I met with Zach James in the fall of 2009 soon after I had officially left tech to pursue a sad non-tech related idea that I’ll write about sometime. He met with me in my small windowless office in Mountain View to convince me to work with his new company that he and film industry vet Rich Raddon had founded. It was an idea to put thousands of movie clips legally online at a killer domain. Rich had managed to leverage 20-years of existing relationships to do licensing deal with almost all the major studios within a year.
The team has iterated through several different business models and ideas along the way. From showcasing the clips on their website up selling on DVDs and merchandise, to licensing clips for non-TV broadcast purposes, to now finding a niche within the YouTube ecosystem where they have quickly become the #1 and in many cases the only place to find the premium HD trailers and videos that new and old movies release. Their Santa Monica based team has grown to 85 employees in 2.5 years and watch out because they’re headed for a lot more.
The shift to focus on YouTube nine months ago has been dramatic. In under a year they have have amassed an empire that is generating hundreds of millions of YouTube views each month and is increasing by an order of magnitude. Their original content is bridging the gap between film and the YouTube audience that the studios can’t possibly fill. Original video series like Trailers Cats and Movie Mashups allows MovieClips creative freedom to repurpose the limited movie footage released publicly and create a new series of videos exclusive to them. They’re also working directly with the studios to help monetize the thousands of videos that fans are uploading across YouTube’s vast network.
MovieClips is a poster child for how great startups in LA should leverage their geographical advantages. When I walked into their office earlier this week it was full of Hollywood wannabe writers, actors, actresses, directors, and producers. Everyone in Silicon Valley may have a startup idea, but everyone in LA has a movie idea. Unlike getting a job as a waiter or waitress, these aspiring filmmakers are able to work within their industry at Movieclips during the day, and pursue their dreams writing scripts and practicing at night. Zach said, “We encourage it. We want them to come here as a step to their future career in the film industry.”
Aside from a solid core founding technology team, what has always been MovieClips unique advantage is their ability to work with the studios. In 2009 when AnyClip (previously a competitor) launched on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Napster alum Sean Parker said that it would take that team 12-24 months just to get the licenses they needed, if it were even possible. MovieClips was able to do it in a matter of months. More importantly they’ve been able to not only extend but expand those licenses now after almost 3-years so clearly they’re doing something right.
Now they’re expanding in more ways than one. They’re moving into a new warehouse right on the edge of Silicon Beach in Venice, they continue to hire, and they’re turning into a major power player in the LA entertainment scene. After three years, Zach James and Rich Raddon have the background and now the business model to make this a major pillar of LA’s entertainment/tech community, and everything looks to be falling into place for that to happen in 2012. Video with the founders on the balcony of their new workspace below.