Thursday, July 24, 2008

AlwaysOn, Aussie Style

Since the Australians live their whole lives a day ahead of us in the U.S., I suppose it stands to reason that a group of Australian entrepreneurial interactive companies would provide an informal tee-off to the AlwaysOn Stanford Innovation Summit. This is my third year at the show, and my fourth AlwaysOn conference, and I readily admit I can’t live without it. There’s something about the honesty born of greed (er, I mean being in fundraising mode), that fosters true collaborative innovation and the kind of truth-telling that doesn’t typically happen across the table from prospective publishing partners. But now that I’ve said the word Foster’s I guess I have to return to the Aussies.

The most interesting entrepreneurial observation made by one of the half dozen pitchmen brought in by the BSI USA Investor Forum, probably isn’t unique but it struck me as quite interesting in context. Director Damian Hickey said, “The YouTube generation has grown accustomed to using video in their daily lives; it stands to reason they would make it an integral part of their businesses” going forward. SmackBiz purports to have developed a standard document format for business video that is 10 times more efficient than YouTube.

Besides compressing/encoding this video at the client end (on the shooter’s desktop) to make it more efficient, the system also imparts meta-tagging and archiving in a way that makes business video more accessible and useful “behind the firewall.” Hickey says the system can be implemented in an hour, and can manage up to 1 million videos without the use of database software, making it substantially more economical to use than many video management platforms on the marketplace today. He’d like to target the legal biz where, for example, there are tens of thousands of video depositions taken every day, but not managed particularly well.

Whatever its target market, SmackBiz’s first major Australian client is a media company (the name of which Hickey said he must keep secret under NDA), that is using the software to enable user-generated local sports videos for 200 Web sites across the country. He’s not pursuing that strategy stateside because “there are probably 100 solutions” for managing video in a content management system. “Our business is about business generated content, not user generated video,” he insisted. Things like secure storage, library quality cataloguing, seamless integration into a Web site, extensible metadata (autoformatted archiving) and out-of-the-box “open source” streaming capabilities all make me hope he’s open to reconsider.

Does the world need another “Open Table”? Booking Angel thinks so, and claims to have already signed up five times the number of restaurants in California alone as Open Table has nationwide. The principle is the same – a consumer goes online to book a restaurant and gets a confirmation of that reservation. But with, the service is white labeled entirely to local search Web sites, as in the case of in sunny CA with 30,000 eateries and counting, and it doesn’t require the restaurant to invest in an expensive on-site terminal. Reservations are confirmed via phone with touch-tone options for the restaurant to confirm a requested time or suggest an alternate booking. When a slot is agreed, the diner receives an SMS, as well as a follow-up reminder. Restaurants only pay when the diner shows, which does AdWords one better, says CEO and Founder Dean McEvoy.

In McEvoy’s opinion, the business of charging companies for local listings (known in our parlance as Internet Yellow Pages or IYP), “is dying.” He predicts the wholesale migration of local sites to a pay-per-lead model instead, and is looking for local partners willing to make the switch. McEvoy says the typical spend per booking is $3.50-$8.00, which businesses find vastly preferable to per-month spends for consumers who may never even see their local listing. One additional viral aspect of BookingAngel is that consumers who use the service are reminded to return to the partner site and write a review of their experience, which could help local sites validate their reviews. The reviews make for more bookings, and so the cycle, er, feeds on itself, if you’ll pardon the pun.

McEvoy says the model will scale to any appropriate local business (“What would a lawyer pay for an appointment?” he asks rhetorically), but only because businesses only pay when they see results. The company is working with the Australian University Research Center on ways to make available the inventory of many kinds of businesses. McEvoy promises partners, “Revenue, more bookings, and insights about your customers” unavailable from the competition.

Still to come, remember LookSmart? Ever wonder what they did with all that money???

Date: Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Category: Innovation | RSS Feed: RSS 2.0 feed.
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