Voddler's CEO tells Conversations how a small start-up conquered Hollywood
STOCKHOLM, Sweden – It looks like Brad Pitt knows a secret – how to get his movies on your Nokia Lumia.
If the end of One Day made you cry; Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive left you quivering, or Meryl Streep’s Iron Lady re-opened a debate on the politics of 1980s Britain, the chances are you want to talk to someone about it.
Nokia’s new partnership with video-on-demand service Voddler is based on the idea that even if we watch movies on our own, most of us want to talk to our friends about what we’ve seen – especially if it’s Brad Pitt (or possibly Emma Watson, Angelina Jolie or Anne Hathaway.)
Soon a ‘Voddler Lumia’ streaming app will do just that – bringing new technology to old fashioned ‘movie nights’ so that you can share your favourite films and movie moments with anyone, on any platform.
“It’s hard to find a person who never watches a movie,” said Voddler CEO Marcus Bäcklund, “but what we do is combine that with a device agnostic solution, and a sense of social networking that is in our DNA.”
What Bäcklund means by ‘device agnostic’ is that you can start watching a movie on your Nokia Lumia, transfer it to a flat screen TV when you friends arrive, or share it with someone using a tablet. And because the film is streamed from a cloud, you never have to wonder where you got up to, or catch-up with where you left off – it’s a seamless transition.
Although Bäcklund is a movie lover, it’s that technology backbone that has made this small Swedish company a success. The Voddler team now has 25 employees, but still operates from an unglamorous office in Stockholm’s old town.
“We started more than four years ago with the idea that we wanted to deliver data over the Internet in a secure and effective way. Last year we finally had the technology for a platform that could provide the security you’d get from a server, but without a server, and we could turn that to delivering the most demanding service of all – movies.”
Bäcklund described Voddler’s work as a “truly entrepreneurial thing,” requiring the most challenging technology to make sure that the largest files could be delivered in an unbroken stream: “Buffering drives people crazy. It had to be avoided at all costs.”
Getting the technology right was only the start of Voddler’s challenge though. Hollywood was a far harder nut to crack.
“I have a technical background,” Bäcklund admits. “When I told people I wanted to find out how to get a license to stream movies they laughed at me.” “
“We were a small start-up asking Hollywood to give us their precious babies.”
Undeterred, he flew from Sweden to Los Angeles on the basis of securing a ten-minute meeting with an executive at Disney.
“The Disney executive was very stressed. He said, OK you have your ten minutes.”
Bäcklund began his pitch and didn’t finish for another 2 ½ hours: “In the end I called a halt to the meeting because I had to fly back. He was enthralled, and at that point we still had nothing – but he believed in us.”
Voddler now has a catalogue for more than 5,000 movies and agreements with all the major Hollywood giants. “After Disney, the others were easier to persuade,” Bäcklund admits.
Currently operating in five countries, Bäcklund says Voddler has the capacity to roll-out across the world. “Nokia has fantastic hardware, and Windows Phone brings great software – but what is needed now are more great apps.
Working with Nokia on creating ‘movie night’ has been quite an “awesome experience,” he adds. After all, “movies have always been about social networking and communicating in the truest sense of the word, and mobile phones are now at the heart of that.”
Nokia Growth Partners is an investor in Voddler and told us their investment followed a belief that, “as video consumption behavior is shifting towards online and mobile, there’s huge demand for services that can offer great experiences across different screens.”
“The partnership Voddler is working on with Nokia is just one example how Nokia Growth Partner looks to actively invest in innovative solutions.”
Voddler’s new Nokia Lumia-app will first be launched in Voddler’s current markets – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland – and also in Spain during April 2012.
image credit: kjbphotography