“The sky’s the limit”
Frederik Neus goes international with interactive video platform Zentrick
Frederik Neus (M3, 2009), 26, is bright, hard-working and destined to be a serial entrepreneur. After some trial and error, he founded the interactive video platform Zentrick. André Vlerick would be proud.
Frederik Neus came to Vlerick in 2009, when he did a Masters in Marketing. He loved the fact that he could solve issues for “real” companies like AB-InBev, Bongo, Nivea for Men, L'Oréal, Fuji Oil and Tyco Systems. “I’d studied all the concepts at university; now was my chance to put that theory into practice. It was just what I wanted and needed.”
“It was hard work at Vlerick, and I remember being immersed in it pretty quickly. For one of the first assignments for Professor Marion Debruyne, I didn’t get more than three hours’ sleep during the entire weekend, but by Monday morning we had our presentation ready. During my time at Vlerick, I was able to improve and refine my presentation skills. It was also a stimulating time. Together with Pieter Mees, one of the co-founders of Zentrick, I worked out a business plan to produce digital multi-touch tables. The table would have been able to scan documents automatically, allowing everyone around the table (roughly six people) to access and edit the information digitally. It was very new technology and a little too far out, but we even made a prototype. The plan didn’t go any further than the drawing board, mainly because the market wasn’t really ready for it.”
Zentrick – rounds 1 and 2
“After my year at Vlerick, I knew I wanted to start my own business. I sat down with Pieter Mees and Pieter Delbeke and we had an idea that we could do something special with online video. It was the start of Zentrick. The initial idea was to gather all the broadcasters onto one portal. We wanted to be able to watch TV wherever we were, at any time. Again, we were perhaps a little early with the idea. Besides that, the contract discussions with the broadcasters took a lot of time and effort – they were reluctant to lose control of their content – and we didn’t want to wait the one or two years it would have taken to jump all the hurdles in the negotiation process.
“Quite soon after that the idea to stream online videos for brands came along, with the possibility of adding data and analytics online. It was a learning experience, and while we were earning some money for the first time, it wasn’t a big hit. However, the technology worked and our solution was better than anything the competition had come up with – we just hadn’t found a unique enough selling point.”
Zentrick – round 3
“In mid-2012, we started developing our current offering: interactive video. It allows viewers to interact with the film in any number of different ways. Click on something in the video and you can request more info, download a PDF, buy things, etc. At last, we’d found a way for consumers to interact with the brand in a dynamic and real-time manner. The interactive videos work on any kind of platform: smart TVs, mobiles, desktops, iPads, etc. and, just as important, our clients can create the interactivity themselves.
“One of our first projects was a video for the music band Absynthe Minded. There’s full-on interactivity and the audience can buy certain things from the video – musicians do have to find other ways to make a living, after all! Tweets appear live and you have to ‘like’ the page to see all of the video. At the end there’s a chance to win a prize.”
Zentrick – round 4
“We’ll be launching our new platform within the next few weeks. Using that, our clients’ marketing and creative teams will be able to make interactive videos themselves using pre-built apps. We won’t be needed any more – except when they want to put their ideas online somewhere.”
You only pay when you publish
“We’ve had a lot of great feedback from potential clients, both advertisers and advertising agencies, and we’ve seen a good number of them in Europe and the US. The great thing is they can play around with it without paying anything upfront, so they can make their demo and then show it to their clients and moneymen to prove that it works. You only pay when you publish.
“We now have a company in New York, we’ve got a sales rep in Finland and South Africa, and we’re talking with someone in India. Our aim is to continue building the company, and take it as far as we can. You never know where things will go, though – especially as investors and potential purchasers are coming knocking on the door at regular intervals right now. On that point, we’ve just done our first external funding exercise and maybe there’ll be one more round before the end of the year.
“We’ve got a good system that is a multiplier and scalable. And for now, the sky’s the limit.”
What is Zentrick?
When a brand puts out a video, it just hopes that the video will influence a customer’s decision to buy the product. With Zentrick, viewers can interact with the video in an easy and intuitive fashion, so they are brought to the next step in the sales funnel. It’s a lead conversion tool. For B2B brands, Zentrick can give viewers technical specs, links, PDFs, etc. At the end, viewers can leave their contact details.
Inspiration. There was no-one in particular who inspired me to do what I do now. I do read a lot, though, and try to learn from other peoples’ mistakes.
Spare time. I don’t have that much spare time, but I’d like to do more cycling, on a proper racing bike. My idea of fun is going up and down mountains.
Board games. I like to play advanced board games: the ones that demand real thinking and a lot of time. “Revolution”, for example – one game can take up to eight hours. It’s very tactical. “Through the Ages” can also take eight hours to play, but you can do it in less.
Motto. My advice for would-be entrepreneurs: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Don’t hesitate to go out and ask people for their opinion – then take it or leave it.