Punching above your weight

I wrote about the experience of working for latakoo over on Quora:

The engineers reading this will know there’s a lot involved in that description. (Did I mention our app comes for Windows, Mac, iPhone and iPad?) And believe me, from obtuse enterprise firewalls to hilarious video codec / wrapper interactions, we encountered it all. At latakoo, any one of us is often debugging TCP round-trip times with satellite modems in Afghanistan and designing HTML5 video player wrappers in the same afternoon.

It works. Just today, a journalist told us: “I’m going to name my first child latakoo”. Hey, we’ll take it. In fact, we get a ton of compliments, and we’ve been able to be useful in hurricanes, political conventions, sporting events, conferences … you name it. If someone calls us and asks us for help, we’re usually up for the challenge.

You can read the whole post over here. If you like it, don’t forget to upvote! Don’t forget, you can always follow us on Twitter here.

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Making enterprise software that people can actually use

Software is opinionated. This is natural: it’s made by real people, who have opinions, to tackle problems that they think they can solve using a particular line of thought. All of the best software packages – from Lotus 1-2-3 all the way down to Gmail and node.js – have been created with a strong opinion about how their particular problems should be solved.

The same goes for latakoo. Here are some opinions that we had while we were building it: Moving video is too hard. You shouldn’t have to post your content publicly to host it in the cloud. Web applications are the future of user interface design. Video professionals deserve better management tools.

Here’s another opinion: Enterprise software shouldn’t try and radically change the way people work.

“What?!” might be a developer’s reply. “Then how are we supposed to innovate?”

Here’s the thing, though. Enterprise organizations are large, and immediately changing their existing workflows often carries with it a massive real cost, on top of the price you’re charging for your service. That comes in training, support and maintenance, even when you’re dealing with a cloud application where they don’t have to actually install anything on their servers. If their workflow is essential to the running of their organization – which is a smart place to start when you’re building an enterprise software business – then any loss of productivity along it will put them at risk. No manager will agree to that.

So, you need to look at those workflows and augment them. You’re finding ways to supercharge those workflows, not replace them with something that you consider to be more efficient. For one thing, remember, you’re opinionated: no developer is an objective source. But for another, you’ll never understand the intricacies of their business as well as they do.

An example: at latakoo, we let people send video fast using our desktop and mobile apps, and then manage it privately using our web service. But some of our enterprise customers already have their own, sometimes very costly, media management solutions. We could make a case for replacing those solutions entirely. latakoo’s features would certainly support that. But it’s more meaningful for those customers to use the fast sending app, and synchronize their video from latakoo’s infrastructure to their own, automatically.

Of course, we chose to support this. So our enterprise customers can request that video is sent to their existing infrastructure on upload via tools like rsync, SFTP, Signiant, and so on. Over time, some of them may wish to migrate to using our web service – and we still keep a copy of their video there, so it’s always available to them. This turns out to be really useful for television journalists out in the field, who need to access old video but don’t have a secure connection to their company’s servers. It’s also good for when content companies wish to accept or collaborate on video with outside contributors without having to create local accounts for them. In these situations, latakoo acts as a kind of DMZ, and it works well. But there’s no need for those customers to use these features if they don’t need them.

The result is that latakoo enterprise customers often see a 9x return on investment, through time savings while using both the app and the web-based management service where appropriate, and their own tools and infrastructure when they need to. We’re opinionated developers, and our opinion was, we can make better video management software. But our opinion that software should be useful from day one rode out. And that meant reigning ourselves in, and understanding that the customer knows more about how they work than we do.

Words by Ben Werdmuller. 

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latakoo Releases New Desktop App: Version 4.0

latakoo Video Desktop Tool (4.0) is now available for download.

latakoo is happy to announce the release of its latest desktop video tool for both Mac and Windows OS. This update provides bug fixes from the current 3.3.2 release along with a few additional enhancements, which includes an upgraded upload process and the availability to download HD video using the XDCAM HD 422 format. Here is a more detailed description of the new features:

latakooing: Simultaneous Encode/Upload (Beta)

latakoo has added a feature that replaces the standard encode first then upload process with a revolutionary enhanced upload. This upload that we call latakooing can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to transfer a video up to the cloud. Performance rates will vary depending on computer CPU processing power, bandwidth and original file type, but tests have shown the total time to process video can be reduced by as much as 40% over the standard encode and upload process.

To enable the new enhanced option, simply click the Options button to go to the Options section, and then select the Use Enhanced Upload checkbox. Click OK to return to the main screen. You can then add or drag and drop videos to you queue and process them as with the previous apps. The only difference that you will notice is that instead of having a progress bar for Encoding and then Uploading, you will only see a single progress bar that shows the total percentage until completion. Once the bar reaches 100% you are done.

Note: The Enhanced Upload is still in a beta mode so use at your own discretion. The process is currently limited to video with a single-track and 2 track audio, but 2 track audio will be mixed to a single track with the left and right channel containing track one and track two respectively. Audio tracks beyond the second track are not processed. In addition, P2 video files are currently not supported. The full support of multi-track audio and P2 video files will be available in the next release of the tool. The use of the Enhanced Mode is available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, and Mac OSX 10.6.8 or above.

Download XDCAM HD 422 Files on latakoo.com

The XDCAM HD 422 download option is now available for 720 and 1080 video resolutions. As with the other download options on the latakoo site, this feature is available from the video page. Select the ‘Choose Other Format’ from the dropdown selection and then click the XDCAM HD 422 selection. The tool will automatically open with your selection in the queue. Simply click the Start button to begin the transfer.

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latakoo’s proven technology touted in Broadcasting and Cable magazine

There are few things that rank as better validation than a customer testimonial. And, when you are a young video technology company, few things are better than getting a customer’s endorsement in Broadcasting and Cable magazine.

Blake Russell, Senior VP of Nexstar Broadcasting, detailed how latakoo enabled the entire Nexstar chain to share stories produced by just four multimedia journalists from the convention floors. We’re grateful to Blake Russell, Nexstar, and all of our supportive customers.

We’ve included an excerpt of the latakoo mention below and a photo of the article. Most of the Broadcasting and Cable content is behind a paywall and requires a subscription to read published stories. To subscribe, click here.

Words by Jade Kurian


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Always be sharing: using social video for sales and education

This is a fully-referenced write-up of the talk I gave at Video World Expo earlier today.

You can’t talk about selling online without talking about social media.

Remote controlIn the beginning, television (together with cinema, an even older delivery platform) was the only way to use video for sales. Commercials, sponsorships, placements: they were all ways to get your pitch in front of an audience, so they could see you and understand what your product was about. Over time, we moved to marketing videos – but it was still a one-way broadcast medium.

Out of technological necessity, our pitches became broadcasts: one way messages for a large audience Some of the audience may have been shouting back through their television sets, but there was no way for us to hear them, or to target them.

In the Internet economy, as we all know from the Cluetrain Manifesto, markets are conversations. Today, we can hear our audience loud and clear, and target specifically to them. Social media is becoming an important part of everyone’s sales strategy.

We still use TV ads – but they serve as a conversation starter; the most successful campaigns focus on engagement, not reach, and people aren’t necessarily watching them on TV. TV advertising is now just part of a broad spectrum of video media that can be used to help sell products.

You don’t just pick one medium to convey your message: computers can handle all kinds of content, all at once. Choosing between text, video, audio etc is a false choice dictated by legacy technological barriers. (TV can’t be audio-only; the radio can’t show pictures.) In 2012, you can have all of these, and you should. Ubiquitous Internet means that people consume media on all kinds of devices, in all kinds of places.

Video is leading online use.

According to Cisco:

  • In 2011, over 50% of mobile data was video.
  • By the end of 2012, there will be more mobile devices than people.
  • By 2014, over 80% of all Internet traffic will be video.
  • By 2016, over two thirds of mobile data will be video.

Meanwhile:

Of course, these figures don’t mean that most content is video: video is intrinsically bigger and more bandwidth-intensive than most other kinds of communication. However, they are undeniably significant – and video use is growing.

The trick to selling with video, as with all social media, is engaging the audience – and that means providing content that the audience wants to engage with.

Buyers report that less than half of vendor-produced social media content is useful, and that “22% of the buying process is wasted with ineffective content”. Even worse, sellers who create content that buyers don’t find useful, and who are perceived to be wasting buyers’ time, are 27% less likely to be placed on the buyer’s short list – and are 40% less likely to get the sale.

So what kinds of content are people looking for?

It turns out that “good” content has these properties:

  • It’s concise
  • It’s entertaining (i.e., not too dry)
  • It’s low on promotional bias – too much of a hard sell is a turn-off
  • And most importantly: it’s contextually personalized for them.

Note what’s missing: viewers aren’t necessarily looking for production values. They want content, and they want to feel like it was made for them.

This is probably a hard pill to swallow for people from the traditional media industries in particular, who are used to prioritizing production. And, they might not believe me.

Here, then, is My Drunk Kitchen, one of the post popular shows on YouTube. The first episode has been seen over 2 million times alone, and its star, Hannah Hart, is a bona fide celebrity who’s been featured in places like Time.

When used correctly, video is a strong sales tool. Just ask Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a revolutionary site and community that allows new products to be crowdfunded by the public. Product developers make their pitch, and set a funding goal to build their product. The public votes with their wallets, pledging amounts that are often as small as $5 to $25 in return for rewards that can – but don’t have to – include the final product. If the funding goal is met, the product developers get the money.

Kickstarter projects have a 15% chance of being funded – unless they include a video, which more than doubles their chance of success to 37%.

Here’s the pitch video from the most funded ever project, Pebble, a new kind of connected watch:

It’s slicker than many videos – certainly more so than My Drunk Kitchen – but still a world away from the production values we’re used to seeing in traditional media. Pebble had set a funding goal of $100,000 and ended up raising over $10 million. It’s far more important to get your story out there.

And it’s not just sales.

Last year, Stanford University created a new online course, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and made it open to anyone. This was a flagship course, heralding a new era in open education – a massive PR win for them, which attracted over 160,000 students from around the world.

Here’s the introductory video:

The course was considered a massive success, but production values weren’t front and center. Content was.

Finally, internal communications can also benefit.

According to the Aberdeen Group, 52% of organizations using social media tools internally achieved Best-in-Class performance compared to only 5% that didn’t. What’s more, organizations are saving money by sharing content more effectively internally: Sabre alone saved $500,000 by implementing a social intranet.

Video is a key part of social media. It’s worth pointing out that latakoo is the only social intranet tool designed specifically for managing video – but what are useful features of a platform designed for video sales?

Make it for them.

Remember what people respond to: contextually personalized content.

Rather than creating slick video designed for a mass audience, I contend that you will receive a better response from authentic, personal video shot for niches, groups, and even individuals. That means writing great content, making a video and sending it fast – to the right people.

That yields specific software challenges. YouTube is a great site, but video doesn’t have to be public. We talk about Content Delivery Networks for mass delivery of public video – but sometimes, niche delivery of super-targeted video can be far more effective.

That sometimes means sharing videos with systems that have access controls. Access controlled video also means you can include sensitive information relating to a specific sale or product – and then have a private conversation around it. That same use case makes it hugely useful for internal resources. You can share without fear, while making those content-rich resources, knowing that only the right people will see it.

This isn’t just for sales and training – you can use private, internal video to demonstrate products between departments, recording meetings or talks for future use, and so on.

We built latakoo to do exactly this – and of course, full access control means that you can still make a resource public when you need it to be.

Video is hard.

Video has many inherent problems: big files and lots of different, proprietary formats make it very difficult to share. Simply put, it’s hard to move video around.

Initially for our own purposes, we built latakoo to solve this problem through clever use of compression, a simple interface, and technology to eliminate worries about video format compatibility.

In a world of i7 processors, gigabytes of RAM and large bandwidth pipes, managing video should be as easy as managing photos and status updates. You certainly shouldn’t need proprietary hardware or super-expensive file transfer software – and you don’t. We’ve made sure of that.

We also need to make consuming that video as simple as possible, which means, ideally, just using a web browser on the user’s choice of device.

Lower the barrier to entry to consuming content-rich, useful video: become more efficient and increase sales.

The latakoo team is split between Austin, San Antonio and Silicon Valley. After some false starts and software trials that didn’t quite work out, we’ve landed on using Google+ Hangouts extensively to bridge the gap. Almost all of our videoconferencing meetings are done this way. It’s never quite the same as face to face, but we’ve found that we have more productive conversations than we would over just the phone, and it’s both reliable and extremely affordable.

We use join.me to share live video of our product demos in sales calls. Even when we’re just going through a sales proposal document with clients, we’ve found that looking at the same screen provides clarity that is hard to achieve using just voice.

And then, of course, we use latakoo to deliver pre-recorded video demos, pitches and walkthroughs.

In all of these cases, the barrier to entry for video consumers is low: you can access them through just a browser, and can get started instantly.

That’s the real future of video sales: access, personalization and ease of use. We’re proud to be a part of it.

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latakoo and Texas Campaign for the Environment


At latakoo, we like to think we’re good to the environment. We don’t sell any hardware. We don’t ship any boxes. We recycle at the office. Our team members carpool or take public transportation. We like being centrally located to reduce commutes. (We would compost if we could just get a space that allowed for a garden.) And, we support Texas Campaign for the Environment.

TCE is a non-partisan, non-profit citizens’ organization that focuses on local and state environmental and public health issues. They’ve organized award winning campaigns to protect the health of citizens and the quality of the environment in latakoo’s home state.

TCE takes the problems one by one, canvassing door to door to gain support from the community.  In March of 2012, a seven-year effort by TCE and various other groups culminated in the most comprehensive policy on disposable bags anywhere in the United States. Austin City Council moved unanimously to ban single-use retail bags by 2013.  And, that’s just the most recent of TCE’s victories.

TCE is a latakoo client. When they organize a protest, they carry cameras. When they tell their stories, they do it through video. latakoo’s video platform allows TCE to quickly share video with the media and with their own team members. And, since we don’t produce electronic waste, we’re a natural fit.

Yes, everything’s bigger in Texas, including environmental headaches.  But thanks to TCE, solutions are taking shape and taking hold. This month TCE turned 21.  latakoo asked Austin-based video story teller Bobby Longoria to help us salute this bright, shining organization committed to the health and welfare of the citizens of Texas. The video played to a standing room only crowd at TCE’s birthday party and continues to make the rounds in TCE circles.  After you watch it, be sure to make a donation to TCE. (It’s money well spent, just like buying a latakoo account.)

Words on blog by Jade Kurian; Video by Bobby Longoria; Music by Selva Oscura.

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New App Release: Simultaneous Upload to Multiple Destinations

latakoo Video Desktop App (3.3.2) is now available for download
latakoo is happy to announce the release of its latest desktop video App for both Mac and Windows OS. This update provides a major enhancement for video management and distribution. latakoo now allows users to upload the same video to multiple networks. That means you won’t have to re-upload the same video multiple times.
latakoo Video Tool multi-network selector
We have added a multi-network selection dropdown box for easy selection of any number of your video networks. Video networks are your private, collaborative video folders. By simply selecting a choice of networks, your video can be uploaded to those locations in a single instance.

Share faster: the latest latakoo App allows for simultaneous uploads to several video folders.

Once the App completes the upload process, your videos will be available in the selected networks in your latakoo web account. Depending on the number of networks that your video was uploaded to, the Pilot page will display each video in its unique network. In addition, each member of those networks will also have those videos available to them immediately. Please remember that your account will be charged for the multiple uploads.

Inside latakoo: within your account, on the Pilot screen, you'll find all of your uploads listed in the various networks.

Sharing of video just got a whole lot easier. Install or upgrade the tool now by clicking here.  The simultaneous upload to multiple destinations is part of our desktop app as of today, and will be available in our mobile apps as part of a future release.

Words by Joe Pelayo

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latakoo goes Presidential: Sending Video from Conventions

The 2012 political conventions came and went, without me. A small part of me was screaming to participate! I sat home and watched. Just a few years ago, the only thing that could keep me from the middle of the action, was a hurricane. I distinctly remember HD News General Manager Will J. Wright and Executive Producer Chris Long, dispatching me out of the Republican Convention in 2004, just a day after I arrived. I had traveled with President George W. Bush’s campaign all the way to the convention and had just checked into my hotel, filed my first convention story, and got the call. “Are you still packed? Good. Don’t bother unpacking.”  Just as I was about to enjoy the thrill of convention coverage, a hurricane had formed in the Atlantic, aiming for Florida. I exchanged the RNC credentials and black suit for my jeans and extreme weather gear; exchanged George for Charley.

Nigel McGregor and I covering the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Because of how television stations are covering the conventions and because of my role at latakoo, I did get to feel the adrenaline rush of the big story. Gone are the days of running to the satellite truck or the feed room with tapes. I’ve worn out quite a few heels sprinting to the satellite truck parked on the farthest corner of whatever convention center happened to be in play. Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show crew had fun with the security checkpoints at this year’s Democratic convention, but it’s routine (especially if you’re not assigned to the major networks) to be forced out into the nether regions, even if you are part of the credentialed media.  My photographer, Nigel McGregor wore Keens, but he still had to carry a 35-pound camera on his shoulder during the trek.

These days, there’s less running to the trucks and stopping to flash credentials every 10 steps along the way. Video content can now be moved from where you stand. latakoo is part of that revolution. And in the case of the RNC and DNC this year, we made it possible to move news content fast and share resources. Nearly 80 stations used content that moved through latakoo. Nexstar Broadcasting used latakoo consistently during the conventions, assigning a handful of staff to the two locations, and managing customized stories for each of their more than 60 stations. “Most of what we did was local content with local delegates,” said Jerry Walsh, Nexstar’s Director of Local Content Development.  “Our reporters turned over 300 local stories during the two weeks.  Latakoo gave us a significant advantage to push this content to the markets.”

I’ve attached two of the stories from Nexstar stations here. In the interest fair reporting, one is from the DNC — Josh Berry of KARK TV in Arkansas and one is from the RNC — Nick Ochsner of KAMC TV in Texas.

Satellite trucks help deliver news immediately, but it's costly, cumbersome technology.

Satellite technology is costly and cumbersome and complicated. latakoo is simple.  Our price points are affordable, our service is easy-to-use, and our technology leverages the power of the web and of the user’s laptop or mobile device.

This is how television is done now. This is how video is done now. YouTube, Dropbox, and Box, and FTP usually take hours to upload large video files. latakoo has the science down to minutes for the upload of a Gigabyte of video. (Naturally, overall speed is dependent on your Internet connection.) During the 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, HD News sent files via FTP.  The result — our crews had to plan on being finished with our shooting, writing, and editing well in advance of show time so that our HD stories could be sent via FTP to our broadcast center in New York.  It was a slow, painful, process for all of us and when hiccups occurred (often), we had to pinch hit.

Photojournalist Mike Colin editing one of my 2008 RNC stories to send via FTP.

At latakoo, we support the democratic process and we believe that in order to make good decisions that uphold a democracy, people need information. Journalism is at the heart of that effort. News companies, like most businesses, make many decisions based on two critical factors: time and money. How much time will it take? How much money will it take? latakoo allows news crews to save time, preventing overtime and in many cases, allowing one person to produce more content. And, if you save time, you save money. Add to that the low-cost nature of latakoo’s web transfer and big news corporations are able to cover more stories.

For the latakoo team, knowing we played a part in giving Americans a look into their democratic process is very satisfying. We don’t mind who you root for, or what issues cause you to act, we just hope you’ll be informed, and then exercise the beautiful right this country gives each citizen – to vote.

Words by Jade Kurian; Photos courtesy of Nigel McGregor; Video courtesy of Nexstar Broadcasting

 

 

 

 

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latakoo Signs Development Deal with NBC

At latakoo, we’ve always loved the news.

Loved Reading it. Loved Watching It. Loved Reporting it.

But few news days have meant as much to us personally as today’s stories.

First – some background – the latakoo app sends video fast over any Internet connection. And we have customers big and small that use latakoo to move their video files fast, then share and collaborate.

At latakoo, we’ve been working with the engineers at NBC News for months.  Now, we’re taking the next step with this outstanding organization.  Earlier this week, NBC signed a development agreement with latakoo.

“We like the way latakoo works because it’s so easy to use,” says Danny Miller, the Director of Engineering Field and Satellite Operations for NBC News. “A correspondent could review video on a laptop and just drop the best of it into latakoo to quickly send back to the newsroom.”  You can read our official announcement here.

People noticed. To be precise – tech reporters noticed – like TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez who announced that “Enterprise Video Transfer Startup Latakoo Signs Deal With NBC For Newsroom Integration”

One of our favorite Austin reporters – Lori Hawkins – told our hometown community. “In a big endorsement for its technology, Austin startup Latakoo has signed a pilot project with NBC News.”

Google “latakoo” and you’ll find a lot more stories.

All we can say is thanks. Thanks to NBC. Thanks to the reporters. Thanks to team latakoo. And most of all, thanks to you – our customers.

By Paul Adrian

 

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latakoo and NBC: Official News Release

(News Release, July 12, 2012)

latakoo Signs Video Technology Development Agreement with 
NBC News/NBC Universal

Global News Network to Finalize Testing of Video Transfer Tools

(Austin, Texas) – NBC News and parent company NBC Universal have signed a development agreement with Austin startup latakoo (https://latakoo.com/) to provide fast video transfer services for its global newsgathering operations. The news network has been testing latakoo’s technology for the past year and is launching a pilot project to integrate the video service into NBC’s communications systems.

“We think this is a great moment for us and NBC News,” said Paul Adrian, CEO of latakoo. “The Internet offers tremendous possibilities for simplicity, speed, and cost savings to news crews traveling the world. And before latakoo was developed, TV networks had to build expensive proprietary tools of their own or buy very pricey hardware and software. We’ve shown NBC there is a better way.”

Over the next five months, latakoo’s engineers will optimize the company’s popular compression and conveyance technology to work with NBC’s proprietary workflow system. As long as news crews are able to find a wireless signal somewhere in the world, they will be able to use latakoo’s one-click tool to send their raw video and edited news reports into the broadcast center. Satellites and expensive broadband will no longer be necessary in many instances.

“We like the way latakoo works because it’s so easy to use,” says Danny Miller, the Director of Engineering Field and Satellite Operations for NBC News. “A correspondent could review video on a laptop and just drop the best of it into latakoo to quickly send back to the newsroom.”

“When we started latakoo, this was precisely the kind of problem we wanted to solve,” Adrian added. “Constricted upload bandwidth creates difficulties in sending video from the field. But we’ve solved that and we’re excited about working with NBC to improve the speed and quality of Internet video transfers.”

latakoo, an Austin, Texas based startup provides enterprise level online video delivery, storage, collaboration, and file trans-coding to many of the largest TV broadcasting companies in the U.S. and Mexico. Individual plans and an iPhone app are also available.

About latakoo: www.latakoo.com is the fastest, simplest, and least expensive way to send video over the Internet. Contact: Jade Kurian @ 512 502 5666 or jade@latakoo.com

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