Friday, May 25, 2007

BREW developer harnesses The Force

This morning’s breakthrough company is Eyespot, a two-year-old North County firm that has a different take on the YouTube model.

Last summer’s interview of CEO/co-founder Jim Kaskade by UT telecom reporter Kathryn Balint shows a classic “scratch an itch” startup:
Balint: How did Eyespot get started?

Kaskade: David Dudas and I both have families, and we both shoot video with a digital video camcorder. But we were both asking what do you do with the digital video after you've captured it? I hadn't done anything with it, to be honest. I didn't have the time to learn complex editing tools. This is the typical situation of a lot of consumers. So David and I said, “This is a pain point that needs to be addressed. We need to take advantage of the fact that the Internet is becoming the operating system and instead of having an application run on your desktop, you can have a hosted application running on the Internet.”
Eyespot has a two-pronged approach. The website allows editing online, while Eyespot Mobile Share (announced a year ago at Qualcomm’s annual BREW developer conference) allows such editing to be done on BREW-based cell phones (i.e. Verizon and BREW operators in Japan and Korea).

[Star Wars ’77]Today’s big announcement is that Eyespot has been selected by Lucasfilm to provide the tools for Star Wars fan(atic)s to create their own clips based on the 6-part movie saga, whether short parodies or longer mini-movies. Lucasfilm is providing some 250 clips of up to one minute or less that visitors to can combine using the Eyespot web-based software, and then post to the website (linked from a dedicated blog). This is in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars — I still remember waiting outside a Westwood movie theater to see the first (4th) episode) back in 1977.

There are limits, as mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article (but not the press release):
The mash-up project will come with rules, however. While it won't stop anybody from assailing characters or casting them in unexpected lights, Eyespot has set up a program to make sure none of the doctored clips contain nudity, pornography, and the like. As a backup, a team of screeners based in Costa Rica will watch each video before it goes live.
Still, this marks a courageous effort by Lucasfilm to utilize the power of user innovation and confront head-on the threat of BitTorrent, YouTube etc. facing all of Hollywood. The commentary by MaryAnn Johanson shows how big a shift this is for Lucas:
George Lucas, creator of "Star Wars," has never hesitated to protect his intellectual property, which is why some call him “Lucas the Litigator.” …

This is smart, on Lucas's part. He’s trying to take control of the crazy, pop-culture-commenting creativity all the kids are into these days. I predict this will fail, wildly, from Lucas's perspective (though fans will love it). If I may paraphrase what Princess Leia told Grand Moff Tarkin: The more you tighten your grip, Lucas, the more mashups will slip through your fingers.
This sort of deal also helps Eyespot avoid the the GooTube copyright dilemma. It is only the latest deal by Eyespot with licensed content, including Paramount Pictures and the NBA.

Kaskade and co-founder/CTO Dudas seemed to have had both a great vision and executed right on building the key content partners. With both VC and blue-chip angels like Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and Linspire (née Lindows) chairman Michael Robertson, it appears they’ve built a small team that (at least until recently) was working out of a home.

This is the second startup of Kaskade, who in 1998 founded Incep Technologies, a Mira Mesa-based firm that developed IP to improve semiconductor packaging and connections. The company won more than $10 million in VC funding before it was acquired in September 2004 by Molex, Inc., a Fortune 1000 component company.

Graphic credit: Original 1977 Star Wars poster from

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