VisibleGains is just the latest name of a local Internet video company with roots that meander back to the dot-com days, when peer-to-peer file-sharing and Napster were all the rage.
The company was formerly known as NetCableTV and PermissionTV. It's announcing a new name today, as well as a new focus. VisibleGains will help its clients produce, deliver, and analyze sales-oriented online video that is intended to help turn prospects into paying customers.
From today's press release:
VisibleGains helps B2B marketing and sales teams break through the clutter of traditional lead generation and qualification tactics with “buyer-led” video. Unlike traditional video, that lacks engagement because it asks nothing of the viewer, VisibleGains designed its solution to pull prospects in – deeper down the sales funnel – through a proven process for producing high-impact video segments, embedding interactive elements and capturing behavior through analytics. This approach helps sales teams better understand, qualify – and more easily close – prospects.
NetCableTV started in 2004, with peer-to-peer video delivery technology licensed from John Fanning, a co-founder of Napster. (South Shore resident John Fanning is the uncle of Shawn Fanning, who started the music-swapping service Napster while a student at Northeastern.) Fanning had started work on the technology in 2001, thinking it'd be useful for delivering movies online.
In late 2005, the company launched "PermissionTV," a "complete end-to-end system to create and distribute television programming via broadband," and started working with some niche media companies. Later, the business changed its name to PermissionTV, and swapped CEO David Graves for Bob Lentz. Permission worked with businesses like the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Scion, and Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign to help them deliver video on the Web. (I should disclose here that PermissionTV was a sponsor of a 2008 conference at UC/Berkeley that I helped to organize.)
But the company always operated in the shadow of Brightcove and Maven Networks, two other Boston-area start-ups that aimed to help businesses incorporate video into their Web sites. (Maven was acquired by Yahoo for $160 million in cash; Brightcove has raised more than $91 million and is still independent.)
The company now known as VisibleGains has raised about $15 million in venture capital, from sources like CommonAngels, Venture Capital Fund of New England, Castile Ventures, and Point Judith Capital. The most recent VC money came in June of 2007.
Cliff Pollan, formerly CEO at NewsEdge and Lumigent Technologies, came on as chief executive in March of this year. He began shifting the company's focus to "videos that are relevant to a particular viewer as part of the sales process -- 'snackable' content that runs 30 or 60 seconds with very specific messages," he explains.
Sequences of related videos can be assembled either by a user navigating through them, or automatically by intelligent software. An engineer might see a different string of videos than the CIO, who might see a different string than the CEO. "It's persona-based," Pollan says, "targeted to who is looking at it, and who is involved in the decision process." Tracking which pieces of video were watched by which prospects is also an important feature, he says.
Supplying video solutions that will help turn sales prospects into customers is an interesting new spin for the company, and Pollan says they've been working with a handful of customers over the summer to test the new strategy, including an insurance company, a media business, and a software company. (One nifty feature: when you see an executive like Pollan yammering in a marketing video, you can click a LinkedIn icon to see whether you share any contacts on that social network, or click a Twitter icon to see that person's Twitter stream.)
Pollan claims that Waltham-based VisibleGains (the name reminds me of another local video company, Visible Measures of Boston) will receive continuing financial support from its existing investors. The company has 20 employees, which is about the same, he says, as when he arrived.
I asked board member Sean Marsh, a partner at Point Judith Capital, what milestones the company will have to hit in its third incarnation, under its third CEO, to get a major new infusion of funding. My supposition was that most of the money they've raised thus far ($15 million in VC plus $3 million in venture debt) has been spent.
"The company has been very capital efficient and has generated growing revenue since 2007, so they actually do have cash [left over from their earlier funding rounds]," Marsh wrote via e-mail, "but we are in the process of closing a round based on their ability to finish the product and release it (which they have done), show tangible customer ROI (which they have have done), and continue to generate new customer traction (which they are continuing to do)."
Will VisibleGains manage to close that round, and turn into a case study of trying once, trying again, and finally zeroing in on a profitable business? Stay tuned...
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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