October 27, 2016
This post was originally published on Little Black Book Online.
From high-school band mates to business partners, Brian Atton and Jay Brooks have harnessed the perfect blend of technical know-how and creative thinking to form a company that has revolutionized the media sharing landscape. Through their creation, Simian, a video-sharing and collaboration platform and industry tech toolkit, they’ve pioneered numerous features so successful that they’ve now been adopted across the industry as standard practice. The duo reveal the story behind the company’s evolution from service provider to creative partner.
When Brian Atton and Jay Brooks first met in high school in 1987, it was to form a heavy metal band. When they reconnected over a decade later, Brian and Jay’s paths crossed quite unexpectedly with Brian working as a web-developer in the beauty and fashion sector and Jay as a programmer for tech companies.
It seemed the duo had been doing so well for high-end brands in their respective fields, they decided to partner up and launch their own boutique web agency, Volta. As part of Volta, Brian and Jay developed a revolutionary piece of e-commerce software with high end design, that later evolved to include a media sharing platform for a high-profile LA modelling agency. The software was so effective that it was in use for over a decade and would be the pre-cursor to their software today - Simian.
“We’re two of the most unlikely people to find working in fashion and beauty industry,” profess Jay and Brian, “but as a result of the high end design work, production companies started reaching out to us and we realised there was a huge gap in the market for intelligent sharing software in the film industry. That’s when we started building Simian.”
In 2007, Brian and Jay took the big leap into the creative industry and devoted themselves full-time to developing the software that would evolve into Simian. It seemed that the industry was crying out for a platform which would allow you to share, collaborate and present media easily with internal teams and clients. What’s more, there was nothing readily available that could provide detailed analytics on the content created.
“Many production companies were stuck in a cycle of having to use multiple programs and platforms, with limited tools, to create standout presentations and showreels. It was time-consuming and expensive considering all of the media and resources were in their laps.”
As part of the Simian launch in 2009, Brian and Jay released one of the first ever tech solutions for analysing the data connected with video and reels. The technology equipped clients with valuable insights into how their media was received. Now, it has become an integral feature for many agencies including McCann Craft New York, NFL Network, Vice and Droga5 amongst others and has forced competitors across the industry to adopt the technology as standard.
Brian comments, “It’s unimaginable today, with all the buzz around big data and deep data, that we wouldn’t have analytics for assessing the effectiveness of our work. However, when we first developed these video analytics, there was nothing to assess how well work was being received. We had company owners coming back to us amazed that they could finally see who was engaging and what they were engaging with. This was not to mention finally having the ability to track the activities of their staff and sales reps.”
Simian’s analytics service has continued to lead the way in the field ever since, unlocking the door to previously untapped insights with pinpoint precision: companies can see what percentage of their reels are being watched, as well as which shots are being viewed or skipped. Simian’s analytics even assess the most effective way to reach consumers via email, with valuable insights into subject line efficacy and drop off rates.
In tech, being ahead of the game is paramount. Jay and Brian have built up a reputation for continuously creating innovative features, such as software integrations, transcoding, packaged reels, and microsites.
“Media sharing has changed so much in the last 10 years - we’ve gone from burning DVDs to streaming them in no time – and it’s still picking up steam.” Explains Jay Brooks, Co-Founder and CTO of Simian. “At a recent conference we attended, we were amazed by the number of people still using low-quality tech to collaborate and share files.”
One of the features unique to Simian is a microsite builder. Cheaper and more efficient than outsourcing to developers, Simian’s microsites empower companies by giving them the means to share their media in a unique way. No other media sharing platform offers this multi-presentation tool, and this unique tech has proven to be a lifesaver for many. The only alternative to the software would be to hire a costly web developer on a project-by-project basis.
However, you don’t need a degree in UX or computer science to create presentations and microsites on Simian. “It’s so straightforward that even a fifth-grader could use it!” comments Jay. “Right from the get-go, we wanted to create something that would make people’s lives easier. Many of our agency clients rely on microsites to pitch work or to showcase directors. Our aim was to create something that you could use in multiple ways, as a visual accompaniment to face-to-face presentations or to send digitally.”
Working in the creative industries for over 12 years, Jay and Brian feel their expertise lies not just in tech but in providing personalised, in-depth diagnoses of business problems. They see Simian as a creative partner and backbone to the industry. The insights that drive their tech come from real experience and delving into the heart of their client’s businesses.
“Our solutions are cutting-edge but our approach is actually quite old-school,” explains Jay. “We spend a lot of time interacting with our clients, listening to them and observing how their business works. Then we identify the pain points and come up with software solutions that’ll make their lives easier. I think it really comes down to experience and research; you have to fully understand the process you’re replacing and how it fits into the customer’s workflow. It’s very hands-on and there’s a thorough internal testing and client feedback process. Every business is unique and requires a custom-made solution, so it’s a great exercise in creative thinking.”
With their eyes set on the constantly changing tech landscape, Jay and Brian will soon be announcing an exciting new venture that will harness a new iteration of creative intelligence. Jay explains, “We’re really excited about the next launch stage for Simian. Our new tech will look to make waves in the way we consume and utilise content and information… but that’s all I can say for now!”
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