Founders Spotlight: Capsule Media
By Anne Marshall ● September 20, 2019 16:00
IDEABOOST Cohort 8 company Capsule Media is a user-friendly, one-stop shop for storage, processing and delivery of media files and digital assets in a private, secure cloud. Co-founders Ken MacNeil and Michael Bellman talked to us about the genesis of their unique business model, the extremely friendly “competition” within their IDEABOOST cohort, and helping clean out digital closets everywhere.
Q: What sparked the idea for Capsule Media?
Ken: I owned a post-production facility at the time, and we were handling large amounts of data from productions: everything from camera data to masters and all the media that’s associated with that. We saw a problem with our production clients in terms of their ability to store their data effectively for very long periods of time, and they really didn’t have a solution.
With the advent of the cloud, it sounded like that was the solution. But it turns out that the cloud’s not a solution, primarily in terms of price. Media clients need to keep their data for decades, and the cost of putting huge amounts of data in a public cloud system is astronomically high. And not only that – [these companies] take the data, and they couldn’t afford that. So they [used to] put it on these hard drives, and they put it on their shelf.
A few things happen with that scenario: over the course of five years, many of these hard drives won’t turn back on, or you may not have the right computer to turn it on. We all know how often our iPhone plugs change. Plus it’s literally on a hard drive on a shelf – and we all know how well we manage our own home photos. We go to find them and we never can, despite our best intentions. So on the professional media side, that problem grows exponentially. And that’s how we came up with developing our platform – to meet those needs. At the heart, we are a massive private cloud storage company – but attached to that is a platform that allows users to meta-date, meta-tag, and curate their media, and to be able to recall it over decades.
Michael: What Capsule really is, is a one-stop shop for media companies to deal with their media. It’s not just storage, it’s all the processing services that they need, and a high-speed delivery engine to wherever the media’s got to go. It’s like a big “easy button” that they never had before.
Q: So is this high-speed delivery engine unique to Capsule?
Michael: We have our own private cloud in the data centre. Our core technology allows us to integrate various technologies, one of which is the high-speed delivery engines. These are common software platforms that most of the media world use, but we’ve integrated them into our platform so it’s seamless. That’s part of the “easy” button: because otherwise people have to go out, buy this software, put it on their servers, and have IT people to run it and manage it. Content creators want to focus on storytelling and selling their film(s) or TV series – not managing technical people who get paid a lot of money, or buying expensive hardware. We take all those costs and eliminate them.
Ken: We’ve also included and integrated processing engines, so users can transform their media from any format to any format at the click of a button. We enable them to auto-deliver to a broadcaster or an OTT service at the click of a button. If they have a show master they can say, “I want to deliver to CBC” and it transforms it readily for their use. What really sets us apart from the big-name data storage companies is our expertise, and the fulfillment of an “ecosystem” that’s very geared to what a content creator needs. Capsule is this hub which integrates multiple services into one interface, and it’s extremely intuitive.
In terms of the storage of data, what makes us truly unique – and is a big selling point – is our “store once, pay once” business model. So users put their data into our private cloud and they only pay once. That makes us about as unique as they come – we haven’t found anyone else who does that. Because when you make a movie or a TV show, you have a production budget today (in 2019), and you have a data storage budget and processing budgets. But when that movie’s done, there’s no more money – and to store something in the cloud, you get a bill from Amazon every month. So who pays in 2020? 2021? So that is absolutely our most unique feature.
Michael: We’re an IT company, but we’re not IT people. We’re media people with an IT bent, and that means that when clients pick up the phone and call us with a question, they’re speaking to someone who understands media, and understands what they’re trying to do. Whereas just getting a front-line customer support person at a big IT company – who doesn’t know what a frame rate conversion is, or who might not even know what a daily is – can be really frustrating and time consuming when you need to resolve a problem. Capsule Media serves almost exclusively media clients, and we understand our clients’ needs in a way that other companies can’t and don’t.
Q: Tell us about your journey as part of the IDEABOOST accelerator.
Michael: IDEABOOST was an amazing experience. First of all, the other participants and companies were really great people with really great ideas, doing great things. So I’ll use the term “great” three times (laughs). They had a fantastic energy about them. Just on a pure human level, being in a room with them two days a month, the energy was really uplifting. And each month, seeing the progress of all the participant companies, it wasn’t a competition – but it made you up your game as well, because you saw how they were coming along. You wanted to come back the next month and have something more to talk about. I would say that we developed good friendships with each of the other participants.
As far as the mentors and the CFC staff go: wow! They brought in great people, both at the mentor level and the presenter level. They brought in other industry people, customers, potential investors, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about our business in a way we hadn’t necessarily talked about it with others. We were asked questions from people with different perspectives on the industry, from their own experiences, and that really helped us improve Capsule in ways that we’re still learning to understand. I would say that from start to finish, it was a really positive and beneficial experience.
Ken: I agree 100 per cent!
Q: Has anything about the experience of starting up a new media platform surprised you? Are people using Capsule the way you anticipated?
Ken: What has become quite fascinating to us, especially in the last 6 to 12 months, has been requests from non-media companies or industries – non-media verticals like governments, institutions, hospitals, research facilities, finance – coming to us to ask us if we can store their data, because of our model and the scalability of what we built. So we haven’t explored that too deeply just yet, but other verticals reaching out saying, “You have something for media – can we have it for our world?”
Q: Are there plans to expand in that direction one day?
Ken: Sooner than you might expect. There are three reasons people don’t go to the cloud right now: it’s too complicated, it’s too expensive, or it’s too risky. In these other verticals, one of the perceived risks is that the big cloud companies are all American. They are concerned about the Americans having so much control over their data. And we find that they are very comfortable dealing with Canadian companies.
Michael: And because of our private cloud system we can guarantee that the data is always stored in Canada.
Q: What else is on the horizon for Capsule Media?
Ken: This fall we’ll be releasing our Version III media platform; it makes the “easy button” even easier. We’ve streamlined our interface and infrastructure so that it still does all the same things, but can present itself in an even less complicated environment for a non-technical user. The new version of the platform for media will also integrate additional services, and there are some business functions that our clients need and have requested, as well as other functionalities that we’ll continue to expand as well.
Q: Do you have private individuals using it as well as production and other media companies?
Ken: We have amateur photographers and videographers who use it, because again, they have the same problem: where do I put all this media that I want to keep forever? How can I do it economically? So we have a customer who literally had a closet full of hard drives, of videos and photos. Now that’s all in Capsule. It was hard for him to even know what’s on what hard drive, and now it’s all organized. He can add meta-data and meta-tagging as he wants, he can go in and see his pictures and videos any time. And his wife is happy because the closet is empty!
Photos by Brian de Rivera Simon.