Overcast HQ interviewed by Beyond

AWS for Media & Entertainment — Philippe Brodeur and Zsolt Lorincz on AWS stand at NAB 2019

Overcast HQ interviewed by Beyond

Overcast HQ interviewed by Beyond

Recently Philippe Brodeur, CEO, Overcast HQ was interviewed by our accounting partner, Beyond. The full content can be acessed on here.

“Outsourcing for me is all about fractionality […] When we don’t need the capabilities, we don’t pay for them. I think that’s fair and just. It scales and it works.”

– Philippe Brodeur

Overcast HQ is breaking entirely new ground in the media-tech sector. If you’ve come across the concept of Digital Asset Management (DAM), you’ll know how essential it is to have a system for managing, searching, and sharing digital assets properly. Overcast takes this a step further. It’s a platform for Media Asset Management (MAM) that allows any kind of video media to be stored securely in the cloud and accessed by the teams that need it. At Overcast, they call this Full Stack Video Management, and it’s a solution loved by clients such as Diageo, CPL, and the Royal Opera House.

“Imagine you’re a Marketing Executive at Guinness and you’re trying to track down a TV ad that was used back in the 1970s. The agency that made it might not even exist today. That video file must be somewhere, but how do you find it? The first thing Overcast does is give you a way to store and search content.

“Historically, video content was stored on servers in a physical server room at a location such as the company offices (on-premise). It could only be accessed by IT, video editors, or librarians. But think about how video is mostly used in a company. Obviously, the people who need access are your non-technical colleagues – the marketing team, sales team, client services team, etc. You might also need to give some access to external stakeholders such as sponsors.

“The old way to facilitate access was via either your own IT team or your video agency. Of course, the agencies would often be storing video externally at their post-production house. There were so many layers between you and your media assets. That’s something we have erased for teams.”

Philippe’s background is in media and entertainment, having worked with organisations such as the BBC, Vodafone, and NBC Universal. So this was the industry Overcast was initially aimed at. Back in 2008, Philippe built the TV3 player, only the second such player in Europe, and the first in Ireland. 2012 saw him involved in the creation of Aertv, the first Over-The-Top (OTT) streaming solution in Western Europe that made TV available over mobile (Facebook didn’t do this until 2015). Philippe and his co-founder, Zsolt Lorincz, knew the space well and identified that asset management was the next big opportunity. But asset management is extremely complicated, and it’s a particular challenge when video is involved, which comes in huge files and a plethora of formats.

“We were working in an organisation building a cloud streaming service for North Africa. We had purchased 750 hours of content from Fox. Formats are always a challenge with video. Essentially, every camera you pick up uses a different format, so you can’t start streaming content from a digital camera without first transcoding it. These 750 hours of content needed work, but back then it wasn’t possible to simply put the files in the cloud.

“Someone had to physically go to Los Angeles and pick up a bunch of hard drives from Fox, then bring them back to Dublin where we reformatted everything. For an entire week, our editors sat on their hands while the files were reformatted. Even after editing, we still had the job of uploading everything to the cloud. The other problem we faced was that the metadata for all these video files came in hard copy, an actual stack of papers, to be cross-referenced to the file every single time you needed to find something.

“This was my ‘lightbulb moment’. I knew this was a crazy way to work and that every person in the industry was having the exact same problem. That’s what started Overcast HQ.”

After writing a business plan, Philippe spent a lot of time at agencies, broadcasters, production houses, and brands to understand how they managed their video assets and what kind of value the Overcast platform could bring. And then commenced the hard task of building the platform.

“We successfully applied for Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) of €50,000 and raised some angel investment. When we achieved EI High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) status, that gave us another €250,000. But you have to remember that the typical startup rules of moving fast, breaking things, and getting an MVP into the hands of users as quickly as possible simply didn’t apply to us. We weren’t just building an application, but an entire platform.

“With the funding raised, we managed to stay lean and develop the platform for the next couple of years. Then, just as it started to look like the product we had envisioned, the pandemic struck. We had recently applied for the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Funding (DTIF) in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and another SME called Kinesense. As luck would have it, the financing started in May 2020. We reorganised and restructured the platform for brands more generally and not only media or entertainment companies. We scaled the team back to just three people and went to market about six months later.

“Before the pandemic, lots of our clients were using Overcast for events. When Covid hit, events were cancelled, and we looked for the pivot. We were already working with plenty of brands, so this was a natural transition for us. What became a more urgent need during the pandemic was giving people cloud access to video assets. Brands today may not be media companies, but they all need to manage and stream content on a broadcast level.”

Recognising its historic brand value, organisations have been taking steps to safeguard and organise their content in recent years. Generally, they have been doing this in their own data warehouses, which isn’t very efficient. The cloud gives much better value, but the next step is to be able to search this content so you both understand what you have and can access what you need. The Overcast platform is a cloud video hub with a wide range of innovative services laid on top to help teams leverage the assets, such as AI-powered metadata that recognises text and objects and creates automatic transcription. You could, for example, find every piece of footage with a sunrise or search for an old video in which someone mentioned “peanut butter”. Machine learning-powered business insights help optimise usage, saving up to 90% of storage costs. Overcast’s intelligent tiering means it can identify when an asset needs to move into a different level of storage (from always available to cold storage), with advanced automation managing tasks such as video resizing to make the right versions accessible.

“Today, our core team is around 15 people, mostly based in Dublin but also in the UK, US, and Romania. Scaling a business through self-funding – angels, grants, and growth – was the right path for Overcast because we could work on getting the product-market fit we needed, bringing on some really big clients who choose us because the technology is innovative and at the forefront of the market. In hindsight, it was definitely the best way to grow. Things would have been very different if there had been a VC in the mix. I think startups should stop and think before going the VC route. Look at what kind of company you are. Ask yourself if venture capital is the right way to grow.

Enterprise Ireland have been a great support. Their focus on the importance of selling outside of Ireland is key. Getting involved with EI through the CSF and then as an HPSU meant we had to focus on our international market, which has definitely been part of our success. The UK, the USA, and India are much bigger markets. They do business differently, too. We have one or two clients here in Ireland, but the rest are abroad. It’s the best thing that ever happened to us, really.”

As you’d expect from a tech company, they use technology to automate and streamline their internal processes. From sales platforms like Lusha and LinkedIn Premium to financial management solutions like Xero, SimplePay, and Liveplan, tools ensure the business runs smoothly. Because Overcast trades internationally, they also bank with Revolut Business. Revolut makes multi-currency easy for a global business, with very reasonable exchange rates that Irish pillar banks don’t come close to matching. The company also uses outside expertise for its non-core capabilities, including legal, accounting, and operations.

“Outsourcing for me is all about fractionality. You mostly don’t need full-time expertise in any of these areas until you get much bigger. Take lawyers, for example. I have all kinds of questions that need a legal mind – questions about corporate structures, partnerships, contracts – but I definitely don’t need a permanent employee. Instead, we have an outsourced legal team. I can ask them anything and get a quick and reliable response back. When we don’t need the capabilities, we don’t pay for them. I think that’s fair and just. It scales and it works.

“When we started, we just had our business accountant. But I knew the business had a wide range of day-to-day financial needs that he was overqualified to deal with. When we were introduced to Rory, the first thing I liked about Beyond was the ‘as a service’ approach to accounting. This meant we could have fractional CFO, accountant, and bookkeeper services, which gave us the breadth of expertise we needed. Good outsourcing is all about being able to access the right expertise at the right time. If I need a hand doing projections, Rory is available (that’s helpful, because I’m not great at Excel!).”

“The fractional approach is transformational. It means you have a tried and tested team for when you have a need. At the end of the day, it all comes down to asset management. Just like Overcast HQ!”

Get in touch with us

If you are looking for a bespoke video workflow solution and want to learn more, please get in touch with Overcast CEO Philippe Brodeur — he’s always happy to talk! You can reach him on info@overcasthq.com or through the contact form on our website.

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