Interviews

Ian Gardiner

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Ian Gardiner is the CEO of Viocorp. The online world has evolved tremendously over a short period of time and has become a necessity for businesses to keep up with the latest technology. In 2002 Ian, who is recognised as a pioneer in the internet broadcasting market, co-founded Viocorp, an online video and digital media company. 

PS Mate, why don’t you give us a quick background of Viocorp and what you actually do?
 
IG I’ll try and keep it brief.
 
PS And try to make it as less Scottish as possible. [laughter]

IG Okay, I will speak slowly and not in Scottish. So the overview really happened when I first arrived in Australia in 2002 and I guess the summary was I needed a job, wasn’t sure what I was going to do and I did know of another Scotsman who happened to be into nightclubs. So as part of his global nightclub empire vision had conceived this video equivalent of Hotmail concept which was 90 percent complete as a software product. Obviously joined him in order to try and commercialise this piece of software. So we spent a few years trying to deliver it as a corporate video mail equivalent of Hotmail. It’s a piece of software, you install it on you local computer, as a senior manager or a chief executive you might fire up your webcam, record a message and deliver it out to your staff, your shareholders, your customers. The concept was right, but this was back in 2003…

PS Pre YouTube. [laughter]

IG Pre everything so it’s pre internet in a usable form, so corporate firewalls were closed. We hd technical issues with the whole client-side software and we had behavioural issues with people. There’s a large degree of reluctance to fire up a camera, record a message that didn’t look great in an unstructured, uneditable manner. So we should have gone bust probably at that point, like any good startup there’s probably two or three points in your life when it does get too hard and you are running out of cash and everything screams at you, give it up! But I believed, John believed –he’s our chairman – in the whole future of online video as a communication tool so we persevered, we turned ourselves into a full service webcasting business, so we basically went out and did the end to end. We produced the content, we edited the content, we put it into a good looking interface and we delivered it to the customers and end users and that was mostly corporate work. Then about three years ago we started selling software again. It’s funny how we went full circle but we learnt all the lessons from that five years in between, so software as a service, made sure it was modular, made sure it was easy to use and we made sure we delivered it with really good customer service and a strong focus.

PS And of course you’ve changed your name because you’ve had a pretty unassuming name called Viacom in the early days.

IG Viacom, and it was actually derived from VioMail which was our original product. We did get a letter. I remember the day that it came in – we didn’t get much mail in those days – the courier guy turned up from FedEx with an envelope and I was in a meeting and I went “this is not a good sign”, you don’t get a letter from FedEx from New York for good reasons when you’re in a business like that. So our claim to fame is that Viacom sued us before they sued YouTube.

PS [laughter] All right. Listening to your story, what actually stands out for me, and it’s something that I’m hearing all the time when people are developing their websites, is that it seemed to me that you have a great idea but you didn’t know enough about your customers, and the challenges that you learnt along the way, taught you more about the customers, and you eventually made the product to suit the customers in the end.

IG Correct. It was an iterating process. We didn’t go in knowing the answer and I think we were smart enough in a sense to recognise that and we had to be nimble, we had to react according to how we pitched it, the customers responded, we delivered a product, go again. And you basically have to keep iterating like that until you come up with the right answer, and in a market that’s as new as this, that’s fundamental. And it’s shifting now so probably for 5 years all we did was tell customers why they should do it. Now it’s changing into how they should do it.

PS We’re talking to Ian Gardiner from Viocorp. Ian, how big is video going to be in relation to people’s websites and their marketing?

IG If you look at the growth in internet traffic in the last two or three years, principally since YouTube came out, and the projections going forward for the next five to 10 years, video is driving the entire internet consumption. There’s only so much you can do with web pages and email and PowerPoint presentations that might be attachments. It’s all being driven by video and more important how our quality video, so delivering high definition video – it’s all about the pixel sizes, it’s about four times the number of pixels as a standard definition image. I think it was Cisco that came out with a statistic, and I don’t want to get too technical, but they’re suggesting that the average American home will have a couple of high definition televisions by the end of next year, so by the end of 2010 early 2011 they’ll be consuming over one terabyte of bandwidth per month. Now you compare that to the standard internet allowance that we have now, sort of middle of 2009 of 20 gigabytes per month in the average Australian home, and you realise that there is a long way to go.

PS You’d better explain to normal people on the plane, 25 megabit to tera...

IG Terabytes. So there’s 1000 megabytes in a gigabyte and 1000 gigabytes in a terabyte.

PS A million, we’re talking about a million gigabytes?

IG Correct. So it’s a massive step up from where we’re at now and the internet’s got the capacity, Cisco happy to sell routers and switches that will support it and the government’s new announcement of this sharing the country with fibre optic money, I think it’s quite inspired in terms of what’s going to be available.

PS So when people say this is an infrastructural initiative on the scale of the Snowy Mountains or the Sydney Harbor Bridge, they’re not exaggerating?

IG No, I think that’s right. The way I have been likening it recently is do you remember when you first bought your first computer, you don’t actually really know what you’re going to use that computer for and it’s not until the application and software developers get their hands on this computer and work out what you can do with it that it actually becomes incredibly useful. It’s going to be the same with this network. I can’t predict where in five to 10 years when this thing’s up and running where the applications are going to be but guaranteed it’s going to be a tonne of video stuff and services that we haven’t even imagined yet.

PS So therefore you’re really happy to be in your business because, again, a lot of businesses can’t produce their own video but may well want to buy software so they can?

IG Correct. I mean, we are a video engine so we don’t necessarily need or want the relationship with the end user but we want broadcasters and publishers and corporates and anyone who needs to communicate with an audience, they’re our customers.

PS How big’s the company now, mate?

IG We’ve got 26 staff, I think. We’ve set a target to be turning over a million dollars a month by the end of this year so we’re getting to a reasonable scale, and most of that’s been done off the back of our own cash flow. We took some investment, we’ve got Peter Holmes à Court on board about a year and a half ago, so we actually started delivering video services to the Rabbitohs just after he bought them. He realised it was doing a great job, you know, the fans were more engaged, they were selling more season tickets, more merchandise, all that stuff and you realise that online video’s got a lot of potential whereas the investment opportunity in online video, there’s not many of them around. I knew him and he spotted a good investment opportunity when he saw one, I think. So yeah, we’re getting there. I think we’ve got a long way to go, you know, we’re very focused in Australia at the moment but we are trying to get overseas, we’ll probably do that through channels of resellers, so we’re very bullish about the future.

PS So in that famous movie The Graduate, the lead figure was told that the future is plastic so I guess you say to people you know, the future is video?

IG Yeah, correct.

 

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Important information:This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published: Wednesday, October 07, 2009

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