Vishal Sunday, March 09, 2008 , , , , , ,

The 15th participant is Vquence
Vquence is an Australian startup in online video technology. Vquence's business is in Social and Online Video aggregation and metrics. Vquence's experts have more than 10 years experience with new video technology and applications for the Web, as well as an extensive background in data mining and high availability server infrastructure.

The company was founded by veteran entrepreneur Chris Gilbey, former CEO of Lake Technologies, and Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, former Multimedia Science Leader at the CSIRO ICT Centre in July 2006 with funding from ICA (Information City Australia). The funding was used to develop new technology in video search from scratch and prepare a business plan with which to acquire further funding to build a consumer Web service.

Let us learn more about Vquence from one of the founders Dr Silvia:

Q. How long it took before it was up and running?
A. The discussions to prepare this startup had been going for close to a year before Silvia was ready to take the plunge from CSIRO and team up with Chris to use the offered capital to develop a new business. To facilitate the transition, CSIRO allowed Silvia to go on 6 months leave-without-pay for the second half of 2006 and an option to return to CSIRO should the business fail. In January 2007 Silvia left CSIRO for good.

Q. What stage is your startup in - stealth mode, beta mode, or fully functional?
A. Vquence is offering three different services to business customers:

  • VQdata - a webservice for indexing the online social video space
  • VQslices - embeddable widgets for the management of video collections
  • VQmetrics - quantitative metrics and analytics of online video
VQdata and VQslices are fully functional services, while the VQmetrics service is in stealth mode. The consumer service is in beta mode.

Q. What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
A. Our mission is to enable people and enterprises to master a world of unlimited online video choices.

Q. What services it provides for consumer or customers?
A. Vquence provides consulting and technology services for online video publication, aggregation, and metrics to corporate customers. We deliver these services through so-called widgets, which are web-based modules (essentially iframes) that can be re-used by clients on their own Web site.
Vquence has also developed a consumer-facing website which allows consumers to search for online published videos across a multitude of different sites through one interface. It further allows consumers to create sequences of such videos, e.g. about a particular topic of interest, and enables them to re-publish these sequences in their blogs or on their websites. These video sequences are called "vquences" and provide dense video publication, comparable to what table of contents do for text. Vquences can also be used inside Facebook to share collections of videos rather than just a single one.

Q. What is unique about your venture?
A. Vquence provides a comprehensive and unique set of tools to master the social video space. We have developed an online video search and aggregation service that is flow-based rather than following the traditional crawling principle of Web search engines like Google and
Yahoo. Our flow-based search is based on RSS feeds and Vquence-proprietary search techniques and thus the pitfalls of crawling-based search engines that cannot provide new information at
Vquence also has patented social video analytics algorithms which provide metrics that are not available through any other source.

Q. What market segment verticals are you targeting?
A. The Vquence business services target small and large companies in the online media space.
Media intelligence companies come to us to gain information and data feeds about social video and its spread using the VQdata service. Advertising companies come to us to monitor the audience and the spread of viral video campaigns using the VQmetrics service. And new media companies come to us to gain video publishing and search services for their Websites using the VQslices service.

The Vquence consumer service is targeting people that publish video content on the Web. These are mainly the blogger community and news sites, but are also attractive to educational sites and other video-interested sites.

Q. What age group of people will be benefited most?
A. The consumer service is not inherently targeted at an age group.

Q. How many users are using your services?
A. Vquence has a handful of business customers. There are 122 subscribed users. The video search on the site does not require you to log on, so there are quite a few more anonymous users.

Q. What sort of marketing are you using to spread the word?
A. At this point in time, we are only using blogs and personal communication to spread the word about . There are more features that we intend to develop before the site becomes fully functional. At that time we will want to go for a full online marketing campaign, which includes spreading the word in online fora, banner ads, Google ads, and possibly on the radio.

Q. How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
A. We measure the success of Vquence through the number of contracts that we have with customers and through the number of subscribers we have to the consumer Website. We further measure the success that vquences have for our customers through user interactions that we are capturing through our vquence player.

Q. What is the monetising/revenue model? Is there any new model which is being tried?
A. Our monetisation model for the corporate site is based on an ISP-like model. Our services incur a setup fee and a monthly service charge. The service charge is based on volume of use.

The consumer site is monetised through contextually chosen Google ads for the vquences. However, we have some further ideas for monetisation that are based on including video ads into the vquences chosen by relevance to the videos in the sequence. This will work especially well
with the search service. So far, there is no video advertising agency that can provide a collection of short and succinct video ads that would fit inside vquences and can be chosen contextually, i.e. there are no Google video ads to choose from.

Q. Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
A. The VQmetrics service is providing services to customers in Australia that are similar to services that the US startups TubeMogul, VidMetrix and VisibleMeasures are developing. We also expect that major players in the Web metrics market such as Hitwise, Omniture, or Doubleclick will want to enter the video analytics space in the near future.

Q. What are the main technologies used behind this startup?
A. We use Java to build our search technology, Lucene to do the indexing, MySQL as the database backend, and Ruby on Rails with AJAX and XML technology for the Web front-end and the delivery of widgets. For development management purposes we use bazar as the open source code management system and trac as the developer wiki and bug tracker. In addition, we use joomla for the company website.

Q. What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
A. All of the open source tools that we use, in particular MySQL and Lucene, are most helpful.

Q. Are you using a lot of open source tool sets for this?
A. Yes, we use open source tools where we can because they are usually of very high quality and can be adapted to our needs. Also a positive side-effect is that they come for free.

Q. What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database are you using?
A. Our operating environment for our servers is Linux - or more specifically we use Ubuntu where we can. We run some of our code on Amazon services EC2 and S3, but also have dedicated servers in the US on which we partially run Xen. The database system that we use is MySQL.

Q. How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
A. We frequently catch up with people that work on and with the open source tools that we use. This happens both online through irc, email, bug trackers and similar tools, as well as in person. We are part of the Sydney Linux User Group SLUG, members of Linux Australia, and also
occasionally attend the Ruby on Rails Oceania meetings.

Q. How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
A. That depends very strongly on the type of business you are starting. In the online space, you may not need much. If you start with, say, three people, two of which are coders and one is a marketing/business person, and you have the regular income for the three people sorted, the extra expense for starting an online website can be as small as a few hundred dollars a month using Amazon EC2 and S3. However, this depends on the type of service you are starting. Ours requires that we store a lot of video and do a lot of processing, thus we require a more decent
BTW: check out this blog post that contains some real numbers of expenditure of the two first years of a startup in the US

Q. What are the main barriers in general for people to start their venture in Australia?
A. Australia is a fairly small market. Thus, your business will find it very difficult to grow if it is just Australia-focused.

To build a globally competitive online business from Australia is very hard - you don't have the same business networks, the same investment networks, and the same quality communication networks in Australia as you get in the US.

Australian captial does not typically sponsor online businesses, but rather flows into mining, health, and agricultural businesses, which are deemed less risky.

Also, because Australia is so small, finding talented people in Australia can be very hard if you have a specific need.

Q. What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and market segment you are in?
A. Our market segment is currently still in its infancy and will be growing strongly in the near future. This is because people are starting to realise the power that online video holds in bringing a message across to the audience. Not only is it an on-demand viewing style, but the typical online audience is a social network, which share their experiences with their friends. Thus, online video provides a powerful means of viral marketing that has never been available before in the same manner. This marketing potential is in the process of being uncovered and exploited. To prove the impact of such marketing campaigns, we will require very detailed metrics.

Therefore we can see the field of online video aggregation and metrics grow in a massive way in the near future.

Q. Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
A. Have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve first and who the people are that will be your clients before you start. Then start with all your energy and don't let yourself get distracted by critical bystanders. However, be flexible to adapt your business to the actual needs of your clients as you uncover them - your first shot will hardly ever hit the bullseye.

Thanks Dr. Silvia for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hear from you in future on the progress of Vquence. All the best for Vquence and the competition in this carnival.
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