Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Brian Norgard On Chill's New Front Page
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
How do you crack the code and make online video easier to find and use? Last week, Los Angeles-based Chill (www.chill.com) made a stab at that, debuting a new front page meant to guide user to the most interesting videos on the web, through an easy-to-use interface. Brian Norgard, co-founder of Chill, sat down with us to talk about the new front page, and also how the company has made a name for itself with a highly product focused, agile development of its service. Chill is venture backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, William Morris Endeavor Group, Atlas Venture, Lowercase Capital, Troy Carter, 500 Startups, Science Media, CrunchFund, Mike Jones and Redpoint Ventures.
What's the whole new front page all about?
Brian Norgard: We've seen a ton of growth over the last two or three months, and now have somewhere hear 20 million registered users. What's interesting, however, is that we've found that we have two customers. One, is we have the passionate, zealous person, who is living on the edge, and watching video every day. The second is the casual video consumer, where we found we're not really offering a great product for them. So, what've done, is we're taking all of this amazing data that we're capturing every day, figuring out exactly what's being watched, what is being shared, and what people are voting on and commenting on, and creating an inverted funnel, to create what we're calling the Chill Front Page. It's exactly what it sounds like, a front page of video.
If you look at video today on the Internet, and want to find on what's going on that is interesting right now, you most likely will scratch your head. You can go to YouTube, but you have to know what you're looking for. If you look at the mind of the consumer, they might have five minutes or ten minutes, and they want to see something interesting. Chill Front Page is a socially curated, front page of video, in around eight categories. Anyone can post, and vote an item up or down. The concept, pretty simply, is using all of our data from our walled experience, explicit posts from consumers, and serving up to people the most interesting videos across different categories, like sports and shopping. You don't have to do anything, just click on the most popular items or click on a category that you like. It's all very lightweight.
What's the biggest challenge you've seen working with video?
Brian Norgard: First, video is a very, very heavy format. I think the biggest challenge is building and experience for a customer, that gets them to interesting content quickly, and they don't have to work. Anyone who has been in video for a protracted period of time understand there are many challenges. If you look at an image or photo on Instagram or Flickr, you can process that in less than 100 milliseconds. However, to derive the value or potential from a video, you literally need to consume at least three quarters of that video. Videos have a bunch of interesting and problematic attributes, including you don't get the value until you play it, thumbnails are not good, and headlines are really not all that relevant or contextual. Plus, you don't know who posted the video. All of those are the cues that have to be rolled out for a user to have a good experience. It's a great challenge, especially in the social video category, to figure out that user experience, make them feel comfortable, and make it lightweight. Everyone loves to watch video--that's been known since television started--but the work associated with getting a positive return on watching video makes it difficult. We've spent a ton of time getting the user experience right, and it's not easy.
What do you think are the key steps to make that experience better?
Brian Norgard: We have a continual focus on improving product experience, and we never stop there. We believe, wholeheartedly, that the best product in the market will win. None of us are even close on that side yet. I think we need to really change the perception of video, as more and more high quality video comes on the consumer internet. As that happens, you're going to see more and more people use services like Chill, almost like they use television now. It's still very early in the trajectory of online video.
Even though it's early, and I think it will be like games, where the content quality over time gets better and better. Inevitably, we see that millenials--folks 30 and younger--who are not growing up with television like the older generation. They're growing up with an internet connectoin, and television means nothing to them. I see lots of people who are starting to use things that are more flexible, more social, and put the user first, using aspects they're already using in services like Facebook and Twitter. From a product perspective, we'll continue to improve the user experience, integrate high quality content sources. I also think people are spending lots more time using things like tablets, and a trend to migrate to connected television. As that first wave of consumption shifts, I think the future will be about the tablet and connected television consumption.
We first talked to you guys when you were a few guys in a garage--how has the big funding changed that for you?
Brian Norgard: We've grown out our team now, and we're at thirteen people. But, not much has changed. We're very focused on our culture, and hiring a certain type of person. Although our headcount is different, we're using the same approach, and are very focused on the idea of remaining small, hiring the best of the best, and building very quickly. Internally, we call that a high product metabolism, where w're always building stuff, shipping stuff, tearing stuff down. No one can outsmart the consumer internet. So, you need to build processes to create and ship code rapidly, and see what people think about it. Although we have more people than when we were in the garage, we still have the same caliber of people, and never will trade off scale for a lower quality employee. Everyone here is simply the best of the best.