Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Interview with Kim Folsom, ShowUHow
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In the move to online commerce, one of the latest areas of interest by online retailers has been the use of online video, to showcase products and provide training and instruction. For today's interview, we talked with San Diego-based ShowUHow (www.showuhow.com), a firm which is providing both content and a software platform which allows e-commerce retailers to provide video instruction guides on the products they carry. ShowUHow is venture backed and already has signed major retailers and manufacturers. We caught up with Kim Folsom, the firm's founder and CEO, to learn more about the company.
First, what does ShowUHow provide?
Kim Folsom: Our mission is to help make the business of selling consumers products much more cost effective for manufacturers and retailers, and make it quite a bit more satisfying for consumers. We provide, develop, and deliver a video-based software platform, which provides sales and support for consumer products, and specifically for products that are complicated. That might be consumer electronics, children's products, or home improvement, the areas that we target. The specific experience of the consumer is a video instruction guide, which is either on a manufacturer's web site, a retailer's website, or on a smart phone. We provide the guides that help a consumer with how to set up and use a product, both at the point where they're researching the product, all the way to post-purchase, when they're looking at how to set it up.
Who is using your services--retailers or manufacturers?
Kim Folsom: Both. It's deployed at nine of the top 11 retailers, both manufacturers and retailers, including Costco, Best Buy, Staples, Toys R Us., Walmart, as well as with major manufacturers.
Where did the idea come from?
Kim Folsom: For the past twelve, going on thirteen years, I have worked with video based applications for business, to solve business problems. This is my third, video based venture I have been involved with, and the second that I have founded. All three have been venture backed. I have a strong belief that you can utilize video to solve business problems, specifically as it relates to creating a more efficient method of knowledge transfer. We were founded in 2007, with the mission of leveraging video -- which is a much more, exact medium -- to help consumer with this problem. It is a very significant problem, especially in this economy, and particularly with managing your return and support costs as a manufacturer. Manufacturers have quite a bit of pressure from the top end in pricing.
You would think manufacturers would know their products best, and should be able to do this for themselves--why do they use you?
Kim Folsom: It may seem like very simple process, but it's quite a bit more complicated than that. Most manufacturers are very good at manufacturing their products, but their support and service are more of an afterthought, and reactionary. What we've been able to do is built an application which delivers self service support, which is much more cost effective. Plus, there's lots of overhead to get the technical expertise, facilities around product of video, and to deliver those videos over the web. The have to also go to market with a turnkey solution, which is cost effective. Our application is designed to leverage their investment in video, and deliver these guides. We do that for international customers as well. To do this in house, for a manufacturer with tens of thousands of products, is very costly. Plus, if they have to grow, and manage, and deliver that on an ongoing basis, it's quite significant. Trying to keep on top of it and deploy is a significant task.
How much of your solution is creating that content, versus supplying the technology to serve that up to end users?
Kim Folsom: Our offering is comprehensive, in that we work with our manufacturers to leverage their branding videos that they have, including technical, installation, or support related content. Or, we can also product this soup to nuts. Probably 30 to 40 percent is on the production side, and 50-60 percent is on the services and delivery side, because you have to make certain you can serve millions of consumer concurrently.
What's the business model here?
Kim Folsom: Our model today is that manufacturers pay for our services, with some of it a setup fee they pay initially, and some of which is a recurring fee they pay on a monthly basis. The whole platform is build on the software-as-a-service model.
How the firm funded and backed?
Kim Folsom: Our lead investor is Syncom Ventures, in Washington, D.C.
Finally, what's the most interesting use of your product?
Kim Folsom: Our platform is available via smartphone, which give the consumer the ability to access this information in a store by just scanning the UPC code. That can also additionally help with training people on the floor, to help them educate the consumer, in addition to providing the same platform in the home.