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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Any company with the audacity to compare its innovative concept to the one of the most genius inventors of all time certainly has hutzpa. Luckily for Tvinci (Vinci with a T, pronounced "vinchi"), companies aren't judged solely by the phonetic appeal of their name.
And cofounders Ofer Shayo, Ido Wiesenberg and Guy Barkan certainly do have an innovative approach to the rapidly growing market of Internet television. Tvinci's software combines the tools of a social network with a fun video viewing experience.
The company first gained notoriety after providing MTV Israel with its wildly popular platform that gives users incredible functionality for viewing video content. Interactive and engaging, Tvinci allows users to drag the video control box anywhere they want on the screen, minimize, maximize, add comment bubbles, see play lists of other people who like the same music, view friends' play lists, find videos to watch based on mood, reorder items in a play list and much more.
Like a social network, users can interact with one another, rate videos, leave comments and chat with other viewers. This Web 2.0 personalization creates an environment in which users typically go on-line more frequently and stay on-line for longer. This in turn helps media companies cash in on their content, a skill that is remarkably difficult for many Web sites.
"Many companies provide a video player and management, but what we do is create an entire video environment," says 27-year-old Shayo with enthusiasm. "We provide as many possible ways as we can to discover content so that the experience is engaging."
And the results are undeniable. MTV Israel was met with such rave reviews that Tvinci is now licensing its software to MTV Poland and MTV Hungary, with three more countries emerging soon. After integrating its software and customizing solution in Hungary, the number of subscribers tripled in two months. In Poland, it provided a creative way for MTV and an ISP sponsor to capitalize on their partnership.
"We created a VIP area on MTV Poland that every user can see, but only users who use the sponsor ISP are able to view the videos there," explains Shayo. "Being associated with MTV strengthens the ISP brand and it gives MTV users more incentive to use that specific ISP. MTV then earns more from this sponsor and this sponsor receives more users. It's a win-win situation."
SHAYO AND Wiesenberg conceptualized Tvinci four and a half years ago on a trip in Guatemala. Just 23 at the time, they spent two days trekking up the highest mountain in Central America, Tajulmuco, and discussing the future connections between television, mobile devices and computers. "We had good chemistry," says Shayo, who was studying law and government at the time and gave up finishing his degree to cofound Tvinci with Wiesenberg and Barkan. "I knew we were going to work together somehow."
Beyond the good chemistry of the founding team, one of the reasons why Tvinci has been so successful thus far is because of its ability to help clients monetize their content using creative business models that are tailored to their needs.
Last month, after two years of providing on-line solutions for Internet television, the company closed a Series A round of $1.6 million from private investors Zohar Gilon and Ron Tamir's Keidan Capital Group. Now it is focused on providing turnkey solutions for mobile operators, ISPs, on-line publishers, broadcasting networks and pay-TV providers.
"Our first step was to create the best viewing experience possible," says Shayo. "Our next step is to provide a turnkey solution that will link computers with mobile phones and televisions." With their new software, users will be able to download their favorite play lists from the Internet and watch them on television. One profile will connect many devices, making life simpler for users and providing large companies with a great way to make more money.
"In phase one, we were in a playground with a lot of players," says Yonatan Sela, Tvinci's vice president of marketing. "Now we're taking that ability to connect users with technology by giving them a great user interface and we're moving into a different playground with less competition that will provide a new viewing experience."
In this next phase, Tvinci plans to give clients the best way to locate content, the easiest way to purchase that content (instead of setting up a separate subscription, users can just pay slightly more for the subscription they already have), and the best viewing experience.
"We had to overcome a lot of technological surprises to get where we are today," says Shayo. "It's not easy to deliver ideas. One of the biggest challenges was finding the right people who will be in the same boat with you, and we have an excellent team. They're all superstars in their field."
Being young has distinct advantages when it comes to gut instincts about what will work on the Internet and what will flop, but Shayo says that the team has a good relationship with its investors too, who provide wisdom gained from years of experience.
It may still be too early to tell how Tvinci will fare with its turnkey solutions linking mobiles, PCs and televisions, but if its track record is any indication, success would be my bet.