An Israeli startup set out to be the ‘Flipboard for video’ and is now building the future of video technology
Minute.ly successfully pivoted from a Flipboard-like video discovery app for consumers to a deep tech platform for online video publishers. Here’s how the Israeli startup's technology matters.Sohini Mitter
Israeli startup Minute.ly began as a video discovery app in 2014, with distinct ambitions of becoming the ‘Flipboard for video’. Flipboard is the popular, decade-old news curation and aggregation platform from California, which counts 150 million monthly users currently. But, it mainly sticks to text stories, and curates a personalised feed for users based on their content preferences.
Minute.ly sought to do the same for videos, which had started to become the dominant currency on the internet by 2014.
The Tel Aviv-based startup was founded by serial entrepreneur Amit Golan (who’s also a mentor at Google for Entrepreneurs in Product Development). He was later joined by Erez Eliad (Founder of Wivo, which optimised social media campaigns for ecommerce sites), and Maoz Melamed (Founder of beeCommerce, which built widgets for ecommerce platforms) and Nick Laniado (a tech designer) as co-founders.
Erez, Maoz, and Nick presently serve as Minute.ly’s VP - Marketing, CTO, and Art Director respectively, while Amit dons the CEO hat. The startup has 38 employees.
From B2C to B2B
In the first few years, Minute.ly was a B2C platform available as a downloadable app for consumers. It helped them sift through tonnes of viral video content on the internet and view the most engaging clips.
Much like Flipboard, Minute.ly grouped videos into categories - sports, tech, entertainment, humour, news, etc. - that allowed users to quickly arrive at the clips they were most interested in. On the app, they could simply swipe right on video cards to view or swipe left to dismiss a card and move to the next one.
This not only saved browsing time, but also exposed users to a greater volume of video content relevant to them. “Discoverability of good video content was the major issue we solved,” says Amit Golan, Co-founder and CEO, Minute.ly. “We also helped users increase their overall video consumption.”
In 2015, Minute.ly raised a Series A round of $4 million from Israeli investor Gilad Shabta and a clutch of other undisclosed angels. It then started developing AI-enabled video analysis tools and deep learning products with the capital. Three years later, in 2018, Minute.ly pivoted to a B2B platform.
Subsequently, the app was delisted from Play Store and other app stores.
AI-led, real-time video analysis
Now, Minute.ly sells proprietary video AI technology to content publishers - mostly in the fields of sports, news, entertainment, etc. - around the world, with the purpose of increasing their video click-through rates and revenues.
“We are focused on bringing about better engagement and RoI on video content. Our technology creates impact by amplifying the peak moment of a video.”
Now, how does Minute.ly decide what the ‘peak moment’ is? Surely, these aren’t arbitrary calls, but entirely data-driven decisions.
Through AI-led viewer data analysis, computer vision, and online crowdsourced indicators of user behaviour, Minute.ly determines the most significant/popular part of a video in real time. It then generates five-to-seven-second auto-preview video (APV) trailers of that segment and displays it on the publisher’s website or pushes it out on Google Search as dynamic thumbnails.
“Static images are a thing of the past,” says Amit, adding, “Dynamic thumbnails are very powerful in terms of engagement and monetisation.”
Incidentally, even Google uses AI and deep learning methods to run YouTube’s automatic thumbnail selector. Netflix, too, is said to be experimenting with AI that can create personalised show trailers/teasers for its subscribers. Basically, no two people will be shown the same trailer video.
Minute.ly claims it has helped its clients improve their video click-through rates (CTR) by over 50 percent. Its AI tech can also generate smart highlights of live broadcasts, a feature utilised by top sports publishers during the 2018 Football World Cup. It helped boost livestream audience by 13 percent and increased advertising revenues for broadcasters by more than 35 percent.
Once Minute.ly’s solution is integrated with the publisher’s platform, it automatically creates APVs for newly published videos, and pushes them out to users in real time. It also aggregates best-performing videos and video-related content on every platform under ‘Top Videos’.
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Who needs Minute.ly, and why?
Literally, anybody who publishes video content online.
It is estimated that by 2021, 80 percent of all internet traffic would be represented by video. Hence, it is imperative for businesses to a) increase video views and b) drive profitability out of their video content.
And Minute.ly, Amit says, is designed to help them achieve just that.
“We’re finding ways to increase the chances of a user watching video content. We’re also helping publishers and content producers get the most out of their videos by increasing sign-ups and conversions.”
Top media publishers including TIME, FoxSports, Major League Baseball (MLB.com), NFL, AccuWeather, NBCUniversal, TopGear, and several others use Minute.ly’s technology. The startup also claims that it recently helped a FORTUNE 500 company increase its PVs by 300 percent.
While most of its clients are in the US - it also has an office in New York - Minute.ly is now tapping into other markets in Europe, Asia, and Australia.
“ZEE5 [OTT service] is the first Indian video publisher to partner with us,” reveals Amit. “We have increased their CTRs by more than 67 percent, and are also trying to understand what attracts the attention of viewers,” he adds.
Minute.ly’s tools can also integrate with Google’s AMP pages, and create horizontal content in vertical formats for publishers. Without disclosing specifics, the startup says it will raise another round of capital shortly.
Amit notes, “We aren’t saving the world from cancer. But, we are doing something that will help people consume better content. We are essentially building the future of video technology.”