What a journey we took during our first startup. Back in 2007, we were accepted into Y Combinator with ambitions of disrupting music videos by creating video game experiences tailored to hit songs. A few years later, our focus had shifted to a SaaS tool helping brands curate and broadcast their online social buzz. In between were a half dozen pivots. The most successful iteration of our company, born from the weekend wanderings of a co-founder, was a simple way to create fun animated shorts soon dubbed as Minivids.
A Minivid was created by hitting the record button and dragging a cast of premade characters around the scene. While less capable than frame by frame animation, this far more simple what-you-move-is-what-you-get method opened up animation to laymen like me. I could suddenly bring the stories rolling around in my head to life in minutes!
We put up a Youtube like portal for Minivid, and we watched with delight as users created thousands upon thousands of Minivids. Some users got really hooked and pushed the tool technically and creatively. We saw whole mini-series with Hitchcock level stories created in Minivid. We saw teachers use Minivid in their classrooms. And we saw so many well (and not so well) executed jokes.
One of the truly surreal moments of my startup journey and life arrived when waking up to a pile of site unavailability alarms. On what should have been an ordinary weekday morning, I saw our Minivid portal traffic had spiked to unexpectedly insane levels. I scrambled to bring the site back to stability while pondering who in the world would take the time or resources to DDoS our niche playground?
Turns out, earlier in the morning a very popular day time talk show demoed Minivid as a fun way to pass some time. Fans of the show flocked to the Minivid portal in excited droves to get in on the latest cabin fever relieving craze. Never in my life had I imagined anything I helped create would end up on day time television. Truly, Minivid had arrived.
We stumbled into some monetary success selling customized versions of Minivid to brands, like Sony and MTV, looking to spark fan engagement. However, we were otherwise a meandering mess business wise, and our pocket of success with Minivid was not enough to sustain the startup dream. But hey, at least we got to see Jack Black and Michael Cera as Minivid characters!