Don’t Put That DVD In the Mail: Wistia Helps Companies Share Video Over the Internet

We’re always on the lookout for companies to add to our periodic “industry cluster” overviews, which so far include the Boston Music and Technology Cluster, the Boston Internet Video Cluster, the Greater Boston Robotics Cluster, the Boston Health 2.0 Cluster, and the Greater Seattle Gaming Cluster. And recently I came across a new addition for the Internet Video cluster: Lexington, MA-based Wistia, whose Web-based platform simplifies video sharing within companies—and makes it easier to measure exactly who is watching.

If you remember our January story about Visible Measures, that last part might sound familiar. That Boston startup makes data-gathering tools that big online publishers can use to measure how people interact with mass-market videos—for example, which segments get rewound and repeated, and whether people are viewing or skipping the ads shown before or after many videos. But Wistia has a totally different focus, as I found out last week from vice president of engineering Ben Ruedlinger. Its service is geared toward large organizations that use video internally for purposes such as company announcements, sales training, and product management, but who don’t have the IT infrastructure to host the videos on their own intranets, much less monitor who’s watching them.

“Companies are often spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to create videos, whether it be training videos or their latest product releases, and they want to share it with a select group of people, but they don’t have particularly good tools to be able to share the videos or measure the return on that investment,” says Ruedlinger. “Our platform really handles all of the details of that, from soup to nuts.”

Say a sales executive has commissioned a video to educate regional sales affiliates about a new product. The executive can upload the video to Wistia, which will transcode it into various Web-accessible formats and publish it on an invitation-only project page, where the affiliates can watch it from their own PCs and leave questions and feedback. “It’s almost like an asynchronous meeting—like inviting people to come and get the information on their own time,” says Ruedlinger. A key bonus: the executive gets to track not only who went to the project page, but what parts of the video they watched.

That’s obviously useful for verification and compliance purposes. But say that the audience consisted of prospective customers for the product: then Wistia’s monitoring data could also turn into a sales tool. “If a video was watched by three different prospects, which one am I going to call first?” asks Ruedlinger. “The guy who viewed 100 percent of the video or the ones who only viewed a few snippets?”

Founded in 2006 by former Brown University classmates Brendan Schwartz and Christopher Savage, Wistia has 10 employees and has raised a single round of angel funding, the exact size of which the company hasn’t disclosed. Its video-sharing service currently has 15 to 20 users, according to Ruedlinger, including several Fortune 100 companies, such as Nestlé Nutrition. One of its most interesting customers is a company that both Luke and Ryan have written about recently: GI Dynamics, which is developing an implantable “intestinal liner” that could help to treat patients with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Part of the company’s clinical research, which involves physicians and surgeons at several sites inside and outside the United States, focuses on refining the endoscopic, minimally invasive procedure used to place the device inside patients’ gastrointestinal tracts. “Inherently, there is a fair amount of video associated with that,” says Ruedlinger. “They’d previously have the doctors record the surgeries, burn them onto DVDs, ship them via FedEx from South America or Europe or wherever, collect the videos here, and fly all the doctors here to review the videos. They started using Wistia eight or nine months ago, and now instead of burning DVDs they upload video directly after the procedure, and it can be shared with all the participants who need to collaborate and review it within hours after the surgery, rather than three to six months later. They can iterate faster and be more efficient.”

So far, Wistia doesn’t have a lot of competition, though Cisco Systems makes systems for live video broadcasting over enterprise networks, and can be expected to “creep into the market” for sharing recorded videos, says Ruedlinger. But Wistia has a head start, and may be able to form strategic partnerships with big content distribution networks such as Limelight or Akamai, Ruedlinger says.

Savage and Schwartz briefly considered founding Wistia in Silicon Valley, says Ruedlinger. “But they recognized that the startup environment in Boston is pretty good, especially for video,” he says. “We are also a software-as-a-service company, and Boston has a pretty rich history in that area as well. So they decided they didn’t have to go west to build a successful company.” Score one more for the Boston video cluster.

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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