Justin WASTNAGE of Vloggi tells us about user-generated video campaigns made easy.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Justin WASTNAGE: Thanks for asking. Yes, we are all good. We have the good fortune of living in Australia, where there haven’t been many cases, and life is pretty much back to normal. The downside is that the international (and even internal state) borders are all closed, so there is no travel anymore.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Vloggi.
Justin WASTNAGE: I was actually one of the first people in the world to use the term “Video blog” back in 2004 when I was working as an aviation journalist. I set up Flight International magazine’s Flight TV unit and did 5-crew shoots from air shows. But once, the sponsor pulled out for an air show in Orlando, Florida, and I told my editor that I would do it all myself. So I composed the theme tune, designed the graphics, did all the cutaways, interviews, pieces to camera, and then edited them down into 3-minute news articles every day. My editor thought the Flight TV brand couldn’t extend to this semi-amateur production, so I called it a video blog. We used this new thing called “The YouTube” to distribute and suddenly got massive audiences.
From there, I set up a number of micro TV series for publishers and then moved into travel and tourism, first in journalism then as a government policy specialist. The thing that everyone said was, “we need video, video, video.” I realized then that everyone had a high definition mobile phone, so all we had to do was build an ecosystem that allowed ordinary travelers to provide footage for destination marketers and tourism boards to use.
I built the first prototype of what is now Vloggi back in 2017.
How does Vloggi innovate?
Justin WASTNAGE: Vloggi allows for episodic video to be created at vast volume through a combination of automation and crowdsourcing video footage. Our system turns your customers, colleagues, or community into your film crew. Then our video templating system transforms this footage into professional-looking video stories.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Justin WASTNAGE: We were set to go to market in March, targeting the travel and tourism industry. We had templates all built around destination reviews, hotel reviews, airline reviews, etc. And then….. So instead, our amazing CTO, Jérémy Giraudet, set to work rebuilding the platform for all marketers to use, and I set about finding new markets. Today travel only accounts for 10% of our market, down from 90% before COVID. Mostly we are used by brands seeking authentic video testimonials and product in action videos from their loyal customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Justin WASTNAGE: Yes, we had to slim down our tech team from three developers to one and also had to let our marketing person go. For a while, it was just Jérémy and I. We weren’t allowed to meet during the lockdown here in Australia in April, so we’d get coffee takeaway from the same café and walk around. A few times, the police drove past to see if we were meeting or just.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Justin WASTNAGE: I actually loaded extra stress onto myself during COVID. We had the kids being homeschooled, a go-to-market plan in tatters, and a target industry (tourism) in freefall. But due to uncertainty over income, I took on two consultancy contracts. I also started my MBA during the same period. Funnily being extra busy was a good way to cope with the stress.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Justin WASTNAGE: The Vloggi Studio platform does three things in one: It is a crowdsourcing engine, a templated video production tool, and an automated video production tool. We have competitors on each of our three pillars, but no one who does all three at once. So since COVID, we have seen new competitors emerge, like VideoPeel and Capture, who play in the crowdsourcing space. This is a sign of the need to collaborate on video projects with customers and colleagues stuck at home. TypeForm recently added VideoAsk, which we’d see as a competitor, too. Then on the promo video side, our neighbors here in Sydney, Canva, recently took their video product out of beta, so now they are competing with Promo, BIteable, and other videomakers. And in the dynamic video space, there are a whole bunch of startups like SmartVideo and Binumi. But for now, no one is combining all three.
Your final thoughts?
Justin WASTNAGE: COVID was a blessing for us, in some ways. We used the lockdown to rebuild the platform, and it also forced us to refocus the business plan. However, we almost rebranded as “CoVid” in January, which would have been disastrous.
Had it not been for a cable supplier in Arizona, who already had the domain name covid.com, then Vloggi may right now be trying to undo a disastrous rebranding exercise.
We also recently secured a new strategic investor from the video world.
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