Hot of the heals of our recent trip to the United States, and since some of the other team members (our CEO Ian and COO Ben) introduced themselves, I thought it would be a good time for me to chime in with my own little evolution “story”, and touch on what Ian and I learned while in the States last week.
A little bit about me…
I’m an engineer by training, but a product guy at heart. I thrive on taking complex problems and building solutions to simplify people’s lives.
My name is Chris and I’m Vuulr’s CTO.
This short article is an attempt to introduce myself and my view of the TV & Film Rights industry. I will focus on how we at Vuulr aim to transform the industry, in a good way!
But first, allow me a few minutes of your time to tell you how I got here.
My professional career has spanned more than 15 years. The majority of that time I worked with companies whose business was to build “stuff”. In the early years, we built “stuff for hire”. In the later years, we built “stuff to sell”, and most recently, “stuff to help others sell”.
I’ll spare you the details of the first half of my career — which was an eternity ago in Internet years. Much of it dealt with building web applications to spec and dealing with web browser’s rather “free” interpretations of the W3C. (I’ve over simplified it a bit! I digress.)
Things started getting interesting in about 2010.
I pivoted from the web technologies world to focus on the emerging, exciting world of Social Media. By that time, Facebook application development was taking off (anyone remember FBML?) and brands in Asia were maturing in digital and wanted to be a part of it. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to be part of this exciting and dynamic new space. Social-first applications and campaigns was all the rage. And, through a quasi-form of natural selection, we no longer had to worry about alignment issues with Internet Explorer 6! (thank you Facebook)
I joined Ian McKee, then CEO of Vocanic (and now Vuulr). Vocanic started off as a grassroots/guerrilla marketing word-of-mouth agency and pivoted just in time to live the transformation. You could say, Vocanic was at the right place at the right time. Slated to become Asia’s largest full service social media agency, Vocanic was at the cusp of an internet revolution — the socialization of communications and applications.
I saw the engineering team grow from a modest 3 engineers to a powerhouse of over 30 engineers. We developed from scratch an agile-approach to project and product management. We strengthened our engineering processes to be quality focused.
Building applications to drive social marketing campaigns was no doubt hot in 2010–2011. But we realized something shortly thereafter. There was a distinct lack of enterprise-grade social media management tools on the market. Sure, there were a few products out of North America and Europe, but they were miles away and often didn’t give much interest to emerging Asia. Or, they didn’t understand how to!
… we realized, there was a distinct lack of enterprise-grade social media management tools on the market.
My passion for building great software products grew. I spearheaded the product development function at Vocanic. We produced a suite of enterprise-grade social management and analytic products used by top brands like Unilever, StarHub, Astro, Fisher Price, Danone/Aqua, Hennessy, KFC, Mercedes Benz, Vodafone, L’Oréal, and more.
Our products were able to support hundreds of concurrent users and hundreds of thousands of social conversations daily. We had our fair share of technical challenges — challenges the team and I enjoyed tackling.
Yet, all good things must end. I reached the peak of excitement one could get from Social Media (by 2016 it was so mainstream!) BUT I needed to find something new and it seemed marketing technology and media analytics was that something.
Shifting to a sister media agency, I had the opportunity to learn about the world of media buying, planning, programmatic trading systems, media effectiveness, and data management platforms. There, I was responsible for building business intelligence solutions for our clients with the aim at understanding what media spends and channels were effective and where the marketers should be directing their future budgets.
(Now that I’m on the outside, it’s actually a bit scary the amount of information marketers know about you! A little advice, use ad and cookie blockers!)
Finding a real gap to lead innovation
Data analytics and media effectiveness was interesting, but, I was never able to scratch the “itch” of leading edge and innovation. This, combined with an impending corporate restructuring, I began looking for something else.
I reconnected with Vocanic’s former CEO Ian McKee and found that he was working on something that seemed likely to scratch that “itch”. We began developing the idea further, and Vuulr was born. (See Ian’s story here)
What we determined early on, from a digital supply chain perspective, the TV & Film industry was still very fragmented. While there are several players in the market addressing specific pain points in digital supply chain, there is a limited amount of standards adoption, and thus, interoperability.
Much to our relief, we found that there are standards developed to try and resolve the challenges in the supply chain. (See EIDR, EMA and MovieLabs). Yet, these standards are pretty much left to the industry players to decide for themselves what to implement and how.
Finally, buying and selling TV & Film content was still largely done the “old fashioned way” — relationships and fax machines!
A sneak preview —
Like a half-decade before in Social, we had an “a-ha!” moment and
…we realized there was an opportunity to revolutionize the industry as a whole, all powered by the blockchain!
The idea of leveraging distributed ledger technology (Blockchain) to revolutionize a massive ($240b) industry was enough for me to sign-up. Blockchain has become one of the most important technological advancements in history. Its importance will only continue to grow and I am excited to be part of it.
Now, we’ve all heard of Bitcoin (and crypto currencies in general), and the question still remains their viability (as a store of value) in the long run. (although I am bullish!) There should be no doubt of the value of the underlying Blockchain technology that drives crypto.
Vuulr’s solution comprises of two core ingredients:
- The Foundation, the blockchain-enabled TV & Film digital supply chain, and
- The Marketplace, where we bring together entities who want to buy content (broadcasters), and entities who have content to sell (content originators). We aim to drastically reduce the time and costs traditionally associated with this transaction.
While the Marketplace will be built on top of the Foundation tech stack, we envision the Foundation to be an “open” industry solution. Open to even competing Marketplaces, the Foundation’s success will only be realized with industry-wide adoption. Plus, we’re firm believers in contributing back to the industry as only together we can all grow and prosper.
I’ll be writing more about this going forward, but the basic premise is, we’re architecting the digital supply chain to make full use of advances in distributed ledger technology and in particular, Smart Contracts, to bring more transparency and efficiency to the industry, so please do subscribe to the blog for updates.
A final note — what we did and learned in the US
EMA Partners with Vuulr to Establish “EMA Asia”: First International Arm of EMA Will Promote Digital Supply Chain Efficiencies https://t.co/ZfsGIlHtJw
— EMA (@EntMerchAssoc) January 10, 2018
Ian and I went to the United States last week. The primary purpose was to participate in the Entertainment Merchant’s Association’s (EMA) Digital Forum @ CES in Las Vegas where we jointly announced the establishment of EMA’s first international arm, “EMA Asia”, to be operated by Vuulr. More on this in due time…
We took advantage of this opportunity of being on the ground to build relationships with several folks from all aspects of the industry, from content creators to supply chain technology providers to broadcasters, and everything in between.
The common theme we learned was, while the industry as a whole was generally favorable towards the push for standardization, overall it was slow moving. I’m personally confident this only means more opportunity for Vuulr.
We’re just getting started. I personally am very excited about the tech that is going into the Foundation stack, and what we learned last week in the States, we’ve only validated our thinking even more. More to come…
We’re in the final preparation stages leading up to an ICO. Post-ICO, we’ll go full steam on developing the various pieces I’ve briefly touched on in this article. I’m working on a follow up to this article where I’ll be going into more detail on what we’re planning for the Foundation stack that I hope to be ready in the coming days.
I invite you to sign up to our mailing list at our Website and we’ll let you know when our Whitepaper is released. The Whitepaper will provide a lot more details on our thinking and of the upcoming ICO.
Connect with us on one of our communication channels, we’d love to hear from you.