From time to time we take our microphone (aka smartphone), meet up with interesting people from the Swedish web sphere and ask them a lot of questions to get new insights and broaden our horizon. In May we interviewed Alexander Ljung, the Swedish CEO of Berlin-based music startup SoundCloud. Now, a few days ago, we met Sorosh Tavakoli, the CEO and founder of Videoplaza, an expanding web company with roots in Stockholm but active on markets across Europe that is specialized in helping media companies to monetize videos on the Internet. And as you probably know, web video is exploding.
Hi Sorosh. What’s the most fascinating aspect of working with online video?
It’s the shift from what we call “Old TV” to the “New TV”. The Old TV meant that there was one broadcast and the same commercials for everybody. The New TV is delivered via Internet infrastructure, dynamic and very personalized, which means that the serving and targeting of advertisements works in a totally different way. You can show different ads to different people. How this is changing the media industry is very exciting and we are happy to be at the core of this development.
What exactly are you guys at Videoplaza doing?
We have developed an ad server solution for online video. Media companies like TV channels or newspapers can use our technology to embed different types of ads in their streaming videos. While we take care of all the technical process and make sure that there is always compatibility with the platforms being used to distribute the content, the media companies can focus on what they are best at: Produce and get the content and manage the advertising sales.
What is the biggest challenge for the the New TV?
The variety of platforms is a challenge. Web video is accessed in so many different ways, starting from regular computers and notebooks, media PC’s, Tablets like the iPad, mobile phones, via Internet-connected TV’s, gaming consoles like Xbox or Playstation as well as through dedicated streaming video boxes (soon there will be even “Google TV” and, if rumours are true, a new Apple TV platform). Instead of simply making sure that the traditional TV broadcast can be monetized properly with the help of ads like in the “good old days”, there is now a huge amount of platforms with different specifications that needs to be taken into consideration.
Tell us the background story of Videoplaza.
During my studies at the Royal Institute of Technology and the Stockholm School of Economics I did a research project at MMS, a company that does audience measurement of TV programmes in Sweden. The outcome of the project was a report about how people consume moving images, including all the digital methods of watching videos. Through MMS I had the chance to present this to the major TV stations in Sweden, and I learnt the fact that monetization of online video will be a huge challenge, a challenge that needs to be tackled in order to be able to develop legal alternatives to torrent and other illegal download sites. From that moment my brain was working. I wanted to help the media industry to find a way to bring content online and to earn money with it. Together with Alfred Ruth and Dante Buhay, the three of us thought about possible ideas, presented them to our contacts in the industry, and eventually found a solution that one big Swedish TV firm was willing to try! Voilà: In January 2008 we had our first client, started to develop the product and launched it two months later.
Like many other companies from Sweden Videoplaza started early to expand to Europe…
Yes, that was a pragmatical decision: Sweden is small. After half a year we had signed up most of the major Swedish TV/media companies as clients. In order to continue growing we had to look outside of Sweden. We started with the other Nordic countries. UK and France followed, and our next market entry will be in Germany. Most of the future growth will come from markets outside of Sweden. Our team has become pretty European as well and in fact we have a “No Swedish policy” for all communication.
What are your favourite apps or services (besides everything that is related to online video).
I like to check-in with foursquare. Actually me and my wife have a little competition there. But otherwise I have to admit that I’m not this kind of person anymore that in front of the computer for hours experimenting with new apps just for the fun of it. I’m always more focused on the business side rather than on the feature side. How can a service generate revenue, what’s the business model, how will it scale? In the end, if a web company can’t make money, it’s gonna die.