Alex Castro of Delve Networks on the Future of Internet Video

5/20/09Follow @gthuang

“There are a quarter of a billion websites on Planet Earth, and most of them will want video.” Now there‘s a market to put hair on your chest—the stat comes courtesy of Alex Castro, the chief executive of Seattle startup Delve Networks.

I called up Castro last week, in part to ask him about his company’s recent financing. Wouldn’t you know it, he didn’t want to talk about that at all, since the round is ongoing. So instead we talked about some more interesting things, like the future of online video, Delve’s semi-recent strategy shift, and what he learned from working at Amazon, as compared to Microsoft, back in the day.

Castro got his start in the tech world when he did his undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer science at Cornell University, focusing on distributed computing. That’s where he first met Werner Vogels, the Cornell computer scientist who would become Amazon’s chief technology officer (and who would later hire him). Castro worked for Microsoft between 1999-2004 as a group program manager; he started the customer relationship management team there. He left to join Amazon, where he was a senior manager in Amazon Web Services until he quit in 2006 to start his own company.

That company was originally called Pluggd, and it focused on audio podcast search. By 2007, the startup was already making the switch to online video, but it needed some more oomph. “We weren’t seeing great traffic in audio and video. iTunes and YouTube kind of sucked the oxygen out for a lot of folks,” Castro says. “After a while, with no real prospects for getting a lot bigger, we started listening to our customers.” By mid-to-late 2007, he says, “we realized what we needed to do.”

The first step was to fully grasp the market opportunity for online video. “Video is not just about YouTube and Hulu, or media and entertainment. It will be pervasive, it will be the dominant media on the Internet in 10 years,” Castro says. Just as websites started out being used mainly by the media and academia—only to explode in popularity a few years later—so will video become the main online channel for consumers and businesses alike, he predicts. “They’re realizing video is part of the Internet, not just this thing that exists on YouTube. Back then, people thought the Internet was AOL. But the Internet was bigger than that.”

Last June, his company relaunched itself as Delve Networks, focusing on online video hosting and “search inside” video technology. It’s actually based on audio search (speech recognition), but unlike … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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