gridvid_team_pic2
The GridVid team at their offices in Portland.

You can now watch your favorite shows no matter where you wander, tuning in on a smartphone or tablet. On the back end of that process, however, it can be a pain for individuals or companies to distribute their videos across multiple formats.

Enter video encoders like Encoding.com and Zencoder, and most recently a Portland spin out of CPUsage called GridVid.me.

Using the infrastructure at CPUsage — a past finalist at Portland Startup Weekend — GridVid.me is trying to compete on price. It offers the first 1,000 minutes of video encoding services for free, charging two cents per minute for up to 75,000 minutes each month.

We caught up with founder Jeff Martens to get a better sense out how they are trying to upend the video encoding business.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “GridVid.me is a cloud video transcoding service. We take videos from our customers in one format, and convert them into multiple other formats for viewing on a variety of devices, like iPhones, laptops, and streaming media players. Our customers are typically web sites that host user-generated video. They must convert videos into multiple formats to satisfy different quality requirements (high-definition or standard definition) and different video player requirements.”

Inspiration hit us when: “GridVid was born through our work at CPUsage where we are building a parallel computing platform in the cloud. We were researching different types inherently parallel workloads and came across the cloud video encoding industry. It is perfect because of the one-to-many and parallel nature of the required work. Most web sites that need video encoding services get thousands of video uploads from their users ever day. The average video needs to be encoded into five different formats. That means tens of thousands of discrete compute jobs each day. The very nature of CPUsage infrastructure, with its thousands of computers across the country, was perfect for performing the tends of thousands of discrete video encoding jobs required by customers every day.”

250x250_transVC, Angel or Bootstrap: “CPUsage raised a seed round of financing from prominent Bay Area investors, but GridVid.me has not raised anything as a stand-alone company.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We are built on CPUsage infrastructure. This provides two key benefits. First, CPUsage scales automatically, while still only charging for actual compute time used by GridVid.me. This means we don’t pay to maintain unused virtual instances and we don’t have to put resources towards scaling. The second benefit is the low cost of CPUsage infrastructure. Because CPUsage compute power is sourced from idle computers, prices are incredibly low. I’m talking hourly rates 30 percent to 50 percent less than other IaaS providers. Those low rates combined with only paying for what GridVid.me uses results in industry leading cloud video encoding pricing. GridVid.me is as much as 88 percent less than one of our major competitors.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Our launch in December 2012 when we picked the biggest kid in the playground, walked up to ‘em, and punched him in the face. In other words, we took it right to our competitors from day one by calling them out publicly, and exposing their high and sometimes confusing pricing schemes to the world. This resulted in a few angry emails from a certain competing CEO, demanding that we stop publishing his companies effective pricing, and thats when we knew that we were on to something.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We’ve made a number of mistakes along the way, but try not focus on them after the fact. One mistake I don’t mind reflecting on is our initial sales strategy. We first attempted to collect qualified customer leads, treating everyone as an enterprise sale. We soon realized that we were unnecessarily limiting our potential customer base. We switched to a self-serve signup model and things began to take off. We should have done that sooner.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “We respect all of those great founders, but would have to pick Bezos. What he’s done with Amazon, especially Amazon Web Services, is nothing short of remarkable.”

Jeff Martens
GridVid.me founder Jeff Martens previously worked at Nike and Synopsys.

Our world domination strategy starts when: “It has already started! GridVid.me is shaking up the industry with simple, rock bottom prices.”

Rivals should fear us because: “GridVid.me can scale faster, more easily, and less expensively than any of our competitors.”

We are truly unique because: “We are truly unique because we are more than just video encoding. GridVid.me is just the first use-case of the massively distributed cloud computing solution we are building at CPUsage. While GridVid.me continues to grow in the encoding vertical, CPUsage will release new industry-disrupting products one after the other.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “The biggest challenge we have faced at GridVid.me is the fact that we are building two companies simultaneously. We had to figure out how to continue developing the core IP at CPUsage while also starting an entirely separate company that benefited from the core.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Entrepreneurs just have to do it. Jump in and make it happen. Sitting on the sidelines will result in nothing.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Pacific Northwest startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out this questionnaire in a fun and engaging style that shows off your startup’s culture. (Remember to upload photos). Past profiles can be found here.

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