as we showed what we were doing to Mark, he immediately encouraged us to think about this in a broader context, to not just to this for Team Downey, but for all of the other people that need this kind of tool. That's when it really started. That's where we realized we really had a duty to build this and share it with the community, and not just make it a tool for Team Downey and friends.
Jason Ahmad: One nice thing about being in this ecosystem, is there are a whole host of venture investors and great angels who are really focused on this space, and really understand the intricacies and nuances of what is driving video. They all jumped in when they saw what we were up to.
What's the biggest thing that is driving interest and adoption of the tool?
Juan Bruce: I think there are a couple of things. One, is online video channels all have an audience, who are interacting with their content, and following them across social. As an online video creator, you can't just ask people to follow you on Youtube. People are going to spend time where they choose, whether that's Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, or wherever. As a creator, as someone who runs a channel, you have to be responsive and be present in all of the places where your fans are. Frankly, that's a difficult and fragmented environment to deal with. For individual creators, it's very compelling to be able to come to one place, and in a most powerful way, distribute your content and figure out who is important, and figure out who the superfans are, and talk to them, and build that audience, all from one place.
On the enterprise side, with the studios and networks, there has been a great focus on diversification from Youtube, which of course is just naturally supported in the way the platform works. So, for individual Youtubers, we're supporting their operations, and for enterprises we are helping them to support that diversification.
Jason Ahmad: One thing I'd add, is we're really lucky to have a broad and immediate customer base. For savvy, innovative Youtubers, they immediately understand how powerful their audience and fans are, and they want to engage them as deeply as they can. If you have a new piece of content, social is the easiest and most powerful place to get an audience, and turn them into fans. And, for those enterprise institutions, they see the appeal of 360 degree coverage, not just on Youtube, but on all the services.