We’ve been at it for four years now and have had Animoto.com up-and-running for three. In that time we’ve released thirty press releases, an average of almost one a month if you can believe it, and while our news will start accelerating even faster in the coming months we’re now going to use this new blog as our communication hub for all PR news.
The first year of Animoto.com (launched Aug 2007) was all about ‘wowing’ our preciously few users with amazing videos every time they used our service. We knew that if users weren’t blown away by their first Animoto video creation that we’d be dead in the water. Since rendering custom videos frame-by-frame on servers is expensive we also needed a working business model out of the gate. We had the audacity to charge for slideshows in an online world that expected everything free! Before the freemium model was widely adopted or proven.
As it turned out, we were fortunate in that users (and the press) did immediately recognize the production value of Animoto videos – as shown by their willingness to pay. 1 in 10 users who tried a free 30-sec Animoto video pulled out their credit cards to create longer videos (the premium part of our freemium business model), a 10% conversion rate in a world where 5% is great.
Our second year was about tailoring our service to meet the needs of our most passionate customers: professional photographers, businesses, non-profits, schools. This focus allowed us to turn the business cashflow positive in late 2008, a time when the economy was falling apart. I’m particularly proud of Animoto’s adoption in schools (which is a free to teachers and classrooms) and with professional photographers (where we’ve quickly become the industry leader). If you haven’t seen our print ad campaign with some of the world’s most famous pro photographers you should definitely check it out.
This past year, the third year of Animoto.com, was focused on 1) giving people more reasons to create Animoto videos and 2) riding the huge video capture wave.
A year ago we only had one video style available on Animoto.com. Our thinking was that our patent-pending Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology should be so good at inferring all the video editing decisions based on the media supplied that it should automatically infuse perfect motion design to help tell the story. Turns out users want to pick for themselves and, not only that, but having more styles gives users more inspiration to create videos. We launched holiday styles last December and 15% of all video creations in December used those styles. After seeing similar success for Valentine’s Day we decided to do more. We now have 20 styles and, as of last week, fewer than 25% of video creations now use our original style. Expect more developments in this area and let us know if there are certain styles/greetings you’d like to see.
It was only a year ago that we launched our video feature that allows users to include video clips into their Animoto videos. Turns out that our launch was serendipitously timed with the launch of the iPhone 3GS with video and Flip’s massive TV commercial campaign. It’s now rare to find cameras or phones that shoot photos but not video, even high-end cameras like Canon’s 5D Mark 2. The result is that the number of video clips captured is increasing rapidly. We feel this trend first hand.
A year ago 15% of paid Animoto videos contained at least one video clip and that number has steadily increased to 20%. In comparing notes with photo sharing sites, it sounds like it’s common for 20% of photo albums nowadays to contain at least one video clip. The disruptive challenge about this video growth is that traditional players who have built big businesses around digital photos can’t apply their cash cow models to video since, unlike photos, you can’t print video and you can’t put video in photo books. Enter Animoto: our aim is to automate Hollywood production with a click of a button. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s possible.
I can’t think of a time in our company history where we’ve had such clarity and been so excited about our future product roadmap. The vast majority of our efforts this past year has focused on planning and building for the future and we’re now only a few months away from some very exciting launches.
If you want more insight feel free to leave a comment/question. If you’re looking for full transparency on all the nitty gritty then you should come work for Animoto. We continue to grow our team by 50% every year and don’t have plans to slow-down anytime soon. We’re currently 28 employees strong and over this past year have added offices in San Francisco (where I’ve worked/lived from our beginning) and Singapore, while our HQ remains in NYC.