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Biteable raises $7 million Series A for its template-based online video builder

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Online video platform Biteable, a startup that makes it easier to create polished and professional videos using templates and a library of images and animations, has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Cloud Apps Capital Partners. The service today competes with products from Vimeo, Canva, Adobe and others, but focuses on creating video assets that have more staying power than temporary social videos.

These sort of videos are in more demand than ever, as the pandemic has prompted increased use of video communications — particularly among smaller businesses — which has also helped Biteable to grow, the company says. 

“[The pandemic] accelerated the move toward video that was already happening,” notes Biteable CEO Brent Chudoba, who joined the company at the end of last year. “It helped, obviously, things like Zoom and products like Loom. We saw a benefit, as well. I think, actually, we’ll see an even bigger benefit over time as companies are now used to working and sharing messages remotely, and having to get more creative in how they distribute information,” he says.

The startup itself was originally co-founded in 2015 in Hobart, Australia by CTO Tommy Fotak, Simon Westlake, and James MacGregor. Fotak’s background was in software development, while Westlake had experience in animation and studio production. MacGregor, who has a software, product and marketing background and previously worked at BigCommerce, is Biteable’s Chief Product Officer.

The team had initially been working on freelance projects for people who needed advertising and explainer videos, which led them to realize the opportunity in the video creation market. They believed there was demand for a video builder product that simplified a lot of the decisions that needed to be made when making a video. That is, they wanted to do for video creation what Squarespace, Wix and others have done for website creation.

Chudoba more recently joined the company as a result of Biteable wanting to bring in a CEO with more experience growing freemium software productivity businesses. Prior to Biteable, Chudoba worked in private equity, was an early SurveyMonkey employee (CRO), and also spent time at PicMonkey (COO), Thrive Global (COO and CFO) and Calendly (Head of Business Operations).

While Chudoba admits Biteable is not without its competition, he views that as a positive thing. It means there’s opportunity in the market and it gives Biteable a chance to differentiate itself from others.

On that front, Biteable’s customers tell him the product offers a good balance between the amount of time and skill set they have and the quality of the results.

“They can produce results that they are very proud of and that exceed what they thought they could do with — not necessarily low effort — but without having the training, skills and design background,” says Chudoba.

Above: A Biteable explainer video built with Biteable

The customers also appreciate the sizable content library, which includes a combination of stock photography, stock video footage, and hundreds of animations and scenes. Biteable licenses content from Unsplash and Storyblocks, while its animation library and templates are built in-house by its own professional design team. This allows the company to release hundreds of scenes per month, to keep the library content refreshed and current.

Unlike some of the other products on the market, Biteable’s sweet spot isn’t on “quick hit” social videos, like Instagram Stories, for example. Instead, it focuses on assets that companies use and reuse — like video explainers for a business, online marketing and ads, videos that appear on product pages, and more. Its videos also tend to be between 30 seconds and 3 and half minutes.

Already, Biteable has found individuals from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Disney, Salesforce, BBC, Shopify and Samsung have used its service, though it doesn’t have any official contracts with these larger businesses.

Above: A Biteable recruiting video template

Today, the startup generates revenue via a freemium business model that includes multiple subscription plans.

A free plan for individual users offers access to the suite of tools for video creation, including the 1.8 million pictures, clips, and animations within the Biteable library. However, free videos are watermarked with Biteable’s branding. A $19 per month plan for single users removes the watermark and allows you to add your own, and offers HD 1080p resolution and other features, like commercial usage rights. Professionals pay $49 per month for shared editing and projects and use by unlimited team members, and more. Custom pricing plans are also available.

Combined, Biteable’s free and paid users total over 6 million. They create around 100,000 unique videos per month, and that number had roughly doubled over the course of 2020.

Image Credits: Biteable

The new $7 million round, announced today, was led by new investor Cloud Apps Capital Partners. Existing investor Tank Stream Ventures also returned for the round and was joined by both new and existing angel investors. In total, Biteable has raised over $9 million (USD) to date.

With the additional funds, Biteable aims to hire and continue to develop the product.

Another shift attributed to the pandemic is that people have warmed up to remote work. Biteable had already been a remote-first operation whose team of 46 is geographically distributed across Australia, the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. Now, Biteable no longer has to convince people that remote work is the future — and this helps with recruiting talent, too.

Chudoba believes Biteable can grow to become a larger company over time.

“Video is a platform concept and so I think you can build a really big standalone company,” Chudoba says. “We’re a freemium model so that’s a low customer acquisition cost. It’s a high value service and it can be very sticky when you get teams involved,” he notes.

“The power of online video has been incredible, and the events of 2020 have accelerated adoption trends that would have otherwise taken five or more years to evolve,” notes Matt Holleran, General Partner at Cloud Apps Capital Partners, in a statement about his firm’s investment. “As a firm, we look for great businesses in high growth industries with excellent teams that we can help reach the next level. In Biteable, we see all three of those elements and are incredibly excited to partner with Brent and the Biteable team on this next chapter of growth,” he says.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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AT&T may keep majority ownership of DirecTV as it closes in on final deal

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A DirecTV satellite dish mounted to the outside of a building.

Enlarge / A DirecTV satellite dish seen outside a bar in Portland, Oregon, in October 2019. (credit: Getty Images | hapabapa)

AT&T is reportedly closing in on a deal to sell a stake in DirecTV to TPG, a private-equity firm.

Unfortunately for customers hoping that AT&T will relinquish control of DirecTV, a Reuters report on Friday said the pending deal would give TPG a “minority stake” in AT&T’s satellite-TV subsidiary. On the other hand, a private-equity firm looking to wring value out of a declining business wouldn’t necessarily be better for DirecTV customers than AT&T is.

It’s also possible that AT&T could cede operational control of DirecTV even if it remains the majority owner. CNBC in November reported on one proposed deal in which “AT&T would retain majority economic ownership of the [DirecTV and U-verse TV] businesses, and would maintain ownership of U-verse infrastructure, including plants and fiber,” while the buyer of a DirecTV stake “would control the pay-TV distribution operations and consolidate the business on its books.”

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Fintechs could see $100 billion of liquidity in 2021

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Three years ago, we released the first edition of the Matrix Fintech Index. We believed then, as we do now, that fintech represents one of the most exciting major innovation cycles of this decade. In 2020, all the long-term trends forcing change in this sector continued and even accelerated.

The broad movement away from credit toward debit, particularly among younger consumers, represents one such macro shift. However, the pandemic also created new, unforeseen drivers. Among them, millennials decamped from their rentals in crowded cities to accelerate their first home purchase, to the benefit of proptech companies and challenger mortgage players alike.

E-commerce saw an enormous acceleration in growth rates, furthering adoption of online payments platforms. Lastly, low interest rates and looming inflation helped pave the way for the price of Bitcoin to charge toward $30,000. In short, multiple tailwinds combined to produce a blockbuster year for the category.

In this year’s refresh of the Matrix Fintech Index, we’ll divide our attention into three parts. First, a look at the public stocks’ performance. Second, liquidity. Third, we highlight one major trend in the sector: Buy Now Pay Later, or BNPL.

Public fintech stocks rose 97% in 2020

For the fourth straight year, the publicly traded fintechs massively outperformed the incumbent financial services providers as well as every mainstream stock index. While the underlying performance of these companies was strong, the pandemic further bolstered results as consumers avoided appearing in-person for both shopping and banking. Instead, they sought — and found — digital alternatives.

For the fourth straight year, the publicly traded fintechs massively outperformed the incumbent financial services providers as well as every mainstream stock index.

Our own representation of the public fintechs’ performance is the Matrix Fintech Index — a market cap-weighted index that tracks the progress of a portfolio of 25 leading public fintech companies. The Matrix fintech Index rose 97% in 2020, compared to a 14% rise in the S&P 500 and a 10% drop for the incumbent financial service companies over the same time period.

 

2020 performance of individual fintech companies vs. SPX

2020 performance of individual fintech companies versus S&P 500. Image Credits: PitchBook

 

Fintech incumbents and new entrants vs. the S&P 500

Fintech incumbents and new entrants versus the S&P 500. Image Credits: PitchBook

E-commerce undoubtedly stood out as a major driver. As a category, retail e-commerce grew 35% YoY as of Q3, propelling PayPal and Shopify to add over $160 billion of market capitalization over the year. For its part, PayPal in the third quarter signed up 15 million net new active accounts (its highest ever).

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Walking with Dolly

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A walk is, more often than not, a solitary experience. As far as the age of COVID-19 is concerned, that’s probably more bug than feature. It’s a way to escape the confines of a shutdown for a few glorious moments, to get some air and, for better or worse, reflect on the day that’s passed or the one to come.

It can, like many things these days, however, be isolating.

For me, long weekend walks have been a sort of lifesaver throughout this bizarre year. Following two months of being completely sidelined over (non-COVID) health issues, I began walking more per week than I ever have. It was a slow process at first — frankly, never leaving my one-bedroom apartment for April and May made it so it was physically painful to walk around the block when I finally felt comfortable going outside.

These days, I walk every morning, regularly crossing the bridge into Brooklyn and Manhattan. Until I started using Apple’s new Fitness+ service a few times a day, it was easily my main source of exercise. In November, however, my Apple Watch Activity bars swapped the more generic gray for the Fitness+ yellow. But even as I’ve made a point to do a couple of indoor exercises a day, I still start each day with a walk. Rain, snow, this weekend’s sub-freezing weather — skipping a day would feel like breaking a promise to myself.

My actual bars (not sure what happened in September — maybe testing a competitor’s device)

This morning Apple dropped the first five installments (episodes?) of Time to Walk. The feature is an attempt to expand the Fitness+ experience beyond the confines of its titular iOS app. A largely Watch-based experience, the feature leverages much of the wearable’s existing features (and Apple’s growing software ecosystem) to offer a more tailored and multimedia experience than you would get listening to a podcast or music alone.

As with the canny arrival of Fitness+ (December) and handwashing for watchOS (September), Apple says the timing was something of a happy coincidence. The company had been working on the feature well before COVID-19 entered the picture.

“Everything from Time to Walk and our launch of Fitness+ was something we had been working on well before COVID,” the company’s senior director of Fitness Technologies Jay Blahnik tells TechCrunch. “From the very beginning, we thought of Fitness+ as a place where everyone was welcome. We wanted it to feel like a place where, whether you’re new to fitness or very fit, there was something for everyone.”

For many, a walk (or push, in the case of those who use a wheelchair for mobility) is square one when it comes to daily workouts. For my part, I was certainly far more comfortable taking quick strolls around the neighborhood. With limits on space and no real exercise equipment to speak of beyond a kettlebell and yoga mat, attempting to approximate the gym experience at home has seemed a fool’s errand.

April found me trying some YouTube yoga classes with limited efficacy. Like most attempts to exercise, it didn’t stick. Walking every day was the only thing that did. And for the first time in my life, COVID-19 found me walking without any particular destination in mind. That old cliché about it being about the journey not the destination is fine when you don’t mind constantly being late to meetings. Walking for the sake of itself, however, changes the dynamic significantly. I speak to artists, writers and musicians on a regular basis for my podcast. The common sentiment is a familiar one: You simply can’t force creativity. But for those who make a point to regularly walk and run, it’s perhaps the most surefire way to kickstart the process.

Time to Walk is Apple’s attempt to capture some of that lightning in a bottle — to follow a rotating cast of big names as they walk through locations that mean something to them. The company says it’s been making an effort to meet guests where they are and essentially coach them through the process. The ability to do so is, of course, depends on their given location — especially with all of the sorts of travel restrictions that have been in place since early last year.

Ultimately, Apple says, the decisions of where to record are made by the guests. “Some guests said, ‘this is where I want to go,’ ” says Blahnik. “And some guests were like, ‘no, I want to to do the walk I normally do.’ For us, it’s not about Shawn Mendes in the Grand Canyon, it’s about where they want to go. Sometimes that’s limited by COVID, but what we found delightful was for many people, they loved to take the walk they loved to take.”

The first four guests — Mendes, Dolly Parton, Draymond Green and Uzo Aduba — run the gamut on approaches. “We think about the stories, we think about the diverse guest,” says Blahnik. We think about all of the ways you’d like the conversations to go. But what was important to us was that the idea resonated with them. The idea of going out for a walk, having a lovely conversation and hearing stories that could give you a different perspective.”

Parton, who turned 75 earlier this month, recorded her session in a studio — in contrast to the other three names. She relates a handful of stories largely revolving around her upbringing in Sevier County (pronounced “severe”), Tennessee. There’s a story about a Christmas tree and one about opening a literacy center with the help of her father (who struggled with his own ability to read and write).

She somewhat self-effacingly relates a story about the time her hometown erected a statue of her. “So I went home, and I said, ‘Daddy, did you know they’re putting a statue of me? Do you know about the statue down at the courthouse?’ ” Parton explains. “And Daddy said, ‘Well, yeah, I heard about that.’ He said, ‘Now, to your fans out there, you might be some sort of an idol. But to them pigeons, you ain’t nothing but another outhouse.’ ”

According to Parton, her father would visit the statue at night with a bucket of soap and water to clean the pigeons’ mess off his daughter’s likeness. Her segment culminates with something approaching a behind the music-style segment, describing stories behind three of her own songs: “Coat of Many Colors,” “Circle of Love” and “9 to 5.” The latter is the real gem of the bunch, contrasting her morning routines to costars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, while describing the role her acrylic nails played in the songwriting and recording process.

Image Credits: Apple

Green’s stories are more emblematic of the rest. On a walk around Malibu, the Warriors power forward discusses some inspiration stories on and off the court, from being told he would never be a star to a time he tried and failed to cheat on a test in school. The stories are purposefully personal. Aduba relates some of her own struggles to break into acting, as she walks her amusingly named dog Fenway Bark through Fort Green Park in Brooklyn.

The guests share images relating to their stories or snapshots of where they go on their walks, which are delivered to the wrist with a haptic buzz. At they end of the journey, they share three handpicked songs that can be saved to a playlist on Apple Music, similar to what the company has done for its Fitness+ workouts.

Write-ups of the Time to Walk have thus far compared it to podcasting — understandably so, given that it’s an on-demand, audio-first experience. Though the feature, which downloads directly onto the Watch when the new installment drops once a week, has its own flavor, according to Apple.

“Often podcasts are hosted,” Blahnik says, by way of distinction. “In our journey to build out this experience, we certainly considered if there should be a host walking with this person. What we realized is that, for what we were trying to create, the intimacy of having the singular guest talk to you felt a lot more like you were on a walk with them. The notion that it’s not happening in a studio (in almost all cases), that they’re walking someplace that inspires them. You’ll hear that with Draymond and Shawn — with Shawn he’s huffing and puffing up that hill and it’s kind of nice because you’re in that moment together.”

Time to Walk isn’t raw, exactly. It is an Apple production, after all. The company’s certainly not tossing out found audio here. But the content does seem more off-the-cuff than many of its productions, even as it’s packaged together with a slick intro and a trio of songs at the end. But it’s a nice change of pace for those looking for something that feels a little more personal than we’re accustom to from some of the names involved.

Your own mileage will vary, depending on, among other things, your interest in the guest. Though, there’s always a chance someone you’ve never been particularly interested in — or even heard of — will offer some unique tidbit or interesting way of looking at things. That’s one of the potential upsides of having Apple doing the curating here — there’s some interesting potential for discovery. And even in the case of artists you’re familiar with, there’s good potential to discover something new.

The weekly 20 to 45-minute audio supplement won’t make the actual act of walking any less solitary — but for a little while, at least, it’s nice to feel like someone’s along for the ride.

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