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Facebook buys Vidpresso's (YC W14) team and tech to make video interactive (techcrunch.com)
91 points by sandmansandine on Aug 13, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

Before he started Vidpresso, Randall was helping out my YC batch with feedback on their demo day pitches. It wasn't his job - he was just being helpful. The nicest guy you'd ever meet.

Props to Randall on all the hard work building Vidpresso over the years - and congrats on the exit!

Dude thanks so much. Clerky has saved my bacon so much!

Loops now, dude.

>> The nicest guy you'd ever meet.

...Or most scheming. Obviously his strategy worked out for him. Truly nice people don't care about making money so they wouldn't apply to Y Combinator to begin with.

His strategy of obtaining a HN comment from me 7 years later?

You know exactly what I mean but you can keep pretending not to. It's about signaling.

People who are accepted into Y Combinator know how to keep their eye on the ball; if they move a muscle, it is only to catch the ball. So yeah, I think he was just pretending to be nice.

It's interesting you can infer so much negativity about me, a person with whom you've never had a single interaction.

I applied / was accepted into Y Combinator, therefore I "know how to keep my eye on the ball" and was the "most scheming." I also care a lot about money because "Truly nice people don't care about making money so they wouldn't apply to Y Combinator to begin with."

Did you ever think the goal of my application to y combinator, and subsequent acquisition by fb, were actually not driven by money, but by the vision of making video more like HTML... a vision from which i've been proceeding on since 2008? Money is great and good and everything, but seriously, I don't care about money. My real goal is to make my vision happen... money is a complete afterthought.

I realize this is casting pearls before swine, but seriously, you should realize sometimes people can be genuinely nice, and have genuinely good outcomes, without being scheming. In fact, PG wrote a whole essay about an email I once sent him, after I worried about not being scheming enough.


Just saying. Maybe people are nice... and not all yc applicants care about money.

Honestly, I didn't know what you meant. I actually thought your comment might have been sarcasm.

> By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while.

Unfortunately there seems to be high incentive and little downside to claim 'we will not sell easy'. You get the upside adoption by any customer concerned with longevity, and when you decide to fold for pennies you write a blog post about your incredible journey.

I get it. You get tired of a product, it doesn't do as well as you hope, but you still want to get acquihired and make sure your hardworking engineers don't end up on the street. Nonetheless, its frustrating when evaluating a startup's product and use 'longevity' as a factor.

The product isn't going anywhere for our customers. That's a big reason we did the deal.

There were likely people at Parse who thought similarly at the time of their acquisition:


Glad you got that in writing because most founders forget that part and think that even if Facebook's management changes they'll still honor their promise. Good thing you're not that guy.

What does it mean by "bough the talent and the tech, but not the company"?

I think that's a poorly-worded way to say "the product will be built into facebook itself"

Hmm, I think it's a legal thing to get the right money to the right people (by affecting taxes or liquidation preferences or...)

If Facebook buys the company's IP but not the company itself, and the company pays out that cash in dividends and winds down operations, people could get paid quite different amounts than if Facebook had purchased all of their outstanding stock outright.

Buying the company can sometimes be buying certain liabilities they don't want to deal with.

Fool me once, fool me can't get fooled again.

It's a negotiating tactic, too. If you tell people you'll sell cheap, you will have a hard time selling for top dollar.

A lot can change in a startup in two years. Startup founders are fallible human beings after all, and are as likely as anyone else to say things that, in retrospect, were hopelessly idyllic or optimistic. Everyone who founds a startup on some level believes that they're building a company for the long-term. Either way, it sounds like they were a fairly small company, probably struggling to break through in an incredibly competitive vertical.

Hopefully they all just made a whole bunch of money.

They may well have had their reasons, but whenever I read or hear things like this, I can't help thinking a while about how we've lost the use of the term "sell out."

Vidpresso is an app that should have been built into Facebook in the first place. It was primarily used to help broadcasters broadcast to Facebook live, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing it got rolled up into FB.

Not sure what your plans are but I think there are tremendous upside into bundling their solution natively into the juggernaut that is Facebook Video/Watch. As much as the company has been decried for its influence lately, it means that innovations for acquisitions get to be put in front of a billion people or two (including getting support from engineers who dedicated years to getting code to run on quirky mobile OS).

A personal note to the team, as Facebook is very much a manage-your-own-journey company: I would strongly recommend you look into professional application, as in, Workplace.

A. that means a free trip to London for you, which is always cool. You get to meet more people with whom to joke: “It’s in the middle of a swamp! — I know — Why?! – I don’t know.”

B. there are tons of applications, roughly empowering internal equivalent to Coursera. Any solution that I know about (and it’s alas a lot: worked for 20+ companies) is bad, expensive, dysfunctional and impractical.

Getting people to use video to document their workflow, think about edge-cases, etc. is the most impactful thing I can imagine because it introduces billions into structured logic in their tasks, allows them to step from code-as-Excel-spreadsheet into code-as-a-system.

Workplace is already teaching a lot of businesses to be open, transparent, interest-driven, to record interaction for later use without closely-defined audience, etc. That happens a lot through Workplace videos — in spite of that tool being very feature-poor. Adding editing, slide-control and later something closer to choose-your-own-adventure, tests, etc. that would be incredible.

I hope you can demonstrate that there is a lot of great things to be done with interactive videos.

The latter part of your comment sounds like "The Circle." Does every interaction need to be recorded and logged?

I’m not talking about interactions but processes: things that other part of the organisation relies upon. Think things like bus-factor.

Thank you so much! This is great. I'm super interested in making video interactive in a lot of places.

Yet another example that if people want to put their money where their mouth is w.r.t not being bought out, only trust a not for profit organization.

I'm confused by the idea that this is bad in some way. The point of business is to make money. For startups in particular, the entire commercial goal can roughly be broken down into one of three things:

1. Build a lasting private business (Mailchimp) 2. Go public (Facebook) 3. Get acquired (Instagram)

Obviously, I'm ball-parking here, but 99% of startups with "successful" outcomes happen via acquisition. For the vast majority of most startups, acquisition is the only viable outcome other than failure.

Point is, don't go around promising that you are in it for the long haul when you can't/won't made good on it.

The problem is with startups which are, from day one, meant as #3, but they advertise themselves as #1.

Care to expand? Are there companies doing business while being a non-profit? I’m interested in starting a business but as a way to help a charity or foundation of some aspects close to my heart.

Edit: thought about St. Jude’s hospital but it depends on donations.

You can have a social good corporation or a not-for-profit business and still make tremendous amounts of money. It just means it's not your goal as a business.

I recommend listening to this podcast episode.


You would be surprised how this works.

>> only trust a not for profit organization

Not a very good heuristic, people always find ways to profit from so-called 'non-profits'.

It's strange that the investors would agree to having the team and tech aquihired. What's in it for them?

Optics of having a portfolio company "acquired by fb", non-zero returns (more relevant for angel, for VCs it's pretty much the same as nothing), frees up mental energy to focus on other companies.

VC returns mainly come from the outsized unicorns and super performers. The rest of the portfolio can be null for all intents and purposes; it doesn't dramatically change the returns.

Was this something like OBS is for Twitch/YouTube streamers? Where you can set different scenes and overlays that are pretty interactive when connected properly to whichever platform's API!?

Yeah, though a bit more complex than that. It basically allowed companies to create professional broadcast-like workflows with a Tricaster and complex setups using Facebook Live and other protocols.

When I worked at Mashable and Facebook was paying us to make a certain amount of Facebook Live content a month (a practice Facebook started in mid-w2016 and stopped in mid-2017, which was painful for the media companies that had hired out teams to produce that content), we used Vidpresso to make the broadcasts look more professional, with updated lower-thirds, easy multi-camera switches, pre-recorded playback via Tricaster, etc. I don’t remember if we used Vidpresso at Gawker/Gizmodo Media Group or not, but the software was definitely powerful for live broadcasts.

IIRC, Vidpresso was one of the first solutions to get certified to use the various Facebook Live APIs and it really changed what types of video we were able to produce.

I’ve known Randall a long time and am thrilled for him and his team that they could make this exit. This is the sort of thing Facebook should be offering its larger media customers.

That sounds amazing - truly a tool to make life easier to many. Love it

Congrats! Facebook could not have gotten anybody better to make live video awesome. I'm excited to see what the future holds for the fb/vidpresso combo.

The future holds advertising and collecting usage data, what else can it hold?

That is a little too reductionist. It can hold a lot of things. Millions of people get all of their facts and information from live video. A lot of it is delivered by cable tv right now, but in the same way that TV news overtook newspapers, Facebook will overtake cable. People have watched moon landings, walls falling, and the birth and death of democracies, all live--and there were always advertisers paying the bills.

I know that we're in the middle of an awakening of sorts about personal data, but that doesn't negate the value that services like Facebook can offer. I may be naive, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Advertisers are just a bunch of people paying money to blast our ears and eyes with spam about their products. They're not philantropists. They're not financiers.

Facebook is a vehicle for said spam, disguised as a social network. Yes, it has to offer some value, otherwise no one would stare at the ads.

Putting Facebook and advertising in charge of providing facts and information is a stupefyingly bad idea. It's already shown that it can't provide either.

And if they really want to do it, then they should be regulated.

I agree that regulation is a good idea. Throughout history, news and facts have always been provided to most people by groups with vested interests in controlling the prevailing narrative. It started in churches, moved to papers and has taken a lot of forms over the years. Moneyed parties have always used their resources to sell products, ideas, and agendas via these channels. Companies like Facebook are different because they allow near-universal access.

Facebook doesn't provide the information, they provide a platform and tools for anybody to be a publisher. Anything they can do to improve the platform is a good idea.

All this is to say: Facebook has done a great thing by bringing Randall and co. on board and should continue to bring new ideas and talent in, through whatever means they can.

Congrats dude!


Excited for Randall. Good on FB.

congrats to you and the team

props to the team! we were fellow best-in-class products at NAB YEARS ago. haha

Congrats, Randall and team!

Probably the only way they can hire decent talent anymore.

I’ve joined Facebook today as part of the Vidpresso team. The opportunity to build something that can reach a large group of users is attractive: basically everything I’ve worked on for the past 15 years has been very niche.

As long as the SV giants have that global scale and keep demonstrating that they value engineers, I don’t think they’ll have trouble hiring.

Does it matter that the end goal will be to funnel all the innovation, countless developer hours, and blood sweat and tears into selling ads?

For live video, nobody really knows how to make selling ads even work. It’s actually an interesting challenge to try to come up with formats where ad monetization makes sense for the content producer — I’m convinced they’d have to be compelling formats for audiences first.

Here how it would work: the advertiser, let’s say Taco Bell, sponsors a banner ad that covers the bottom 10% of the live video.

Boom solved.

Go ask media companies what their viewership numbers in this medium are and how much they want to get paid to carry a 10% screenspace ad for the entire show’s duration. Then go ask Taco Bell how much they’d pay for that ad given the audience size. If the numbers align so that you’ll get a nice margin too, why not start a company?

> It’s actually an interesting challenge to try to come up with formats where ad monetization makes sense for the content producer

So that would be a 'no' to jjeaf's question then.


[cricket] ...

[pavlov questions the meaning of his/her work] ...


You don’t know anything about me. I’ve spent years working on various products that were paid by users, not advertisers. Guess what? Selling software licenses is very hard. You can’t blame me for not trying though.

Video is traditionally ad supported — after all, nobody ever paid for broadcast TV. But preroll/midroll ads that interrupt content don’t work well in live online video. Interactivity offers potential new avenues to sell people stuff that they might actually want. I don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth exploring.

blub on Aug 14, 2018 [flagged]

Why is it so hard to admit thay you sold out and are working for an evil company?

Yes, you're not killing baby seals or helping give people cancer. You're just working for the company that surveils a large part of humanity, tries to get them addicted to tapping stuff, deceives them into buying stuff, "accidentally" gets involved into election manipulation, etc. They're also working hard at getting their hands on medical and banking information.

All around great guys, those Facebook employees.

Maybe you're right; but attacking someone personally is not an ok way to express how right you are on HN. Please post civilly and substantively, or not at all.


I don't want to be right, I want the people that are abusing others to realise that they are doing a bad thing.

My message was too inflammatory and I have to rethink my approach to not run afoul of the rules. This has to be said though: a large reason people think it's ok to work for companies like Facebook is because there's almost no social pressure against it, including here.

I'm not sure I follow this one but if you meant it rudely, that's a violation of the site guidelines and not ok here.


I sincerely hope everyone - particularly people working in surveillance and advertising - question both the meaning and impact of their work.

Yes I was brash and a bit sardonic, but I was not trying to put anyone down. I should have phrased that more encouragingly and less mockingly. Thanks for the feedback.

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