Video Startup 1Minute40Seconds Looks to Help People and Organizations Tell Engaging Stories
Blade Kotelly thinks that any Radio Shack salesman and Steve Jobs are telling the same exact story. Jobs is just better it at. That would be: “Here’s the problem, here’s the product, here’s the call to action,” he says.
It all plays into Kotelly’s theory that there are the same few story lines recycled throughout the world, and that some people just convey them more successfully than others.
The idea is the driving force behind his startup, 1Minute40Seconds, which is developing story templates for businesses and marketers to plug images and words into. It then pops out quick, compelling videos that it hopes will engage viewers better than existing ads or text. “If we can codify those stories in a way that allows you to tell it better, you can capture [your audience] emotionally and intellectually,” he says
Kotelly, who teaches engineering innovation and design at MIT and has previously taught design at Tufts University, said the idea for the company came to him late last year. His company formed this spring and has been developing its Web-based software technology throughout the summer, with the help of three current Tufts students and a couple of recent graduates working part-time. Kotelly has staffed the startup with a 2:1 ratio of designers to coders.
“It’s a platform that very flexibly allows you to integrate your words, your pictures, your video, your sound, in a template,” Kotelly says of his technology. “You drop it in and it assembles it for you.”
The platform also allows users to pull existing content from the Web, like YouTube videos, and uses third-party technology to translate written words to voice recordings throughout the video. That’s a field Kotelly is familiar with—he spent much of his career in design and marketing at SpeechWorks, which was eventually acquired by Burlington, MA-based speech software developer Nuance Communications (NASDAQ: NUAN) (called Scansoft at the time).
1Minute40Seconds isn’t the first startup to recognize that plenty of businesses don’t have the budget to hire professional video production teams for marketing content and the like. Cambridge, MA-based Pixability provides customers with Flip video cameras to take their own footage, and hires video editors to produce marketing videos from that content.
But Kotelly says his is the first company to center that process entirely on technology and turn out a finished product in minutes. “This is at the core of what makes this technology different—we can do it very, very, very fast,” he says.
The speed of the process extends 1Minute40Seconds’ reach to beyond marketing material. He says a restaurant critic could use the platform to create a video review of his or her experience—minutes after finishing a meal. Education is another important application. The company’s first beta customer is a school in Texas that wants to use the technology to communicate to students how they should prepare for the next day of class.
There are two main components to the 1Minute40 technology: the template that the consumer interacts with, and the back end system that creates the videos. (Kotelly has applied for a patent to protect the technology his company developed that assembles and ships the video content.) That back end also plugs into analytics services to get feedback on how viewers are reacting to the videos 1Minute40Seconds creates, to more intelligently inform future production.
“These templates are conducting an interview,” he says. “Just like when you ask questions back and forth.”
As its name indicates, 1Minute40Seconds is focused on keeping the videos short and compelling. One minute and 40 seconds isn’t the absolute limit, but the startup wants to keep the finished product down to a few minutes. (The 140 number refers to the number of characters allowed in a Tweet). “We don’t let you put too many words in; we’re putting up the guard rails,” he says.
The company already has the support of a big name in the video software world—Avid Technology founder Bill Warner, who has provided some angel funding. The startup is also currently part of the MassChallenge accelerator program. It aims to start targeting customers full-force at the beginning of this fall.
It will be interesting to see if there’s a place for 1Minute40Seconds in the fast-evolving Internet video world—and to see the kinds of stories it will pop out.