“What does happiness look like to you?” Vizlingo CEO Azeo Fables asked me when we first met.
I imagined a small child holding a big red balloon. You might picture a sunset on a beach, or a bowl of ice cream; the point is happiness looks different to everyone. So how can we use these images to communicate? Vizlingo is a New York City startup that’s making an app to do just that. It’s artsy text messaging meets video. We live in a day when video everything is all the rage, and it’s got an iPhone and Facebook app on the way. Is Vizlingo on to something?
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Fables and his founder Todd Younggren met in their freshman dorms at Northeastern. They were both using technology creatively and were serious about not working for the man. It was just about finding a good project. Vizlingo began to take shape after the two returned from a shoe-string backpacking trip through 6 continents and 30+ countries. Having filmed hundreds of hours of footage abroad including street vendors in Japan, grandmothers in Bulgaria, young Buddhist monks in India, children in Bolivia, farmers in China, and everyone in between, they wanted to work on a tech-oriented project that celebrated the cultural diversity they had captured.
At first they approached art galleries with an interactive installation showcasing a global visual language made out of video. Just like in Vizlingo, words were represented with video. However, when they showed it around, people asked “Can I add my own clips?” and “Can I send a message from my phone”? They realized that offering Vizlingo as a messaging tool with the ability to upload your own content is a great opportunity for self-expression and personalization.
We interviewed Fables about his new company after the jump.
CBM: Why do we need Vizlingo today?
Azeo Fables: Vizlingo brings impact, expression and video entertainment into the generic and impersonal world of text-only communication. We have been using emoticons for 20 years and meanwhile a lot has changed with smartphones, social media and user-generated content. We still rely on a colon and parentheses to convey meaning when there are much greater tools around. Messages and posts should be personal, expressive and vibrant.
CBM: At the moment, Vizlingo could be viewed as an arts project, what do you see being its most concrete and informative uses?
AF: The goal is to integrate user-generated content into a messaging environment. We are still in beta with only partial product release, so right now the website shows how your words can be transformed into video. Over the course of this fall we will make vizlingo social by launching iOS and Facebook apps, direct social media integration, and submit-a-clip functionality.
Users will be able to add their own video clips and select default clips from our database of 30,000+ clips. By letting each user choose clips they like and upload their own, our users will be able to add personal meaning to their messages. Connectivity to social media and mobiles let’s users send messages to your friend’s cell phones and post on YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. No, someone doesn’t need to have the app to receive a message.
CBM: How do you envision the future of Vizlingo?
AF: As we continue to launch our beta site and apps, we’re focused on making the best product possible for visual messaging and status updates with user-generated content. Creating international markets by adding multi-lingual support means the clips being added to the database would represent a variety of languages, cultures and environments. There will be some great opportunities for language learning and educational initiatives. It will be really interesting to see the diversity of how one word could be represented across different cultures. For example, I may express the word “celebrate” with fireworks, someone in Europe might show a crowd jumping up and down after the winning goal, and a young parent could choose a clip of their child blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
CBM: In what way will Vizlingo play its part in the growing video space?
AF: Vizlingo is playing it’s part in the growing video space by directly integrating video into the messaging environment, making text more exciting and video more social. We’re giving video content an active purpose as a part of people’s messages and status updates. People like creating and sharing video. People like messaging. Put those two together and voila!
CBM: You raised $1.8 million. Tell me about the funding process and how what you’ve done with the $.
AF: The funding process is a test of endurance. If you believe in your idea and it has relevance to the market, then you’ll get through it, but I think most founders will agree that they would rather be spending their time on their product. The process inadvertently helps because it requires you to patiently focus in on the value you’re creating – in the end, investors care about how you are going to make them money. We are allocating a good chunk of the cash towards the product: clip submission, iPhone/Facebook apps, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and TouTube integration, and UI/UX work. It’s important to us to provide the best experience possible for the user and you will see these features roll out as we launch.
So what do you think, is Vizlingo on to something or is it too early to tell?
Featured image: Shutterstock/ Eduard Stelmakh