Kanopy’s video stream has US unis covered

08/05/2015 - 12:31


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Olivia Humphrey’s tech business is making inroads in the US, without the need for venture capital investment.

Kanopy’s video stream has US unis covered
DISRUPTER: Based in San Francisco, Olivia Humphrey’s Kanopy is stirring up the online university video streaming market in the US.

Olivia Humphrey’s tech business is making inroads in the US, without the need for venture capital investment.

Tech startups should plough their own course and go where the market is, no matter where that takes them, based on the experiences of a former Perth tech entrepreneur now located in San Francisco.

Two years after moving to the US from Subiaco, Olivia Humphrey’s Kanopy service is successfully disrupting the online university video streaming market.

“I’m glad we moved over here,” Ms Humphrey told Business News. “But it was tough going during the first six months.”

Ms Humphrey arrived in California in 2013 with her husband and 10-month-old baby; now, she has 15 staff (including her husband and brother).

“We did not come here for funding, we’ve never had any VC (venture capital) money, although we’ve been lucky enough to be approached by a number of VCs with term sheets. I’ve never even pitched to VCs. We have one Perth-based external shareholder, and he owns less than 1 per cent,” Ms Humphrey said.

“We came here because the market is so much larger for what we do. There are 39 universities in Australia but over 4,000 colleges in the US.”

Kanopy enables universities to provide 35,000 movies as a streaming service for students and professors.

The content is varied, with the most watched videos being those with student-directed content such as health issues, as well as general entertainment and course material.

“Professors use the service. They can post a movie for their students to watch and comment on, “ Ms Humphrey said.

“We’ve had millions of students access the content globally, and often we’ve invited movie makers to join in the discussions online.”

Apart from the adjustment to another country, she said it wasn’t easy for Kanopy to break into the market.

“We’ve had all sorts of things thrown at us,” Ms Humphreys said. “In our early days we were frozen out of conferences by competitors, but now we are more established we can overcome these sorts of tactics.”

Kanopy was established in Subiaco in 2007 as a DVD rental service for universities, and then moved into streaming in 2011. Prior to establishing the service, Ms Humphrey had spent a decade in media rights management with the BBC, Austar and Roadshow Entertainment.

Kanopy won various local awards, such as ‘best emerging company’ in EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, and the WA innovator of the year award in 2012.

The streaming service today charges a capped annual fee to universities, but charges only start when any movie has had at least four views. In this way, even though the whole library contains 35,000 titles, the universities are only billed for the movies watched.

American universities are warming to the new model Kanopy provides. Unlike its rivals, Kanopy is also intent on providing a good flow of royalties back to the film makers.

Kanopy is a disruptor, and is changing the rules on how video is distributed through educational channels,” Ms Humphrey said,

“These new rules are creating havoc in the market and demanding more accountability from our competitors.

“It would have been too hard to do this from our office in Subiaco; we had to move here to make inroads into the market.”

Even her choice of location within San Francisco was deliberate. Rather than setting up in the south of Market Street tech area (‘SOMA’) where Dropbox, Klout, FitBit and other rising techstars have offices, Kanopy’s offices are in a bright north shore converted warehouse overlooking a marina. With views to the Golden Gate Bridge to the left, Alcatraz straight ahead and Fisherman’s Wharf to the right, one feels she is here to stay – at least for a while.

“My long-term aim is to return to Perth one day, but for now we are having the time of our lives, and have plenty of work to do as there is still a large market to tap into over here,” Ms Humphrey said.


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