Backed By John Legend, Adventr Allows You To Build Choose Your Own Adventure-Style Videos

Startup Adventr (pronounced “adventure”) is betting that it can make online video even more addictive with interactivity.

For example, here’s a promotional video for Adventr itself — at the beginning, a girl finds a camera in her closet, and you can choose whether she takes it or leaves it. (Trust me on this one — it’s a lot more interesting if you take the camera.) Founder Devo Harris also showed me a sample movie trailer, where you can make choices through, like “save the girl” or “save the city”, which determine the footage that you see.

At its heart, Adventr is overlaying graphics on a video and presenting viewers with multiple choices, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to a Choose Your Own Adventure-style interface. For example, musician (and Adventr investor) John Legend created a video where he teaches viewers to play his song “All Of Me”, and you have to actually pick the right keys on the piano — it might not make you a talented musician, but it’s a lot more interactive (and kind of stressful!) than just watching him play.

If you’re wondering how a New York City startup managed to enlist a big-name musician like John Legend, well, it might help to know that Harris, the founder, is better known as music producer and songwriter Devo Springsteen — he won a Grammy for his work on the Kanye West song “Diamonds from Sierra Leone“.

Harris told me that a few years ago, he decided that he’d “done my thing in terms of music,” so he went to Columbia Business School. Before leaving music entirely, Harris helped form the band Riot !n Paris. He recalled that when the band posted a music video in interactive and standard formats, the interactive version did dramatically better, and people started asking to use the technology. The problem? “I didn’t have any technology.”

A few years later, Harris has an MBA and he’s launched a company to build the technology. The videos are created on the Adventr site but can then be posted to Facebook, Twitter, and on any site that supports the VPAID format. (The formatting got weird when I tried to embed the videos on TechCrunch, but our website can be unusually finicky about these things.) Harris said he’s already been working with brands to create videos that see 9.5 percent clickthrough rates (an order of magnitude higher than most ads), and now that he’s opening the site to everyone, with the hope of seeing other uses.

“This is what I believe is the future of video,” he said. “This isn’t about clicking, this is about controlling your content. Your experience is personalized and interactive.”

If he’s right and this is the future, there will probably be competition. Harris acknowledged that other companies could create interactive videos, but not necessarily with the simplicity of Adventr’s interface. In a demo, he created a video in just a couple of minutes — once the video clips and graphics are in the system, you just use the drag-and-drop interface to stitch everything together.

In addition, Harris argued that the real power here is in the data and analytics that Adventr provides. Going back to the movie trailer example, a movie studio could see which choices get the most response from an online audience, and then make sure that footage is included in the version shown in theaters and on TV.