Sometimes, the business you should be building is hidden beneath the one you already are.
Back in early 2012, four friends set out to build TapIn.TV. As one of many competitors in the crowded live mobile video broadcasting space, TapIn.TV focused almost entirely on video. After months of development, they noticed something rather troubling: building video stuff — the uploading, the recording, the playback — is too damned hard. So they’re setting out to fix it.
Over the past few months, the company (part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2012 class) has quietly been changing directions. What was once TapIn.TV is now Framebase, an infrastructure service meant to make adding video functionality to a project a matter of dropping in a few lines of code. Development on TapIn.TV, meanwhile, has been halted.
I generally try to avoid the “Company X is like Company Y, but for Z” trope, but it’s just too accurate here. What Twilio is doing for telephony, and what Stripe is doing for credit card payments, Framebase wants to do for video.
You see, the challenge of developing a video-centric site (or even just integrating a single video-centric feature into an existing site) isn’t just the initial building process. That’s maybe half the battle. Most developers worth their weight in hoodies and Red Bull could hack together an upload form, patch in something like Zencoder, and find a decent open-source HTML5 player to embed. It might not be pretty, but it’ll get the job done.
The bulk of the challenge comes in supporting video for the long term. Once you’ve amassed a small mountain of video, where do you store it? When new playback formats emerge for new devices, how do you support them? If video isn’t a core feature of your project, it’s enough work that you’ll probably have to bring in another full timer.
Thats where Framebase comes in. Their API handles the recording (if you want users to be able to record on-the-fly from their webcam) and the uploading (for videos stored on the user’s hard drive), transcodes the videos to all sorts of different formats, stores them, and hands you back an unbranded player that should work across almost all devices and browsers. Most importantly, they’ll make sure it all keeps working for the long haul.
While they (smartly) avoided naming names before the contracts were dotted and crossed, Framebase’s founders says they’re already working with a bunch of “companies that you’ve actually heard of.” Meanwhile, they’ve received enough interest from investors that, while the company isn’t actively fundraising right now, our conversation suggested that they’ll have their pick of the lot when they do.
Framebase is currently web-only, though they tell me that native mobile frameworks (for, say, adding video uploads to your iOS app) are in the works.
It’s worth noting that this space isn’t without competitors, nor is it without its sacrifices to the deadpool. A similar service, framey, recently shut the doors and killed the lights without much fanfare. Their most lively competition is probably CameraTag, though CameraTag focuses on capturing and uploading webcam videos as opposed to those that have already been recorded.
Pricing for the product varies widely, from a free package (allowing 5,000 minutes of playback and 150 minutes of uploads per month) meant for developers to test with to a $199 “Traction” package (100,000 minutes of playback and 3000 minutes of uploads). Of course, they also offer the classic “Call us and we’ll work something out” enterprise package for the big guys.
With their current pricing structure, it seems Framebase is focusing on targeting projects where video is something of a secondary feature, rather than the core of the business. If you’re aiming to be the next YouTube, for example, you’d be hitting the aforementioned big plan’s 3,000-minute monthly upload limit every 90 seconds. But this approach makes sense: if video is the No. 1 focus of your site, you’ve probably (hopefully) already got all the video infrastructure you need being built in-house.
Whatever the case, the possibilities here are beyond exciting. Without Twilio, there would be no GroupMe. Without Stripe, companies like Exec would have to spend weeks focusing on how to take payments. What becomes possible once video is easy for everyone?