Matthew Lim is an honest to goodness, Singaporean technopreneur (and full disclosure: our erstwhile tech partner) who is on a nascent path to becoming another home grown success story in Silicon Valley. The 30 year old first class graduate from the National University of Singapore left a cushy Credit Suisse investment banking position to found Vidy, an international tech start up in the realm of rich media.
Tell us about VIDY, the original idea and the developments that followed ?
I met Patrick Colangelo, back then final year at Harvard University through my brother who was also studying there at that time. He introduced me to Patrick and we just hit it off really well.h
My partner Patrick and I always had an interest in video technology for a simple reason that video is and will be the most consumed and engaged media format going into the future. We noticed a lot of innovation in the format of videos, how they looked, how you add music to them etc. However, there was simply no innovation in the last 20 years when it came to video search and video consumption.
That’s when we started to play around with making video search and consumption seamless and instantly available. The original breakthrough came with our NLP technology which we developed that allowed us to search for videos based on their natural language. So we were able to search for segments of videos based on what was being said which was very interesting when you applied it backwards to what people where reading. We thought to ourselves how could we then seamlessly integrate relevant videos to the text that people were reading?
Once we had this problem to solve, the rest was down to pure innovation, creativity and design of the product. We had to make it simple, easy to understand, scalable and applicable to about anything on the web that had text. And lucky enough, we managed to create something no one has done before, filed for international patent pending status and got this rolled out on more than 50 publishers with over 3bn page views of inventory monthly.
You have a rather unique background for an entrepreneur, tell us more about yourself ?
Well I’ve always had the entrepreneur spirit in me since I was young. I never liked following the rules, I always was thinking about solving problems and never taking no for an answer. My first business venture at 18 was creating the world’s first dashed line ruler. Back then I found it so troublesome drawing dotted lines on graphs during math exams, and so my friend and I created a ruler that allows you to do that in just one stroke. We broke even on that venture in just a few months.
However, after university, I joined Credit Suisse as an investment banker instead of starting my own business. It was that kind of job offer that you could not say no to. It was the most glamorous and prestigious first job any business school undergraduate could have asked for so I took it. It was a challenging first job but also a very fulfilling one. I learnt a lot on in my few years there and a lot of the skill sets I picked up then helped me as we were starting Vidy.
I decided to leave my comfortable high paying job because I found it limiting in what I could contribute to a firm as large as Credit Suisse. I wanted to make a difference and therefore I chose the startup path. A path I would say is extremely challenging and definitely not for the faint hearted. You must have the will power, perseverance and passion to keep the startup alive till there is a breakthrough.
Where is VIDY being operated from, how heavy the R&D ?
We have 3 headquarters for Vidy today. In San Francisco, that’s where my partner Patrick Colangelo leads a team of 15 engineers that focus on product development and innovation. In Shanghai, the team handles all of China’s operations and business development and in Singapore, the team handles all of southeast asia’s operations and business development.
R&D is always at the core and focus of tech companies like Vidy. We spend a lot of time and money on R&D because that is what keeps us ahead of the game. Most of our operating expenses are spent on our engineering team. If you’ve had a chance to study Vidy’s technology, you’ll know that we’ve put so much time on the product, making it as simple as is on the user experience front but yet having all sorts of breakthroughs on the technical front. That’s always the most challenging part about development.
Which are the brands you are working with ? What benefits do these brands find in using the VIDY platform ?
Today, our SDK is integrated into over 50 publishers that include big names like CNN Indonesia, Hearst Group Magazines; Esquire, Buro247, Robb Report, Heart Media Group; Luxuo, L’Officiel amongst others. Vidy is being used every day on these publishers and from the millions of datapoints we’ve received, it has resulted in greater user engagement and significant increase in session time in pages that have Vidy. View-rate is also extremely high at an average of 40% across all types of publishers. A view-rate is defined as a more than 2 second hold on a video.
We’ve already started campaigns with brands such as Osim, Chanel, BMW among others. The results of the campaigns are very strong and we are seeing plenty of interests from luxury, fashion and consumer brands. Vidy allows brands to tell their story in an entirely new way, a way that blends well with what consumers want which is choice. No longer do you have video pop ups or banners in your face. Vidy allows the consumer to choose if he or she is interested in a particular content and hold down to review more instantly. Vidy is in a league of its own when it comes to digital advertising, every view is a view from a highly targeted audience who is engaged, interested and has initiated an action to see that Vidy video.
Many people still try to categorize Vidy into the mainstream digital ad formats out there but there just isn’t anything close to what Vidy is achieving in terms of engagement and user experience.
You have ventured onto the Blockchain and have launched a Token, tell us more about the mechanics behind this Token and its use ?
We recently listed VidyCoin on one of China’s largest exchanges Gate.io. During the IEO sale, we attracted over US$42mil of interests in just 2 hours. That was a big milestone and achievement for the company. It showed that people really believed in us and saw a real utility in the token that we were launching.
So at Vidy, we believe that the current ad ecosystem is broken. Users are bombarded with unwanted and disruptive ads which ruin their experience. It is very much like a one sided relationship where brands force themselves upon users. Now with Vidy, we not only want to give users the choice whether they see an ad or not but also to be rewarded a piece of the pie whenever they see an ad. We call it the reward economy at Vidy.
VidyCoin is the digital currency that fuels this Vidy Ecosystem where users are rewarded VidyCoin whenever they watch a Vidy. VidyCoin can then be used to purchase goods and services that are listed on the Vidy Marketplace by brands who advertise with us. The brands that receive the VidyCoin can then use them to offset advertising campaigns or get access to premium digital ad formats on Vidy. Today, we’ve already seen brands willing to accept VidyCoin as payment for their goods and services because they see real utility in VidyCoin as they can use it back to advertise with us. For instance, Meixin mooncakes in Singapore are already accepting payment in VidyCoin, other magazine publishers like Esquire will also be accepting VidyCoin for magazine subscriptions etc. Osim, who is also our advertiser, is already working with us on allowing VidyCoin for payment for their products too.
Where do you see VIDY in 5 years ?
Our vision for Vidy in 5 years is that we will become a decentralized social e-commerce platform. What we mean by decentralize is the fact that you don’t have to be logged in onto Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Alibaba to experience social or e-commerce on just 1 platform. You simply experience social e-commerce on any webpage that you visit. In a small way, we are already like that. Whenever you visit a webpage that has Vidy SDK in it, you are essentially on our platform. Once we roll out more, soon you’ll always be on the Vidy Ecosystem that allows you to watch videos, share videos, interact socially with other users on the webpage, purchase goods and services on the go etc. That is the vision, building an entire network on the internet without limiting users to only one platform or one brand. A network for everybody.
A person who has inspired you or has had an impact on your latest developments career wise ?
It is really difficult to pinpoint one person who has inspired or impacted my latest developments career wise. At different points in my life, different people have been an inspiration in different ways. All I can say is that I will always remember those who’ve helped me, those who’ve believed in me and those that have brought about positive things in my life. And like how they’ve brought about positivity in my life, I hope to do the same for others if I’m in the position to. I always help if I can.