Years ago when we were launching Xprove, we met Michael Buday who was working on a very impressive synchronous online video review and approval system. SyncVue might have been a little ahead of its time, but in its latest incarnation as Fuze Movie it might gain traction. Here’s the PR announcement from my friend Kevin Bourke with links.
After blogging about the YouSendIt NLE plug-in, I received a comment from MediaSilo — a polite, shameless plug for its review and approval system. Having founded Xprove, review and approval remains near and dear to my heart. (I no longer have a financial interest in Xprove, though I should disclose I remain close to my co-founders who remain.)
There’s no denying that MediaSilo has a superior, and sufficiently Web 2.0ish, user interface. It also has some features Xproves lacks, such as server-based FLV encoding. But it’s no slamdunk for MediaSilo. Its monthly fee per gigabyte of storage and bandwidth — especially bandwidth — is much higher than Xprove’s. Even more surprising is the limited number of workspaces per account.
Having been through the usage logs of Xprove, I’ll be surprised if MediaSilo’s $79 and $99 plans gain traction with independents. As slick as MediaSilo is, Xprove also wins on ease of use.
Currently the review and approval market is so underserved, there’s more than enugh room for both services. Each is a great value relative to the level of work required to build your own approval site, or get Final Cut Server working for web-based R&A.
That would be me. It’s official. I’ll be joining Avid May 1 as a (not the) Product Designer for Editors. We made it public at the Avid customer event last night in Las Vegas. How’s that for new thinking?
It’s a great time to be joining Avid. The recent product announcements are exciting and point to a much needed, and oft promised change in direction. Media Composer with hardware at $10,000. Now we’re talking. Xpress Pro gone. I’m not in mourning.
Over the years I’ve had some colorful exchanges with Avid management. As a journalist, blogger, reviewer, and commentator, I never hesitated to say what was on my mind – sometimes more diplomatically than others. Every company has its own culture, but I have always found Avid to be among the most open to constructive criticism. That weighed very heavily on my desire to come on board. I’m joining a great product development team – Owen Walker (Media Composer Product Manager), Greg Staten (Product Designer for editors), Steve McNeill (Product Designer for editors) Olivier Karfis (Product Manager for editors) and Tim Claman (Director of Product Management for editors).
Between now and May 1 I’ll be winding down my activities with Kingpin and Xprove. I leave both in very good hands. Dave Bryand will take over Kingpin, and Dan Sharp will join Dave in heading up Xprove.
While Avid and I were in discussions, I chose not to blog. It wouldn’t have been right to comment on the release of Final Cut Server or Avid’s recent product lineup changes without disclosing that I was actively seeking to join Avid.
My blogs, here and at ProVideoCoalition, will change. The reality is that I just won’t have the time to put into writing that I had before; and working for a publicly traded company puts limits on what I can say about Avid, its market space, and its competitors. Enough interesting topics remain, and writing serves a very important role in my professional development. Putting words to ideas helps me think concepts through. Getting feedback from readers lets those ideas evolve.
Keep those calls and letters coming.
Launch a subscription-based web business and just let the money roll in, right?
My education in entrepreneurship continues. All the pre-launch market research in the world is out the window once the service is up and running. When offering a new, unfamiliar service people answer surveys as best they can. Once they’ve had a chance to take version 1.0 for a spin, new wants and needs emerge.
When we launched Xprove back in November 2006, we didn’t offer free accounts. We figured a 30-day free trial would be enough of a test drive. Sign up, enter your credit card information, and you won’t be billed for a month. Cancel before then, and you won’t get billed at all. Simple enough, right? No. People don’t give out their credit card info before you establish their trust. We weren’t Amazon or The Wall Street Journal. Who could be sure that we weren’t going to flee extradition with scores of Visa accounts in our possession?
Actually, we have no access to an individual’s credit card information beyond the last 4 digits and the expiration date. And even if we pulled off the scam, the credit card processor would make us wish we’d crossed Tony Soprano instead.
So we had to offer Free Accounts. No credit card necessary. And it worked. Hundreds signed up the first month, and almost a third became paying customers since. So now the business model has proven itself viable. Sit back and just let the money roll in, right?
Not quite. It turns out that in the Internet age customers expect services to improve and prices to go down. Every time you launch Gmail you have a few more megabytes of free storage. Thanks Google.
So we’ve added new features to Xprove based on what customers told us they wanted. Some of the features are what you’d expect video pros to demand — HD capabilities, more storage and bandwith, and a more streamlined user interface. But some really surprised us.
It turns out that many of our customers don’t use Xprove for review and approve. They use it as a simple and inexpensive substitute for FTP. Unlike many of the file transfer services available online, Xprove has no limit on file sizes beyond your total storage allocation, and it has no limits on downloads so long as you don’t exceed your monthly bandwidth limits. So a large part of this upgrade was devoted to improving our FTP services.
Xprove’s turned out to be a lot more work than we ever thought it would be. When you’re offering a service that stands between a professional and his or her clients, nothing short of perfection is acceptable. You don’t get one mistake. You can’t tell a customer that the problem is operator error — you have to make it so simple that there is no operator error.
Without a doubt, Xprove has been the biggest professional challenge of all our lives, but it’s all worth it when you get emails like this:
In case not enough people tell you this already, this service is absolutely great. My clients even understand how to use it.
Or when someone posts a job on a mailing list that includes this:
Familiarity or openness with Xprove is a plus!
We did it. We’re not on a beach in the Carribean living off our subscription revenues, but we achieved our main goal. We make our customers’ stressful days just a little less stressful. Totally cool. Sometimes we monitor the usage logs to see how many videos are being uploaded or viewed. It’s a rush. (Especially Friday afternoons when everybody’s just trying to get to the weekend.)
If you’ve read this far, you might as well give Xprove a try. Did I mention it’s free?
Today Today Xprove entered public beta. Xprove is an online collaboration tool for video professionals. Producers, editors, and designers can share an approval cut with a client with just a few mouse clicks. It’s probably not going to turn the industry on its head, but if it can save people a few hours a month it’s done its job.
The idea for Xprove in one form or another has been kicking around for almost half a dozen years. Some big players have taken a stab at the review and approval space, but those solutions have cost a lot more than the monthly FedEx and courier tabs of the typical producer. They were also bloated with features such as Gantt charts, time tracking, and project management.
My clients didn’t need that stuff. They already knew how to run their businesses. So with the talents of a couple of kick ass designer-developers, and the generous help of numerous colleagues who answered our online surveys and took our phone calls, we developed Xprove: video review and approval in a few mouse clicks for a few bucks.
Now we’re in beta. It’s been a challenge getting to this point. The product’s been redesigned a couple of times. Just a few weeks ago, the development team decided to forego PHP/MySQL for Ruby on Rails. All this with the nagging startup details nibbling at our toes like a pack of underfed weasels.
At the end of the day, Xprove’s a good old subscription service. As hard as we tried we couldn’t put a lot of Web 2.0 jargon in our marketing materials. But having been through the Web 1.0 thing and we know it’s about more than eyeballs and buzz.
So it’s with great pride that we declare Xprove a Web 1.5 company. Such a declaration’s not likely to spur a herd of VCs into a stampede to our humble offices.
We’ll just have to settle for satisfied customers to sustain our little venture.
Interested in beta testing? Drop us a line and we’ll set you up.