Startup founders and employees have a reputation for working outlandishly long hours as they race to build their business before running out of money.
Knowing that time is at a premium, Seattle-based startup Snack Video Technologies offers 3-minutes-or-less videos that provide “mobile micro-learning experiences” for fellow entrepreneurs desperate for relevant, quick information. The videos cover topics including how to do product validation, incorporate a company, and even office yoga to relieve the pressure of those long days.
Snack launched in August 2018, founded by Sunny Wu, CEO, and Gordon Sun, CTO. The service uses AI to figure out which stage a startup is at and recommends content that addresses the next pieces of knowledge the team will need to keep growing.
Wu and Sun got the idea for Snack after considering how inefficient a channel like YouTube was for providing this information.
“Just think about the idea of wading through long videos from here or there, just to find the piece [of information] you need, and then do it again and again every time when you need an answer,” Wu said. “A lot of time gets wasted.”
The duo reached out to approximately 50 other founders to learn about their information needs. That included Praveen Seshadri, CEO and founder of AppSheet, who wanted a cheaper, simpler HR compliance training for his team, leading Snack to launch a test channel of HR micro-training. Five companies are currently testing the pilot.
Over the past 15 years, Wu has founded multiple companies in the U.S. and China. Sun has worked as an engineer at Qualtrics, Zulily, IMDB, and Microsoft. The company has three additional employees.
Snack is currently creating most of the videos for its app, and is acquiring other content. They’re hoping that users will eventually contribute tutorials themselves, sharing information for the community in a manner akin to the software engineering exchanged on GitHub.
“Snack’s big vision is to build the biggest bite-sized, visual knowledge base in the world,” Wu said.
The internet already provides a variety of training videos beyond YouTube, including services such as LinkedIn Learning and longer courses from sites including Coursera and Alison.
Snack offers a free trial for potential users. Customers can sign up for services costing $1, $3 or $9 per employee per month that’s billed annually, with the most expensive rate providing unlimited programs and access and increased support.
We caught up with Wu for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
What does your company do? Snack is an AI-driven mobile learning app that delivers short-form videos to help startup team members learn in minutes. Every video is three minutes or less and covers what startup team members demand, from learning to training.
Inspiration hit us when: Inspiration hit us every time we talked with our users. Without those conversations, we would not have made it this far.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Our seed round was funded by Sogou, a New York Stock Exchange AI and search engine company based in Beijing. We shared our belief in the value of creating a bite-sized, visual knowledge base as the long term goal. In addition, Snack is authorized to adopt search engine and AI technologies from Sogou along with the investment, which brings significant value to the team.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Gordon and I have been founders for decades, so we know the pains and gains in the journey well. This makes us the best people to understand our target user, and to create the best solution for them.
The smartest move we’ve made so far: We started the Snack Originals production from day one with an affordable formula to generate content in-house and through our content partners. This strategy allowed us to get through a difficult period of no content generated by users and provided a demonstration of how bite-sized content could be created. It is also a critical intellectual property pool for Snack.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Not enough communication with our users and potential users at the beginning. We realized that communication is critical and should have been consistent from day one.
Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? I admire people who dare to be unique, push things to the limit and then make an impact. With respect, I’d love to have the late Steve Jobs on my team, to be inspired by his outstanding vision, and to bring out the maximum potential of the team.
Our favorite team-building activity is: Ping-pong in the kitchen area of our office building. We used to play it every day with different groups. It is a combination of strategy, tactics, collaboration and workout! It also helps pull the team together and break social barriers.
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: You must be a quick learner and be passionate about what we are doing.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Don’t just stay with ideas: do it, validate it. Learning and growing happen with action.