A Series of Forbes Insights Profiles of Thought Leaders Changing the Business Lanscape: Brad Jefferson, Co-Founder and CEO, Animoto…
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“We’re trying to make it easy to create beautiful and emotionally engaging videos about your life or your business,” says Animoto co-founder and CEO Brad Jefferson. Animoto is a cloud-based web and mobile video creation service that takes photos and video clips and turns them into professional-quality videos, synchronized with music that users can share online. With the popularity of video creation apps like Vine and Instagram video, people are more comfortable than ever with video.
The New York City-based company Jefferson and his pals from high school co-founded in 2006 is on a roll. The 65-person company has nine million registered users, an average of 1 million video creations per month, 1 million iPhone app downloads, 140,000 paying subscribers and has attracted over $30 million in funding from the likes of Amazon, Madrona Venture Group, Spectrum Equity and SoftTechVC.
As founding CEO of Animoto, Brad leads the company in driving Animoto to be the global standard for automated video creation. “Video is an incredibly powerful communication tool. People are brought to tears or laughter by the videos they create for themselves through our service. It’s an art form that impacts people’s lives—like a ‘Kodak moment’ for the 21st century. We also want to help every business use the power of video to build their business,” says Jefferson. “Animoto is not YouTube as we help with the creation of great-looking video, irrespective of where it should be broadcast, but it’s common for customers to share their Animoto videos on YouTube or through social media. Like Marissa Mayer has said—we want to make it easy enough for your mom to use it,” continues Jefferson.
Small and medium businesses are a growing customer segment for Animoto. Realtors use the service to showcase properties and other small businesses create companyoverview videos or product demos to educate customers and increase brand awareness. Professional photographers love Animoto because it brings their photos to life and helps increase conversion rates.
“We’re not the company to help you create a TV commercial. But our service can help with most other video marketing needs,” says Jefferson. According to Jefferson, businesses want to know how they can expose their videos to more customers and measure the results, just like their Google AdWords buys. Animoto is working to improve that experience as the feedback loop of how many times a video is watched is important for the creator of personal videos and business videos alike.
Animoto has a subscription model that starts at a basic level of $5 per month and goes up to $39 per month for the professional level. “I believe that in the near future the ability to create and modify video will be as common for businesses as creating and modifying their web site is today,” says Jefferson.
Prior to co-founding Animoto in August 2006, Brad spent eight years with Onyx Software, an enterprise software company. At Onyx, he served in a variety of management roles in sales, operations and professional services. Through Brad’s career at Onyx he saw the company grow from a 17-person start-up to an 800-person public company, and eventually an acquisition. Brad graduated from Dartmouth College and currently resides in Oakland, California, with his wife and their two children, both of whom are stars of his frequent Animoto video creations.
Jefferson started the business with three friends from Bellevue High School in Seattle, Washington. Three of them also went to Dartmouth in the late ’90s. “We had a t-shirt business and started an interactive directory pre-Facebook era whose traffic grew so fast it brought down the college’s servers. But we never really had big capitalistic ambitions at the time. My friends went into TV and film, working in a variety of production and editing roles at companies like MTV, Comedy Central and ABC. Our CTO, Stevie Clifton, was working for Peter Jennings Productions and was complaining about the challenges of using video production editing tools like Avid. He started thinking about ways to automate aspects of his highly skilled yet laborious process.What hooked me on the concept was imagining a future where one day anyone on the planet with an Internet connection will be able to create a TV-quality video of their life or for their business—not just highly trained professionals. That’s what Animoto is poised to do.” says Jefferson.
“My dad and grandfather were entrepreneurs. I’ve always loved the idea of building a profitable business around an aspect of making the world a better place. In college I majored in sociology and psychology with an education minor but after an internship with Onyx Software after my freshman year I knew I wanted to be involved in early-stage technology.” says Jefferson.
“We started Animoto in August of 2006 and created a prototype to show our wives and girlfriends by that December. The first video came out upside down and while our significant others were rolling their eyes we were high-fiving each other because we knew we could easily fix that. I didn’t know about organizations like YCombinator and Kickstarter didn’t exist. We bootstrapped for the first year without salaries as we developed the product and then I hit up our friends and family for $575,000 as we entered our second year and neared our product launch,” continues Jefferson.
“It’s been a lot of fun—four co-founders and friends. It created a friendly and family-like culture to the business. Now we’re on a mission to change the world,” concludes Jefferson.
Bruce H. Rogers is the co-author of the recently published book Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Service Firms Become Thought Leaders now available on Amazon http://amzn.to/OETmMz