Our interview today is with John Edwards, President and CEO of American Fork-based Move Networks (www.movenetworks.com). You might not know the name, but you've probably seen and heard its product. The company develops software that delivers high-quality streaming video content to some of the biggest names in the Web-publishing business, including FOX, ABC, ESPN and The Discovery Channel. A privately held firm backed by venture firms Steamboat Ventures and Hummer Winblad, Move Networks is winding down a second round of funding worth more than $40 million. Recently, Techrockies's Holden Parrish spoke with John Edwards about the company. Here's what he had to say about his company’s growth and success.
First, some background information: Where are the firm's founders from?
John Edwards: This company was essentially founded by Drew Major and I. I spent a number of years at Novell. It was a great run. That's where I got to know Drew, who is also one of Novell's founders.
So why did the two of you decide to tackle the streaming video market?
John Edwards: Nobody else was. During the time that we started first looking at the problem, everybody was focused in on download, and I would say they wore focused in on the movie business. But when we started looking at where the opportunity was, we really thought it was in giving the user immediate access to entertainment. And that meant streaming. And it also meant trying to find a way to team up with the programmers or publishers in a way that worked for them.
How does Move stay ahead of other novel streaming solutions, such as those being developed by GridNetworks or BitTorrent?
John Edwards: You have to constantly focus on improving the technologies. I would also say Move isn't focused in on being a better technology company as much as we have a desire to be a publishing partner. There's a real difference. Our angle is to help publishers grow their viewership. That means you have to develop end-to-end systems that have to deal with all the aspects of publishing video on the Internet. That’s a multifaceted problem that companies like Grid and BitTorrent don’t tackle.
How do you deal with ingestion? How do you deal with things like advertising? How do you deal with analytics and reporting? How do you increase quality so you can drive a mass audience? Once you have a mass audience, how do you use information about viewing behaviors in order to drive more intelligent programming and more relevant advertising? These are much broader concepts than a protocol.
Is there a specific type of company that would benefit most from your technology?
John Edwards: We deal with the largest publishers, and this is another big difference between us and other technologies. Many other technologies are focused in on non-professionally published content. Our focus is on the top 200-300 media companies. Our customers are people like ABC, ESPN, Fox, Discovery, Warner Brothers, CW—those are the types of customers who benefit from our solution.
And realize that, unlike most of the other competitors in this space, we're not there to create our own portal or to compete with the portals in any way. We're a complete whitebox solution for publishers, so we represent an extension of their innovation team.
So your video player isn’t branded?
John Edwards: Take the ABC Web site. You'll see our name in a couple of places where the EULA is displayed, but, for the most part, that's absolutely accurate. We are there to promote the ABC brand. That’s our brand. We succeed when they succeed.
When you watch the ABC content, there's a lot that has happened before the video ever got there, and there's a lot that happens after you watch it. There's more than just the streaming of high-quality video content.
Has your subdued marketing approach made it difficult to attract new customers?
John Edwards: We're not having any problem at all with that. We’re getting all the major brands. The circle in the community is pretty tight. When you can go and show people that you have succeeded with the top networks in the world, they usually don’t have a difficult time talking with you. They appreciate the fact that we’re not trying to compete with them, that we’re trying to help them.
It’s a different kind of marketing and sales. It’s a follow-on strategy, and we know how to drive that strategy well. We’re quite thrilled with it, actually.
You’re backed by Hummer Winblad and Steamboat Ventures. How were you able to attract a high-profile VC firm while simultaneously catching the eye of Walt Disney’s venture capital arm?
John Edwards: Well, we were very successful and we developed a lot of great relationships before we were ever funded. Often, what will happen is people who bring great technology to customers, if they happen to have VC relationships, they’ll go out and introduce themselves, come up with an idea, and then go out to the marketplace calling on VC doors.
We worked in reverse. We had a successful launch of our technologies, and that success invited the funding. We started out, actually, with the people at Walt Disney and ABC. They were customers of ours for over a year, and that led to an introduction to Steamboat Ventures, which led to an introduction of Hummer Winblad.
How has the firm been able to attract the kinds of customers that it now has?
John Edwards: I think Fox, ABC, ESPN, the work with CW, and I would add our work with Discovery, absolutely have been the core to launching the company. The root of it was Fox and ABC. They almost came out at the same time. That was the result of several months’ worth of work with those guys.
Why did Move Networks set up shop in Utah?
John Edwards: Drew and I are both from Utah. I think Utah is a fabulous place to do business. You find a lot of good local talent. There have been a lot of successful companies in the area, as well as university programs that are excellent at delivering engineering talent. It’s a great environment to work in.
In closing, and on a completely unrelated topic, I couldn’t help but notice you share a name with a well-known political figure. Do you get teased about that often?
John Edwards: No, not really. I’m sure he gets a lot of jokes going in the other direction, though.