UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School: Overview of the whole business is vital
MBA gave Viddyad founder the confidence to create her start-up
Grainne Barron: “I am based in Silicon Valley and lots of people have MBAs out there. It’s almost one of the things you have to have to be taken seriously.”
Grainne Barron is one of the latest wave of Irish technology entrepreneurs to locate their start-ups in the US rather than grow them in Ireland first.
Her automated video ad creation and distribution platform Viddyad was recently name-checked by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as one of four Irish companies to watch in Silicon Valley and has clocked up a string of awards, including an Irish Times Innovation Award, since its establishment in 2013.
Barron is very upfront in saying that her UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School MBA gave her the confidence to start up the business. “The MBA added to my skillset,” she explains. “It focussed things and polished everything off. One big thing it did was give me the confidence that I knew what I knew and had the knowledge and skills necessary to start up the business.”
She describes Viddyad as “the democratisation of advertising”. With digital media now making it relatively cheap for even the smallest businesses to market their products and large companies still enjoy a clear advantage when it came to professional video ads due to the costs involved. And that’s where Viddyad comes in.
The Viddyad service allows SMEs to create and produce broadcast quality video advertisements for the web for as little as $99 (€73) per 10 seconds. That price includes video content, music and the ability to upload text and images.
Barron has a long history in the broadcasting and video sector and is a former director of Dublin’s Windmill Lane studios. That association led indirectly to the idea for the Viddyad service. “A friend who owns a florists said she would like to put video ads up on the net but couldn’t afford it. I looked at it and told her I could get her a really good deal for around €10,000 an ad. She nearly had a heart attack. That’s when I started to look for a more affordable way of doing it.”
The most expensive part of an ad is the professional quality video and this led her to look at where that could be sourced at a very low cost. She found that image providers such as Getty Images don’t just do still photographs but also do video which could be used in ads. She went to see the company in New York and persuaded them that her idea could work. “I told them that one day I was going to be their largest customer. That got them interested.”
This was the start and as a result of the deals she did with Getty and other image providers such as Shutterstock, Barron has created the first fully automated cloud-based video ad creation platform. “Our customers have access to more than 20 million videos and images. They go onto the site and make their ad using the tools on it. They can then view it in a watermarked version and if they don’t like it they don’t pay a penny. They only pay when they are happy with it.”
While individual users are important to the company Barron believes the future lies in relationships with other businesses such as local cable companies and online directory services. “We are white-labelling our service to offer it as an ad creation platform for other companies”, she says. “For example, local cable companies struggle to get ads from local companies because they can’t afford the production costs. The Viddyad service addresses that issue. We have partnerships in the US, Australia and Asia and are growing all the time. We also have individual users around the world. Just the other night we had two customers in Egypt using the service to make ads for their businesses. We are a global business.”