The Next Web is privy to quite a lot of cool startups, covering everything from fashion blogs and football apps, to social networks and tools that help you find the best sandwiches in London.
Every now and again, however, a startup comes along that makes us take a step back and ask ourselves: Is this the next big thing?
Unfortunately we don’t have a magic crystal ball, but we do see enough startups to be able to make a good guess as to which ones are likely to flop, fly or positively soar. And this week we caught up with one startup that might fall into the latter category.
In a nutshell, wireWAX is a Web-based, motion-tracking taggable video tool which allows users to add clickable hotspots. Users tag content, much in the same way as you would add tags to photos on Facebook, and once these tagged hotspots are added, you can add buttons with images, formatted text, links and other applications.
The latter of these, apps, is where things start to get really exciting…you can add video-in-video, SMS/Message senders, image carousels, competitions, interactive games, animations…and more. The crux of wireWAX is about bringing the Web into videos so that as much interaction takes place within a video as possible. It’s not about directing people away to content held elsewhere.
Steve Callanan, the CEO and original wireWAX founder, and Dan Garraway the following co-founder, both come from a background in television, engineering and development and are both involved with a film production company called Wiseguy Pictures.
Steve was one of the youngest TV producers in the UK with a prime-time broadcast series, and he’s a specialist in short-form content. wireWAX was borne out of clients’ demands for making commercial content more interactive. Dan is the key backend developer for database, infrastructure and communications.
A potted history
wireWAX was incorporated in August 2009, as a home for a spin-off technology that was developed through Steven and Dan’s time spent at Wiseguy Pictures. It was in private beta for 6-12 months, then they did a soft public beta launch in 2010 before it was officially on general release from March this year.
During the private beta phase, who were they working with? “It was generally people we were already working with at the production company”, says Steve. “So publishers and brands that were already doing short-form online video content, but wanted to do something interactive with it”.
Whilst many startups struggle to gain much traction in their early days, particulary with big-name companies, it seems that wireWAX wasn’t slow to catch the eye of a pretty impressive early adopter. “EMI came on board in early 2010″, says Dan. “We were introduced to a guy called Spencer Hyman in the early days, who was heading up the digital arm of EMI at the time, and they were trying to do more with digital”. Spencer is also the former COO of Last.FM and has since joined the board of advisers at wireWAX, and he’s also running the show at another startup called ArtFinder, who we covered recently.
Following this link-up, EMI created a ‘video listening post’ last year, on which users clicked objects from an album to listen to a particular track. In July this year, wireWAX announced investment from Passion Capital, an early-stage investment fund managed by angel investors Stefan Glaenzer, Eileen Burbidge and Robert Dighero.
So why wireWAX? “Video has been passive since the beginning”, says Steve. “wireWAX is a tool that allows people to make it interactive”.
So was there a Eureka moment, or was it more of a gradual realization that this is what video needed? “I think it was certainly a Eureka! moment”, says Steve. “We’d experimented some algorithms to build this motion-tracking tool, and the key was being able to create a tool that allowed people to do this themselves. There are existing clickable video services that do this already, where you send them a video and they add all this functionality in for you. But we knew from the start that wasn’t what we wanted to do. We wanted to go beyond that and create a tool so people could do it themselves. It’s an infinitely scalable product. The moment we realized the motion-tracking engine worked on the client side, we knew we had something that would fill that gap”.
wireWAX, on the otherhand, offers fairly extensive tools to let users do all their own tagging. It operates a 4-tier freemium pricing model, ranging from ‘free’ all the way through to $999 per month for its ‘Premium’ service, aimed at ‘large content creators’.
Who exactly is the target audience? Whilst wireWAX is open and available to everyone to start tagging videos, its typical use cases thus far have involved companies seeking to develop interactive, short-form videos for its customers. But moving forward Steve and Dan see this product as serving a much broader purpose. “In the grand scheme of things and looking towards the future, we’re viewing this as much more appealing as a consumer product”, says Steve. “That simplification process is well underway now, and with that will come the traction on the consumer side”.
So how exactly does wireWAX see this working from a consumer perspective? One example they cited was at a music festival, where a user could upload videos from their mobile and tag it. “That simplicity will be much more attractive to a consumer, and that’s where we really want this to go”, says Steve. “We don’t want this to be an exclusive product. It’s meant to be a fundamental movement for the intelligence of video. It’s no longer just a bunch of moving pixels”.
Indeed, excluding consumers would very much be counteractive to wireWAX’s goals of creating this intelligent video “movement”. But for the moment, the way the subscription models are set up means it’s slightly more geared towards what Dan calls the “Pro-sumer/business side”.
The future according to wireWAX
Last week we announced that a touchscreen version of wireWAX was arriving on the iPad for anyone to use, but what about smartphones? “It may be a bit fiddly, but we’ve seen a lot of people using it on their smartphone”, says Steve. “I think there will be graduations both with the consumer and the product which will make it an easier process”, continues Dan. “So I think it’s a growth area, but the tablet is the best example of the touch interface at the moment”.
Looking to the future, Steve says: “The next thing for us is the automation. Make this whole product completely idiot proof, and make it as accessible as possible to everyone. That includes someone filming and sharing directly from their mobile whilst being automatically tagged and motion-tracked. We want to make it as automated and seamless as humanly possible”.
wireWAX in action
Meanwhile, here you can see an interactive video created with wireWAX for the iPad: