Smarter streaming & intelligent content: Linius

Chris Richardson.jpeg

Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance. 

Of the eight companies Austrade invited over to experience the SxSW festival in Austin, Chris Richardson, the CEO of Video Virtualisation Engine Linius, was one of them.

Linius’ patented Video Virtualisation Engine converts cumbersome, static legacy video into agile, interactive, virtual video - something Richardson says we'll be seeing a lot more of in the future.

How did the idea for a video virtualisation engine come about?  

The core concept for video virtualisation technology came about several years ago and was the brainchild of an Australian technologist named Finbar O’Hanlon. He raised some funds out of the US to build a product out of his idea, but unfortunately, like many startups, it didn’t quite make it off the ground. A bunch of us – all interested observers of the initial idea, and entrepreneurs in the video and software space - approached Finbar with a plan to build the tech, commercialise it, and create a business around it. We took the resulting company, Linius, public on the ASX in 2016.  

What’s your background?

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in Silicon Valley. I moved there in 2000 for my first startup, when I was deeply embedded in internet technology and routing software. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I spent quite a bit of time early on travelling the world and teaching countries how to connect to the internet. I’ve lived in Melbourne on and off since 2012, but now I’m based in Prague. Our global team is 100% distributed and remotely connected; we actually don’t have offices in the traditional sense of the word.

Can you tell me a little bit about the functionality of Linius?  

The core Linius technology allows you to virtualise video so that it is easier and faster to work with. Virtualisation in the video space means the exact same thing as it does in the computing space - which is to say it creates a mirror or ‘ghost file’, leaving the source data untouched. This virtualised file is then able to be manipulated, remixed, spliced with other video, subjected to all kinds of business rules and workflow commands, and then reassembled somewhere else more or less instantaneously. We have a globally granted patent for doing this, and we’re focused on four major market verticals for whom virtualised video offers transformative benefits: Anti-Piracy, Advertising, Search, and Security & Defense.

Take the market for TV advertising for example. I’m sure you’re aware that when you’re on the internet you see personalised advertising. The internet is very comfortable with that and for many online publishers it’s been a lucrative advancement, but broadcast and cable TV hasn’t had the technical capacity to compete with the same personalised experience. We now make it possible for them to do that, because we can interrupt broadcast streams on the fly and insert personalised ads instead of preprogrammed ads. In the US alone, TV advertising is a 70-billion-dollar market, so we have a lot to work with.

How long have you been in operation for now?

We bought the assets of the old company in late 2015 and went public in Australia in May of last year.

Do you think Melbourne is known for being an innovative hub?

I do, though it depends on what tech branch you’re talking about. There are definitely some areas where I’ve ranked the city right up there, with some of the best business intelligence companies in the world based out of Melbourne. There’s a lot of stuff going on with the marketing side of things, for example. Generally speaking, it’s not Silicon Valley or Tel Aviv, but there’s room for growth and investment in tech innovation in Australia and that can only be a good thing.

What was the main impetus for you to go to SxSW?

We were going to SxSW no matter what, because we were launching in North America and releasing our product for the first time here. We got connected to Austrade when we learnt they were looking to showcase a bunch of innovative startups from Australia at the event – a brief we felt we fitted well. 

Austrade did a great job in terms of educating everyone on the startup scene in Australia and bringing people up to speed. They brought in a Silicon Valley pitch coach who helped people refine their messaging and walked us through how to speak to investors. It was really helpful.

The pitching session was great. There was a good audience, well over 100 people attended, and we came out with a very solid lead base – many people wanted to learn more about what we’re doing. We have about half a dozen conversations going at the moment as a result of SXSW, so it was well worth it from our point of view.

What was the most valuable thing that you’ve learnt?

That the best connections are made when you least expect them – when you’re sitting around in the hotel lobby, getting a coffee or waiting for a seminar to start.

What do you think about Austin as being an innovative city?

When I think of innovation in Texas, I’d immediately think of Dallas over Austin, but that could be due to sheer size. Austin in a wonderful city, it was my first time to SxSW but not my first time to Austin. I do think there are a lot of parallels between Austin, Melbourne, and San Francisco in terms of their culture and lifestyle, so perhaps that’s what helps to attract innovative types to these places.

What are some emerging industries in Austin that you’ve noticed?

First and foremost, I would say music, but Austin has always had a reputation of being a big music scene. I think it’s really great for startups in general, there’s a fair amount of investment there. You see a lot of co-working spaces and incubators of things popping up there, and it is attracting a lot of local talent.

How often do you go back to Australia?

Most of last year I was in Australia which was great, but now that we’re busy commercialising and expanding globally we’re focusing heavily on opportunities in the US and Europe. So I will probably end up spending more time on aeroplanes and less time on terra australis. Our investor base is still there and it’s a relationship we’ll keep very strong.

What’s next for Linius?

Right now we’re focused on commercialisation and growth. There are many more target markets we want to hit. I mentioned cable advertising earlier, but there’s also anti piracy which is very big focus for us. We’ll definitely be back at SxSW next year.