Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Interview with Aaron Crayford, Rippol
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Recently, San Diego-based Rippol (www.rippol.com) launched its web site, a service which uses social networking to help people find and discover interesting videos related to their interests. We caught up with CEO Aaron Crayford to learn about the company.
Aaron, thanks for the interview. There seem to be a lot of companies launching firms in the video discovery and search area nowadays, where do you fit in?
Aaron Crayford: Yes, there's quite a few people looking to solve this problem. We've come up with a pretty unique solution, which looks at social depth--you, your friends, and the people you follow, your demographics, and people you impact--and learns about these people and makes intelligent decisions based on that. Our software sorts video content relative to its importance to you, based on your social graph and social impact. It's not too far away from how we think about things, where you know lots about your friends and what they might like, and make decisions based on that.
What's the story behind the company?
Aaron Crayford: About 11 months ago, almost a year ago, me and some of my buddies were consuming lots of online video. It required remembering the names of lots of web sites, and I thought--this problem I am seeing right now is what happened in the mid 90's, and is history repeating itself--having to remember all these web site names. I thought--maybe, we can go index those sites, and figured out, although that is useful, indexing videos across sites just creates an even bigger problem. Instead of 20 comedies on one site, now you have 5000 on one site. What is the real problem here? The real problem is with video it's not what you are looking for--search is something Google has already solve--it's that sites don't know how to make an intelligent decision on what people want in this new medium. What is really needed, is that content needs to come to people, based on what they personally want. If you can people the right content in front of people, based on what they want, you increase their engagement. We believe the medium is the message, and if you want people to keep paying attention, you need to put video in front of people that is what they want to watch.
So is this more social networking, or is this search?
Aaron Crayford: If you create a Venn diagram, this exists in the middle. Search doesn't sole the problem -- search only works if you know what you are looking for. Now, we're seeing people engaging the medium more and more, and spending lots of time online, and you need something to keep people watching. To do that, you have to really know the person well, and put something in front of them that keeps their attention.
Let's talk about the videos you are using in your system--are there specific sites on the Internet you are indexing, and do you have deals with those sites?
Aaron Crayford: We have a crawling system crawling around various sites, but we don't have any content partnerships right now. We've been flying under the radar for awhile, and we wanted to come out and get our vision realized before coming out with the product.
So the video content you recommend--is that user generated like YouTube, or professional content like Hulu?
Aaron Crayford: It doesn't matter. This thing will go out and learn about other sites, and automatically learns from users about new sites. The content type doesn't matter--it could be a live video chat, it could be a YouTube clip, or it could be Hulu--whatever site fits the medium. It doesn't matter where the content is from, what you personally like to watch shows up in front of you.
Talk about your background and how you got into this?
Aaron Crayford: Before Rippol, I was the CEO and CTO of Vusion, a company that provided HD video streaming. We created a lot of technology around making really cheap, and really effective streaming HD video, solving lots of problems where distance was involved, and allowing our customers to stream a huge amount of HD video without any quality loss. That company was eventually sold after I left. Before that, I was a student researcher as San Diego Sate University and a UCSD student.
So what's the business model behind this?
Aaron Crayford: Right now, there are several models we could potentially go after. We're focused right now on the user experience. It doesn't cost much to run the infrastructure on the back end, and what we want to get right now is the user experience. Some things we might say to a potential investor, is subscription revenue share, offering a service to a set-top box for the discovery hooks--but to be quite honest, our main focus is the user experience.
Finally, how is the firm funded?
Aaron Crayford: We're completely bootstrapped. We've been running for eleven months now, with me and another eight people working full time, and about ten people part time. Those are buddies of mine from UCSD, and the open source community. We're running on money we've saved, and some friends and family. We may end up raising money pretty soon.