The #1 Tech Tool You're Not Using - Yet (ft. Michael Litt, Vidyard)

August 14, 2020 Jeremy Goldman Season 1 Episode 88
The #1 Tech Tool You're Not Using - Yet (ft. Michael Litt, Vidyard)
The #1 Tech Tool You're Not Using - Yet (ft. Michael Litt, Vidyard)
Aug 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 88
Jeremy Goldman

Let’s face it: it’s not hard to list companies that have been big losers in 2020, right? And yet, there have been some bright spots. Zoom has been one of the darlings of 2020, with its live video platform taking off in the early days of the pandemic. And yet, often live video is not the right solution for you at a given moment - just like sometimes it’s better to text than to make a phone call.

Michael Litt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vidyard, which helps with asynchronous video communication (as opposed to requiring you to be available on video in real-time like Zoom). Jeremy spoke to Michael on a wide range of topics, from the value of asynchronous video to growing during a pandemic to the downside of adding yet another tech tool to our arsenals.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please make sure to subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Show Notes Transcript

Let’s face it: it’s not hard to list companies that have been big losers in 2020, right? And yet, there have been some bright spots. Zoom has been one of the darlings of 2020, with its live video platform taking off in the early days of the pandemic. And yet, often live video is not the right solution for you at a given moment - just like sometimes it’s better to text than to make a phone call.

Michael Litt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vidyard, which helps with asynchronous video communication (as opposed to requiring you to be available on video in real-time like Zoom). Jeremy spoke to Michael on a wide range of topics, from the value of asynchronous video to growing during a pandemic to the downside of adding yet another tech tool to our arsenals.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please make sure to subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Michael Litt

[00:00:00] Michael Litt: [00:00:00] What we immediately did was we looked at our roadmap and we looked at the stuff we were working on and said, are we actually building features and functionality and prioritizing the things based on the way this market and ecosystem and the adoption curve has changed.

Jeremy Goldman: [00:00:15] let's face it. It's not hard to list companies that have been big losers in 2020, right. And yet there have been some bright spots. Zoom has been one of the darlings of this year with its live video platform taking off in the early days of the pandemic. And yet oftentimes live video. Isn't the right solution for you at a given moment. Just like sometimes it's better to text than to make a phone call. 

Michael Litt is the cofounder and CEO of Vidyard, unlike zoom,  vidyard, helps with asynchronous video communication. As opposed to requiring you to be available on video in realtime, like Zoom. I spoke to Michael right before I ended my Exodus in Cleveland before heading back to New York. [00:01:00] And we talked about a wide range of topics from the value of asynchronous video to growing during a pandemic, to the downside of adding yet another tech tool to our arsenals. So let's jump right in.  

Hey, so  Michael. Welcome to future proof. 

Michael Litt: [00:01:21] I'm very happy to be here. Thanks for having me, Jeremy. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:01:23] Yeah, absolutely. I think I've been familiar with your work and your platform for feels like a while now. actually, but  for people who aren't as familiar with video hard at who are you and what do you do on a day to day basis?

Michael Litt: [00:01:38] Yeah, great question. Sometimes I, every day I wake up and ask myself that question sometimes, especially her age now, but Vidyard is a video platform for business. and so we started as an enterprise hosting and video management solution. we were a grad from, Y Combinator in the summer of 2011 batch.

And over the years we've been [00:02:00] really building software to help businesses succeed with video. And so that started with an interactive video, which integrated with marketing automation systems and CRM. And so you could track who was watching and for how long, and evolved into a number of tools to help people communicate more easily with video.

And so the latest version of that, is our Chrome extension, which sounds like you have some familiarity with, and it is a way of communicating with asynchronous video. And It's a one click to record one, click the send, and we tell you when the recipient has watched it and for how long, and it creates a whole, all new kind of paradigm with respect to how people can communicate in a, in an increasingly digital world.

Jeremy Goldman: [00:02:42] Yeah. And I'm wondering if you can, just for the layman. . . Define asynchronous video, and why it's so important.  full disclosure. , preaching to the choir in this regard, right? Because I think that there are times where asynchronous video is absolutely what you need.

And then there are times where. Live video. [00:03:00] But, how do you define it for people? 

Michael Litt: [00:03:02] Yeah. right now we're having a synchronous conversation. I say something you respond, it's this very dynamic two way dialogue. and that is the same method we communicate when we're live and in person with people, asynchronous communication is basically everything, anything else?

so you send a text message to somebody. They read that when they get access to it, they can think about it. Eventually respond to it. Sometimes they ignore you. Email is asynchronous communication. And so video or asynchronous video can be really thought of. As an addition to email or text messages, It's available on demand. It can be consumed when the recipient wants to consume it. They can choose how to respond. They can think about it. so it just doesn't have that kind of real time conversational element. That's the big difference between a sink and sink. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:03:51] And why do you believe it's so important because, and I'll tell you just, my thought about why immediately, I think when I first heard of asynchronous video or [00:04:00] first thought that this is a major area, that's a little bit different.

I thought, listen, this is just very efficient. It's like sending somebody an email versus. Getting them on the phone and having a 20 minute conversation 

Michael Litt: [00:04:11] when 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:04:12] you just wanted to, get an answer to one specific thing. If you get them on the phone, you feel weird about hanging up after 12 seconds.

So you stay on the phone unnecessarily. And to me, it's just a matter of efficiency, but how do you think about it? 

Michael Litt: [00:04:25] Yeah, for sure. I think, we'll start there with efficiency. it's very efficient on both ends the creator and the recipient. So on the creator side, you think about writing an email. I need to, especially if there's a visual component or highly descriptive element or anything to do with data, it's a very time consuming process to write an email.

That can be easily understood and you want to write it in a professional context and you'll reread it a couple of times and it's this kind of long drawn out process. And you always worry if the recipient is going to misinterpret it, [00:05:00] with video, you can literally sit down and pound out your thoughts.

you can walk through a presentation, you could walk through a sales order, walk through, some screenshots or even, how to use a piece of software, which is much easier to do with video. It's much more efficient, than obviously the alternative, which would be to again, Document grab screenshots and hope that somebody is going to be able to follow those things along as the person who receives that content.

I think to your point, it's a much more enriched experience. it's also more informal in a lot of ways. And so it can be more expressive, right? You can see somebody's body language and the passion that they have for the topic. Like you just cannot see with other forms of communication, text included.

And the last point on efficiency that I think you effectively brought up here is when you jump on a zoom call with somebody. it's very difficult to have a 92nd zoom call or a 32nd zoom call because all the niceties of synchronous communication comes to light. So how was your [00:06:00] weekend? What did you get up to?

And especially right now, given the global context of the COVID-19, it can be really inefficient, to jump on zoom calls all day. And so sometimes just a quick update, quick piece of information. super efficient. Next piece is, it's much more expressive. So I already touched on that a little bit, but my body language intonations, all those things are so enriching and.

you don't get that in other forms of asynchronous communication. and so they fall a little flat, which can be a good thing, I think sometimes. but if you're a sales person or port person, and you're passionate about what your organization is doing and you want to communicate that to your customer, obviously videos is a great way to do that.

And so I think because of that efficiency, And because of that expressiveness, it ends up being a very effective way of communicating. And we've always said that video is the next best thing to being there in person. And I think that holds true for both synchronous and asynchronous video communication.

Jeremy Goldman: [00:06:55] Yeah. I was thinking about this in terms of where we are in terms of the adult option [00:07:00] curve of asynchronous video has what's to me, interesting is that the kind of live video as zoom, like video, where you're essentially mimicking a phone call, the way that it used to be, that's something that I feel like.

We haven't scratched the surface, but we're also further along on the adoption curve, in my opinion than we are with async. where are your thoughts in terms of like how big this can get and how. Think of a part you can be, in the whole ecosystem. 

Michael Litt: [00:07:29] Yeah. There's a really funny infographic going around that says, what was the agent that created a digital innovation or digital change in your organization?

And option a, is the CEO option B is the CIO and option C is COVID-19. and so I think to your point, Video conferencing, video communication, things like zoom. We're really accelerated across the adoption curve, by kind of this forced remote and forced digital working [00:08:00] scenario that most knowledge workers find themselves in today, or at least were in, not so long ago.

And so I do think that video communication from a synchronous perspective, I'm just recently cross that chasm and async was just a small town and a lot of people's eye at that point now async, I think has gotten the same push across the chasm into probably the early adopter or early majority category, but that majority and those numbers are still relatively small because I don't think it's.

Necessarily natural for people to think about recording a video. And if you think about the demographic that it is natural to. It's really largely millennials and generation Z and probably more so generation Z. And this is the generation that doesn't know what it's like to work without access to the mobile internet.

This is the generation where, when they joined Vidyard, for instance, we actually have to teach them how to use email in a [00:09:00] professional context, because they're actually more comfortable with. voice communication and recording videos and sending them based on the apps they're using on the, on their social devices.

And so all of that is to say we're still very early in the adoption curve of asynchronous video, which means there's a huge opportunity because there's certainly a number of companies playing in this space. but there still is, barriers to technology and adoption and habit, that will need to change over time.

Jeremy Goldman: [00:09:30] Yeah. this might be a touchy subject, but I think, you mentioned about the CIO CTO, that whole parable, and I think COVID-19 obviously has been responsible for a lot of digital transformation just out of necessity. And sometimes that can be a good thing. this can be. Touchy subject maybe, but how have you been quote unquote people can't see my air quotes now.

but I'm giving them, how have you been helped by the current Penn Devin in terms of, category awareness and brand awareness? 

[00:10:00] Michael Litt: [00:09:59] Yeah, it's a great question. it is touchy obviously because, the global pandemic still exists. however, we have benefited from. the work from home and digital first motion.

And if you think about, a very traditional industry, one now was, still built on paper. So seeing in person meetings, sales happening at golf courses over steak dinners. If those businesses weren't able to adopt digital means of connecting with their customers and interacting amongst themselves.

they wouldn't have been able to survive through this process without breaking a lot of rules and potentially exposing themselves. And I think anything in the digital communications sphere, from Slack to Microsoft teams, I hadn't really even heard of Microsoft teams prior to COVID-19 being utilized in a lot of organizations, no offense to Microsoft, but it wasn't the piece of software you heard most about, at least in the startup ecosystem.

And now it's on the tip of everybody's tongue and I've been invited so many conferences, et cetera, where they're using [00:11:00] that product. And again, anything in digital communication had to be utilize and all these laggard industries that we're slow to adopt and potentially still. Five to 10 years out from adopting.

These technologies have moved forward and had to start using these technologies. And so it's a, it's an agent of change. And I think what's happened now is a lot of organizations have realized it's a lot cheaper to do business using digital communication technologies, because people are working from home.

They're not driving in our community and they're not traveling. They don't expect. meals and entertainment and all these other things. And so the promise of digital communication. Has actually been fulfilled largely for a lot of these organizations because of this kind of forced habit. And I think the world will be forever changed hopefully for the better because of this.

And of course did yard, has benefited from this. And so from March 1st, which was the beginning of this really in North America, maybe hybrid [00:12:00] EMEA, North America territory. two, I believe it was the end of June or the second last week in June. we had seen about 2.8 million users and about a 400% lift.

and the number of people that were, signing up and using the product during that period of time. largely because of that tailwind. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:12:19] I was actually going to ask you, even a part from, the pandemic, I'm wondering, have you been able to isolate out what type of growth that you had been seeing beforehand versus after?

Cause, I think that, it seems like obviously the pandemic has to be a major proportion of it, but at the same time, it seems to me that, digital acceleration has been such that everybody is looking to find those. Like few small things that they can do that their competitors aren't doing that can push them ahead and make them, just a little bit more productive.

and I imagine there are other tailwinds that are part of it also. 

Michael Litt: [00:12:55] Yeah. Yeah. It's a great question. So our team, I have to give them so [00:13:00] much credit because, we have a very defined list of stakeholders in the organization. it's customers, it's the company. It's our community, our local community, which, we benefit from a hiring perspective.

And we want to do right inside of that community as we succeed, they should succeed as well. And then finally, our shareholders and putting customers first obviously is what most organizations do. And our team quickly understood once the shock of what was happening globally. settled a little bit, that we were in a position to help.

And our mission statement was always, organizations succeed with video and video had to be a way that they communicated now. And what we immediately did was we looked at our roadmap and we looked at the stuff we were working on and said, are we actually building features and functions and prioritizing the things based on the way this market and ecosystem and the adoption curve has changed.

and so to your question, yes, the major [00:14:00] tailwind was obviously the arrival of COVID-19, how we furrow the sales and capture that wind is entirely up to the business. And so immediately what we did was we expedited the process of launching our secure communications features. So the ability to lock down.

A video with a password or via SSO, for internal communications sensitive information sharing. I personally saw a lot of, leaders in the industry that were trying to communicate with their teams in a compassionate and empathetic way. but didn't want to put everyone in the company on a one hour zoom call every single week, given that everybody was spending, eight to 10 hours a day on video conferencing calls.

and so they were now able to use that piece of software. we just recently launched the two of the application where. We introduced the ability to move the bubble when you're doing a screen recording, to doodle on the screen, so that you can highlight things and underlying things, and basically a set of advanced functionality, that made the [00:15:00] product more accessible.

Another one we did was, ensured that on our, we have a strong integration and partner strategy, that we're making those features and functionality available inside of the partner ecosystem. inside of any tool where the yard is. Is able to be utilized, make sure that same suite of features was available for those end users, which was then able to amplify our impact.

So yeah, I think a hundred percent there was a tailwind, but it was totally up to them, the organization to fill the sales. And I've just been super impressed with how our team has responded and some of the amazing things they've done from a feature functionality perspective to ensure that we're able to help.

And again, the vast, all these users they're talking about are free. And you could argue the value that video ultimately gets from a free user, inside of virality and how the product is utilized. but in the end of the day, I think everybody feels better and sleeps better at night, knowing that we can just simply help people communicate in a critical time.

Jeremy Goldman: [00:15:54] Yeah. And I think, in a lot of ways, what you're 

Michael Litt: [00:15:56] doing 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:15:57] the way I've always thought about it is you segment the market [00:16:00] and, you've got a lot of people who don't necessarily want to pay for premium features 

Michael Litt: [00:16:04] and then they're not 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:16:05] paying in, but then they're paying in 

Michael Litt: [00:16:07] a, by means of their 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:16:08] attention and spreading from a virality and giving you some case studies and it almost feeding your product development pipeline.

Cause I'm wondering if you've seen even some usage is of the. Platform that wouldn't have even necessarily occurred to you guys, but then you see something and then it dawns on you. Oh wow. We can actually market this feature or this potential use case. just because we're seeing our customers use it in a certain way.

Michael Litt: [00:16:36] Yeah. A really great example of that is in education. we had never targeted education, so communication between teachers and students. and of course, When teachers were floundering for a way of better community, getting with students and vice versa, a number of them started using our product and actually first surface itself to me, verbally with friends who were teachers, and coworkers who.

[00:17:00] we're seeing it being utilized in their classroom. And so we were able to position ourselves around the educational opportunity, and make sure that it was known that we can support and help that ecosystem. And so it was a whole new demographic of users that, again, we had never targeted, but we can help.

And so we wanted to continue investing in and we'll do so in perpetuity, especially now that come fall, which is coming very quickly. It's amazing. how fast the summer is. It's starting to slip by, students are going to be going back in hybrid, ways in a lot of countries around the world and we can continue to support that initiative.

and again, that's what the free product. I'm likely not to be monetized, but some of those circumstances, parents are going to see teachers and students using the product. And then they're going to realize that they might be able to use it in their application and their workplace. And that's the beautiful thing about the freemium and product led growth model.

It's a free user is valuable regardless of what they're doing with and where they're doing it, especially in the context of [00:18:00] the committee education product, because a lot of people are going to see it. And, and that gives us an opportunity to acquire users. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:18:07] So one thing, shift gears just a little bit.

I'm wondering what, if any downside, do you see with respect to adding yet another tech tool to every worker's arsenal and I, to, admit that I'm probably, maybe this is a bigger problem for me than some other people, but I feel like I'm the person who needs to know about everything before other people do.

So I sign up for everything. I get some value out of it. And then. The problem is I realized, I've got, so many logins to remember. I have all of these different things that I have to, become a subject matter expert on, are we at the point yet where we have too much at our disposal and is the answer that like of asynchronous video?

Yeah. Becomes a major value add for us. We just, kill off using something else. That's not as useful. I don't know the fax machine. Do people still have those, something like that. What's your thought process around that? 

Michael Litt: [00:18:59] Yeah. [00:19:00] That's a great question. And I agree with you. we've certainly feels like we've hit peak tech and a lot of ways.

and there are tons of vendors doing, basically everything that now exists and. and these winner take all markets. It seems to be, those companies that have the most, this penetration that wins. And if you look at the MarTech landscape, which is a place we certainly exist in, when we launched the yard in 2011, there was a 150 companies over a certain threshold to be featured in the MarTech landscape.

at 2017, I think they called the Martec 5,000. And now I think there's over 8,000, applications and platforms in that space. And the volume of options in each category has skyrocketed significantly, obviously to your point. So our strategy has been to make sure that we are actually able to, integrate.

The process of creating a video and using a video, as a [00:20:00] communication medium inside of it, existing workflows. So if you use it Chrome extension or edge extension, it sits inside of your email composer. it's not a separate thing and your login is done. VSSO so if you're an organization using Google apps and Gmail, once you install the product, it then sits inside of your composer window.

It sits inside of your browser in a CLE and way it's designed to work with your existing systems, not to crowd out or take over anything else. and I really do think that asynchronous video communication is complimentary. To other forms of communication, but of course it's going to eventually eradicate something that would have been used in his place.

And you bring up fax machines. digital adoption is basically destroying the utilization of anything that was traditional, in terms of pen and paper. The next wave is going to be how we augment, these new methods of communication and email largely, destroyed the written memo. [00:21:00] and I think of asynchronous video is something that ultimately compliments and enriches the power of email, and someone's like this next phase of asynchronous communication.

so yes, I agree with you. There's a lot of technology, but our mission and vision has always been, to apply our technology, especially in the context of, into the workflow of preexisting applications that are already heavily used inside of most organizations. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:21:26] Yeah, no, I think it's a good point. I just, it's one of those things where I think that, inevitably innovation is all about finding a way to solve a problem, but then whatever innovation that we bring to market create some type of new problem, and then somebody else gets to solve that issue. it's just the nature of the beast in the MarTech world. 

Michael Litt: [00:21:46] The things that actually provide value and solve problems, are the ones that rise to the top and win these markets and become more heavily utilized. and of course there's always going to be an ecosystem of applications that glob on [00:22:00] to.

These things. And the interesting example of that is in the marketing automation space, marketing automation was the victim of its own success because marketers were able to so easily send emails on mass to their entire mailing lists. That open rates started to dwindle and decline rapidly, which created an opportunity for video to be used inside of that cadence, which was our entry point into the market. And I 100% agree with you. but yeah, I think we are, I think we are starting to work towards a more complete offering. And if you look at what HubSpot has done with an all in one strategy, I think it's very compelling because within one company, in one suite of tools, you now have CRM and marketing automation and CMS and support and ticketing and, I think that greatly simplifies the go to market strategy for small businesses when something like that can win and be productive and innovate accordingly. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:22:53] obviously you're a big believer we're in asynchronous video, but this is one thing I like to ask everybody [00:23:00] whose job it is to more or less see the future.

Like you predicted that this could be a major market. It turns out that you were correct. and how do you challenge your own beliefs about. The state of the economy about the state of the tech world, about the future of your platform on an ongoing basis to make sure you're doing a good job at predicting the near term future. Because you're incentivized to think a certain way. And how do you disconnect from those incentives to be, to do a better job on an ongoing basis, as a leader for the org. 

Michael Litt: [00:23:31] Yeah. That's a very good question. no, I think I've frankly, Always approached this kind of concept of innovation and piling resources into, opportunities for growth in certain segments with a healthy dose of paranoia and skepticism.

I don't know if that's a Canadian thing or that's a me thing. but even with this major tailwind we've had, we've been very cautious with respect to. planning [00:24:00] monetization strategies around it and ensuring that any dollar spent is done so very efficiently, with, with a guide to our unit economics, one of the interesting aspects of this whole tailwind I've discussed is it also happened just as our company was crossing this threshold into profitability and to be a venture backed organization that has found its way to profitability requires us to be.

Very prudent and very, efficient with respect to where we spend money. And whenever something's working, it's it becomes about looking for reasons why it will stop working or reasons why it might not be working as well as it otherwise have, could have. And so in that context, We build our go to market strategies.

We build our product roadmap. we always talk to users as much as humanly possible. because we find that users are our best product managers that said they'll tell us what they want. It's up to us to now take that information and for what they need. And so we have a [00:25:00] very comprehensive process.

and then it's, a thing I love to do outside of that is to look at the next demographic. I talked about generation Z and. And what they brought into the organization. VGR and specifically this asynchronous video tool, wasn't something that I came up with. It wasn't something that Devin, my co founder came up with.

It actually was something that technically a BDR on our team came up with because they were trying to stand out in their prospect's inbox. That's what they started to do was record a video using QuickTime, upload it to video, grabbed a screenshot from the video and bed that or drag and drop that as an image in the email, and then hyperlink that image to the sharing page of the video.

And then when the view counter went from zero to one, they knew that the person they sent it to had watched and they would follow up. And that was highly complex process that worked for them. But we realized there was an opportunity to build software and a workflow around it. And so in that context, A behavior that existed in the world that [00:26:00] then was very productive, is what advise our product strategy and our roadmap.

And that's really how we try to approach things is really from this first principles, understanding of that to be working, where are the opportunities to innovate? 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:26:11] I was just going to say a lot of sense, and I think the education example is another. a big thing, you say, education, isn't the focus then education raises its hand and says, okay, actually I think we can be. And then you pivot accordingly. it sounds like it's a mix of having some kind of strong strategic direction, but also listening to the crowd as well. 

Michael Litt: [00:26:32] Yeah, absolutely. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:26:34] Michael, I think this was a really great, and if anybody has not yet really become a diehard, with async video, like I have, I think they probably will after this conversation.

So thanks so much for everything. 

Michael Litt: [00:26:47] Thank you, Jeremy. Best of luck. Heading back to New York. 

Jeremy Goldman: [00:26:50] I'll need it.

Thanks again to Michael for making the time. , if you haven't checked out his platform or frankly, asynchronous [00:27:00] video in general, I highly recommend you give it a shot. I know it's helped me a lot in terms of my productivity. If you'd like what you just heard, and this is your first time here. Be sure to subscribe Apple podcasts, Google play Stitcher, Spotify. The choice is yours. And if you're a longtime listener, please remember to rate and review future-proof as that's the number one way we get the show in front of people, just like you. 

Special. Thanks this week to associate producers, Jason stack, and 

<TAG> once again, I'm, Jeremy and Goldman, and you've been listening to future proof.