Friday, May 7, 2010
Interview with Marc Friedmann, SciVee
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
For this morning's interview, we spoke with Marc Friedmann, the experience executive who is now CEO of Solana Beach-based SciVee (www.scivee.tv). Marc was previously CEO of Syntricity, and was founding CEO at Prisa Networks (acquired by EMC). SciVee recently inked a major deal with Thomson Reuters, and Marc tells us a bit about that deal as well as the company's business.
For people who haven't visited SciVee, what's the site about?
Marc Friedmann: SciVee serves the STM - Science, Technical, Medical - market. It's largely a publishing market, and has been around for hundreds of years. However, it's a very large market--we peg it at around $11 billion a year, and some estimate it to be as big as $20 billion a year, including scientific journals, academic journals, scientific societies, and conferences. It's a pretty established, mature market, which has existed since the beginning of the printing press, but has evolved forward for hundreds of years and has been going through a lot of changes in the last twenty years. One of the first major changes, is they've taken what they are doing, and moving online. The next major change that we see, is now that they're online, they're becoming more web based, and adding things like rich media. That's what SciVee is focused on. We provide rich media to the STM market.
Can you describe how that works?
Marc Friedmann: There are two sides of the business. One is software, which is very much like software-as-a-service, where we deliver that software to publications and conferences, to enable rich media on their sites. The second side, which is actually more publicly visible, is we have a web site which has that same functionality, and enables scientists and viewers at large with scientific content to post their videos and content. That's what SciVee is best known for. The videos on our web site have some proprietary techniques you can't find elsewhere, and we have thousands of heavy science videos on the site -- everything from Nobel prize winners, to National Geographic, to class videos on science and related to science, and even to things students are doing in high school. That's the broad range of information we offer. What we offer to scientists which is proprietary in the videos, is we have a technique to link the videos to published documents and text. That approach allows you to synchronize the video you've uploaded to a document you've uploaded. It synchronizes the timeline of the video with document content. For example, an author can talk about their recent research, which was published in a scientific journal, and highlight key findings. That helps the reader figure out what are the key elements of the research, and whether the reader wants to spend more time digging into the article. Research time is increasingly valuable, and this can help a scientist tell whether they should spend time digging into that research, or if they can just view a thumbnail of the key points.
What's the story behind the company--I understand this started at UCSD?
Marc Friedmann: It was founded by two U.C. professors, who saw these changes coming, and the need to evolve and adapt that emerging technology into the scientific publishing area. They got an NSF grant, and basically started up the original web site, as a video web site. They envisioned it as a YouTube for science. That drove initial attention and traction, with content and uploads. They got a continuing grant, a TTR grant from the NIH, which we are moving forward with, as well as self-funding.
How did you get involved in the company?
Marc Friedmann: I was actually brought in about a year after they started. They were looking for a technically knowledgeable person who had a strong business background. I was able to take the web site and company, and determine how to take it forward with commercialization, to figure out the business here and to help advance the capabilities and commercialize them.
You mention commercialization--we often hear that's a tough process, how's that gone, and what's been your biggest challenge there so far?
Marc Friedmann: They made lots of correct technology decisions, and they had a good foundation and great developers. From a product standpoint, that has not been an issue. The software is very solid, there have been no issues or downtime, and we're still actually operating out of the UCSD campus, at the San Diego Supercomputing Center. That's given us lots of bandwidth and top notch infrastructure. The challenge is, like with any mature business, is figuring out how to stimulate the market. They're just getting on board with making the transition to online from print, and now integrated video and rich media. It's the normal challenge, looking at the adoption cycle in this marketplace.
Can you talk about your deal with Thomson and who your typical customers would be?
Marc Friedmann: That is a pretty major arrangement for SciVee. They're obviously a world class corporation, and one of the largest players in this marketplace. We're also working with other corporations like them which serve this market. That arrangement is oriented towards scientific conferences. We also have a relationship with Elsevier Publications, one of the largest publishers of scientific journals, where one of their journals is working with us. You can see that on the SciVee site. We're also working with other scientific publishers and other scientific journals, who publish peer reviewed articles, and they want to incorporate video and rich media, doing what we call pubcasts, synchronizing the key things in the article with presentations. Our typical customers are scientific journals, or a publisher of multiple scientific journals, that wants to add rich media and video capability. It's just like you're seeing with magazines and newspapers--you're starting to see that happen with publications like Science, Nature, and others. There are 15,000 other scientific journals out there who might want to incorporate this kind of capability on their web site.