As Businesses Get More Social, Wistia Moves Into Video Editing

Quickly creating and sharing short, personal videos has become a popular method of communication between friends and family, thanks to the rise of Snapchat and other social media apps.

Wistia, a Cambridge, MA-based video-hosting company for businesses, sees that same desire growing among business professionals.

“They’re trying to create more of that human connection that we so often lose with the Internet,” says Wistia co-founder and CEO Chris Savage (pictured above).

Wistia sees an opportunity here. Today, the company announced the launch of Soapbox, a free, Web-based video recording and editing program aimed primarily at professionals in sales, marketing, customer support, and human resources. Wistia envisions the software being used for things like sales pitches, product tutorials, “how-to” videos, talent recruitment, webinars, and video blogs.

The program’s features include the ability to record simultaneous feeds from computer webcams and what’s happening on a computer screen, and its editing tools enable users to switch between the two feeds or show a side-by-side view of them. The finished product can be shared via e-mail or a link (with the video hosted by Wistia, of course).

Soapbox is an expansion of Wistia’s product offerings and marks the latest evolution of a growing and profitable company that has been around since the early days of online video. Wistia got started in 2006—one year after YouTube was born, and five years before Snapchat launched its app.

Now, “everyone is used to watching authentic video, and they expect it,” Savage says.

Part of the impetus for Wistia moving into video-creation software, Savage says, was that its customers were making videos targeted toward one person or a small group of people, for purposes like making a good impression on a potential client.

“We live in a world that is so hard to get people to pay attention to what you’re doing,” Savage says. “We’re overrun with messages. … You’ve got to do something to stand out.”

One Wistia customer has been making short videos of its team to send to prospective clients whenever the two sides reach the proposal stage for a deal, Savage says. The no-frills videos are put together quickly and might simply show the employees saying hello and that they look forward to working with the potential customer. But the videos are “authentic,” he says, and they often work.

“They started doing this and saw they had a much higher close rate” on sales, Savage says.

Still, there’s no guarantee Wistia’s new product will catch on. For one thing, the company is jumping into a crowded field of free video-editing programs, such as Apple’s iMovie, Microsoft’s Movie Maker, and Avidemux. Some free programs, like Loom and CamStudio, have a similar focus on webcam and screen recording. (Other startup efforts in business-related video include Allego, Animoto, Magisto, Pixability, and Vsnap, which closed down in 2015.)

Savage admits that video-editing programs are a commodity these days. But he says that Wistia isn’t trying to build a “universal video editor,” and he thinks a lot of the free programs require more effort than many business users are willing to put in.

“It’s just so many steps that, at least what we’ve seen, the people that do it are the people who are most passionate and understand it,” Savage says. “There’s a lot of people sitting on the sidelines that say, ‘I’d love to make a video,’ but they don’t want to do it if they don’t think it can look good.”

Wistia is starting with a basic product aimed at making it easy for non-technical professionals to make and share quality videos in minutes. Later, the company might add more features to the software, such as customization and analytics tools, Savage says.

Wistia will probably always offer a free version of Soapbox, but it might release a paid version by the end of the summer, Savage says.

He declined to share Wistia’s revenues, but he says its customer list has been growing by about 40 percent annually. More than 300,000 companies use Wistia’s products and services, including Starbucks, Zendesk, HubSpot, and Sephora. Wistia’s competitors in business video hosting include Brightcove (also located in Boston) and SproutVideo, and it’s also up against more general hosting platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.

Wistia currently employs around 90 people, up from about 40 two years ago, Savage says.

The company raised $1.4 million from angel investors across two funding rounds in 2008 and 2010, but it never raised money from venture capital firms, Savage says. Wistia has been profitable for several years, he adds.

“We’ve been able to fund the business with customers,” Savage says.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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