For an independent film producer to "make it," he pitches his product to a television or movie studio with only a slight hope it will ever see the light of day, regardless of how good it is. Think of all the wasted time, energy -- and film.
Four years ago, Dmitry Shapiro conceived of Veoh, an Internet TV service that enables independent producers to post high-quality, long-form video where visitors can find, watch and personalize their selections. It's redefining success for video producers.
"We wanted to build a platform that allows anyone to broadcast Internet television," says Shapiro, 39. "It wasn't built for kids to share a bunch of short, little clips. It was built for people who actually wanted to produce something and deliver it to the masses."
Shapiro launched Veoh in the fall of 2005, and, within three years, he has delivered on his promise. According to Alexa.com, an Internet traffic-monitoring Web site, Veoh.com is one of the top 100 most-visited sites in the U.S. Not bad for a guy who learned English by watching television after moving to the U.S. from Russia at age 10.
Veoh serves more than 100,000 content publishers, including a roster of cable and TV networks from CBS, ABC, ESPN and Viacom (STOCK QUOTE: VIA). In addition, Veoh features videos from Google's (STOCK QUOTE: GOOG) YouTube and NBC's Hulu. With so much content, it would be easy for a channel surfer to drown.
"I always say in a world of 400 cable channels, it's always hard to find something to watch," says Shapiro, jokingly.
When you're connected to the Web, however, a solution is just one smart algorithm away. Just as Amazon(STOCK QUOTE: AMZN) has helped recommend books based on previous inquiries, Veoh has created its own patent-pending technology that "views" what users are watching then makes further recommendations. For independent publishers, this is a godsend. While a visitor might stop by for an episode of "The Office," Veoh's recommendation engine could potentially bring him to your video if it appeals to the same audience. Veoh has used this information for better advertising targeting.
The big question long associated with online video has been: How do you make money? Veoh, which has raised just under $70 million, believes it has the answer. An advertiser can approach Veoh with the demand of reaching the audience of the television show "CSI." Veoh can deliver that audience, whether they're watching "CSI" or some other independent video. The advertiser wins, the viewer gets appropriately targeted ads, and the content providers and video producers share earned advertising revenue. With this formula, Shapiro predicts his company will be cash-flow positive by mid-2009.
The growth and success of Veoh has taught Shapiro to fail quickly. It's advice he recommends to other entrepreneurs. "What I mean by that," he says, "is: Have a vision. Make decisions quickly. Launch, see if they work. If they work, do more of that. If they don't, don't have an ego and beat yourself up. Scratch it and do it again."
For a company built to help tell stories, working quickly has worked. But as Shapiro will point out, he's interested in telling long stories, not short clips -- and Veoh's story is just beginning.