The Holy Grail entrepreneurial technologists have and are questing after is that elusive innovation that makes a process faster and cheaper. Of course, to be fabulously successful you don’t have to make everything faster and cheaper; actually you only have to do it in one niche. The larger the niche, the greater the opportunity becomes. For Swarmify, the company launched by two Space Coast entrepreneurs Nathan Barnett and Jesse Delia, that specialized arena is the mushrooming demand for video streaming.
The software Barnett developed reduces a website’s bandwidth and loads assets more ef ciently, and in most cases implementation is quite easy. One way to understand the Swarmify technology is that they help create a network using a website’s current users. This network serves images and video to each other and dramatically reduces bandwidth, saving a considerable amount of money, an important innovation at a time when all media platforms are moving towards video.
Swarmify easily adds to any website and concurrently with any Content Delivery Network (CDN) hosting solution. One of the novel aspects of Swarmify is that the technology doesn’t require the user to download any software, nor is any web browser plugin necessary.
THE CATALYSIS OF COLLABORATION
The two started their collaborative journey when Delia hired Barnett, who at the time was a student at UCF, to do programming for his rst company. “Nathan did so many amazing things with the company that he quickly grew into a partner,” Delia shared. “We wanted our program written in Perl, don’t ask me why. Nathan wasn’t familiar with that program, so he learned it literally overnight and had the whole thing done the next day. To him it may have been simple, but it wasn’t simple to us.”
“We did a number of ventures including Cellularphone.com, which was one of the rst Internet retailers for phone plans. You could choose your plan and carrier and we shipped directly to the customer,” said Delia. “That seems so blasé today, but it was very unique when we launched,” Barnett added. Eventually they evolved into a number of services, but felt they wanted to build a business that didn’t require outside funding because their experience with raising capital to scale Cellularphone.com had been, well, less than positive.
When Barnett came up with the idea for Swarmify, they quickly realized they were addressing a monumental problem or need, and what it would require. “We want to win this particular market and we realize we will need an enterprise level company and the capital to do that,” Delia said. “The initial product involved peer-to-peer sharing of data that allowed popular sites to use their customer base to send their data to each other,” Barnett explained. The cost savings and speed were a potential game changer. “Many people weren’t sure if what we were doing was even possible, but World of Warcraft and Microsoft 10 are all peer-to-peer upgrades, no installation is necessary,” he said.
SWARMIFY UTILIZES THE CONNECTIVITY OF 8.7 BILLION CONNECTED DEVICES to reduce costs by 50 percent and deliver four times better streams.
STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE
It took nearly a year to develop the product and to make sure it worked. Then they created a way for people to try it for free, as their own beta testing process. Riding on the income stream created by their other businesses, they continued to re ne their product and build their business plan. “If we can speed up the download process and save them money, we knew there was a value to media content providers,” Nathan expounded. They began with images, then they went to video and Jesse got an appointment with a VP at Net ix in 2014.
Though Netfix didn’t bite, they received some great feedback which they incorporated into their new plan. Though they were hoping for a sell to the video giant, they instead came away with a larger vision.
The technology basically removes the “choke points” where all the video is coming from a single source; with Swarmify, each person who downloads is able to send it on to the next person. “Swarmify relieves the congestion and improves the delivery experience,” Barnett observed.
“Think about content being served from only 1 mile (or kilometer) away instead of hundreds or thousands of miles. And our PoPs (Point of Presence) are in all of the 196 countries on the planet! Everyone wants to move broadcast video to the Internet; the problem is the Internet keeps failing them. Internet broadcasting has to be as reliable as television cable broadcasting. We address this problem, while increasing quality and lowering costs.”
THE CAPITAL EQUATION
As Delia and Barnett moved from development to commercialization, because most users focused on the technical issues involved in the process, Barnett moved into the CEO role. “We are a very at organization, but it made sense for Nathan to be in the lead position,” Delia said. “When technology people vet our product and talk to Nathan they get it right away.”
Swarmify’s biggest challenge was the fact that they are dealing with very large companies, who see the value and want the technology, but are hesitant to dive in because of Swarmify’s size. They ask, “How many employees do you have, how and by whom are you funded?” Barnett explained were typical questions. “They are relying on us and though we provide twice the delivery for the same cost or the same delivery for half the cost, the issue is our track record. Trust has a domino effect; the more large clients you have, the more you get. It is like the old saying, ‘You’ll never get red for picking an IBM solution.’ It may not be the best or the cheapest, but they’re reliable.”
“We don’t get a lot of ‘No’s’ but we do get a lot of ‘Let’s wait and see.’” So the major step for Swarmify was to get funding to scale their business, so they could add size and trustworthiness.
Barnett did pitches locally utilizing the connections of a local venture champion, Mark Mohler (see i4 Business Nov. 2015).
He also put them in contact with John Vecchio, who is a partner with Sig Mosely of Mosely Ventures, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia and is one of the most innovative venture investors in the Southeast. Vecchio vetted their technology and he began assembling the investors to complete the round.
In the near future, though you may never realize it, the video you are streaming, from the latest feature lm, to a friend’s wedding or breaking news, may well be passing through Swarmify’s hands. •
BY 2018 90 PERCENT OF INTERNET USAGE WILL BE FOR VIDEO content representing 48 percent annual growth.