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A Dose of Reality

The best Internet companies are those that use the medium to do things that simply were impossible before. Not just adopting new channels for selling the same old things, but creating entirely new markets that would not have existed in the “old economy.”

Fremont-based ShareYourWorld is a perfect example. Billing itself as the Web’s first “Personal Talent Agent,” ShareYourWorld connects everyday people who take pictures or shoot videotape with those who are hungry for content, especially for real-world images. The buyers are television shows, Web-based networks, businesses, advertisers and individuals.

Without the Internet, aggregating and showcasing this kind of content from around the world would be unthinkable. With the Internet, the concept turns any John Doe with a digital camera into a world observer and archivist, and that’s significant, especially in a town that is dominated by professional stock photo houses like Getty and Corbis.

Chase Norlin founded ShareYourWorld in August 1999 with co-founders Eric Lambrecht and Tom McInerney. Among other things, Norlin has done business-development and marketing at both Corbis and Sony, where he managed the U.S. Internet launch of the VAIO notebook computers. Norlin is also the founder of “TechViews,” Seattle’s premier high-tech networking event, whose co-sponsors include Goldman Sachs.–LS

Seattle24x7: Where did you get the inspiration for ShareYourWorld?
Norlin: I was at Corbis before this, and we really focused on the image space [ShareYourWorld is half-image and half-video]. Image is a very big market. But it seemed to us that Corbis and the Gettys of the world were missing the revolution in terms of ordinary people now having the equipment to create professional-quality images. There is also, in turn, a growing need for images as a result of the Internet. We license our content to the same kind of people that Getty and Corbis license their stuff to, but we charge considerably less.

Seattle24x7: What is the average price received for a piece of footage on ShareYourWorld?
Norlin: Our contributors typically set their own price. And the creator gets to keep 75% of the licensing fees. Video is a little different because the infrastructure — broadband — isn’t here yet. We do a lot of licensing of user-generated “reality video” to the major production companies in Los Angeles. There are a large number of reality-video shows — up to 30 or more at any one time. We get stuff in from all over the globe, and we, in turn, go around and broker that. The average licensing price for video is about $1,000.

We’ll solicit the buyers, too. For example, last month we had Animal Planet, which is a very popular show on cable. They needed anything that was relatively entertaining and associated with animal footage. We went out to our user base and said, “Hey, we need this!”

Seattle24x7: Are you breaking even? If not, is there a date when you
will require new funding?
Norlin: We plan on significantly scaling up our business in 2001. Receiving another round of funding is not a requirement for our continued success and growth.

Seattle24x7: Can you quantify your growth rate for us?
Norlin: Since our launch in 1999, we have uploaded more than 23,000 digital photos and videos from around the globe. We have spent no money on marketing or advertising yet. Yet, to our knowledge, we have the largest user-generated, licensable, visual-media archive in the world.

Seattle24x7: Does Share Your World get involved with packaging any
video or short films?
Norlin: Actually, we just finished compiling our first reality TV series, a half-hour pilot. What’s different about this than AtomFilms and all the other filmmaking models, is that we can create compelling reality TV shows a lot easier and cheaper by using user-generated media. What we compile may not be “Survivor,” but it’s definitely interesting.

Seattle24x7: Is there a title for the new product?
Norlin: Yes, it’s called “Youth In America: The Reality Tapes.” It’s a reality show focused on youth and done by youth. There are other reality shows out there but none let youth speak for themselves, if you will. It’s all been pre-packed by MTV types about what youth should want. We let youth create their own reality and package that. We’re now talking with the networks, both TV and cable, about it.

Seattle24x7: Is that the first of things to come?
Norlin: I think so because we realized we can create a pretty
nice product for very little cost.

Seattle24x7: “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is not very different from what you’re doing.
Norlin: You’re totally right. It’s all about creating an inexpensively produced asset and selling it to someone who’s got money. A lot of stuff is going to Hollywood. Hollywood has a tremendous amount of money, and for one reason – they sell a lot of advertising – there’s a lot of demand for the product.

Seattle24x7: What about Flash and Shockwave animation? It seems to be well suited for the Web and of a different quality altogether than live-action motion picture.
Norlin: Yea, there’s some great technology that makes websites easily viewable without broadband. But, overall, I still wonder how that business model works successfully. Even for the Shockwaves of the world. I mean it’s great as a technology platform for developing stuff that other business would buy – and I think that’s probably one of the reasons you saw Shockwave and AtomFilms merge. But at the end of the day, the bottom line is: what is the end-user experiencing? Do they really want the product?

Seattle24x7: What’s your take on film on the Internet, in general, and what is going on in Seattle?
Norlin: I’ve always been a little skeptical of viewing films online. It just seems a little counter-intuitive to me that people would switch from watching TV to a very small streaming-media box. That’s one of the reasons we’ve focused on being the underpinning for all types of entertainment distributors, not just Internet-related ones.

But at the same time, there are a lot of companies out there thinking they can make money doing that. And the bottom line is: they need content. I think content will become THE key element of the Internet, because after all the infrastructure’s built, what’s next? Something’s got to be delivered through that.

Seattle24x7: What is your feeling about video on PDAs and laptops?
Norlin: I think that space is really exciting. We just did a deal with ActiveSky, one of the leaders in delivering video to PDAs and cell phones. Now people can basically upload their user-generated videos that in turn get sent back and broadcast to their PDAs, and they can walkaround and show all their family and friends. I think that’s the beginning of something exciting. There’s another interesting company called LifeSurf developed by Phillipe Kahn that turns a cell phone into a high-resolution digital camera and camcorder.

Seattle24x7: I understand you’ve been working on a new technology called “transcoding.” Can you tell us about it?
Norlin: We built ShareYourWorld on an imaging technology platform called Jiga. One of the features of Jiga is something called transcoding. Transcoding is a system that allows any digital video or audio or image format to be transcoded into the viewer’s preferred way of experiencing that media, i.e. in the video case, streaming. One of the biggest problems on the Internet in terms of video is that you click on a file and don’t have the compatible viewer. So the key is to be able to take one form of media and pump it out in as many possible viewable forms so anyone can view it.

Seattle24x7: How do you see Seattle’s role in online film and video?
Norlin: I was a little sad to see AtomFilms leave [being bought by ShockWave]. I thought they were a great creative force here. But they always struck me as being more of a technology company, and not a company built around filmmakers. I think Seattle will continue to be a leader in the filmmaking space because there are an incredible amount of filmmakers here. These people are also very technically savvy. They’re out there shooting on digital camcorders and using Final Cut Pro to create really high-quality content.

Seattle24x7:What are your infrastructure/hiring needs?
Norlin: We have a variety of job openings on our website, with a special emphasis on programmers who have an understanding of Linux.

Larry Sivitz is Seattle24x7’s Managing Editor.

Offices: 905 N. Northlake Way #12
Seattle, WA 98103
206.547.2227 (voice)
801.730.3429 (fax)

Year founded: 1999
Executives: Chase Norlin – Chairman and Founder, formerly managed Global Media Corp.’s e-commerce and streaming media sectors and held both business development and marketing positions at Corbis Corp. and Sony. Tom McInerney – CEO, President & Founder, formerly at Sony creating strategies and software tools for the Sony VAIO notebook line. Prior to Sony, McInerney was an engineer and scientist at Apple Computer’s Worldwide Research and Development division. Eric Lambrecht – Chief Scientist & Founder, formerly a software engineer at Snap.com responsible for the broadband version of Snap, and an engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Advisory board includes Lawrence Lessig, a well-known Internet law expert, author, and columnist
Site users: users have uploaded more than 23,000 digital photographs and videos for license from countries around the globe.