Imagine this. Your team has been working on a video, and a considerable amount of valuable footage has been captured. Now, as you go back to edit this footage after several weeks, you need to locate and incorporate a particular shot, but your only option, as a member of a small production team, is to comb through potentially hours of footage manually until you come across that particular shot. This highly time-intensive process is a reality for content creators everywhere, but Axle AI has finally developed a much-needed solution.
Meet Axle AI, one of Quake Capital’s Cohort 4 companies, and Sam Bogoch, the Founder and CEO.
The Media Industry
Axle AI targets the rapidly changing media landscape, where “video is eating all the traditional media forms, such newspapers, magazines, and websites. Essentially, everything in media is quickly becoming a place to host videos and become curators of video,” says Sam. Media currently represents 80% of the internet’s bandwidth and takes up 25% of its storage, and both of these figures are climbing.
As video proliferates and takes up more and more storage, there’s an increasing need to figure out how to make better sense of it, and this comes in two categories: improving the production process and improving content discovery by consumers. Axle AI focuses on the first half of the equation — the production of video content — by streamlining the process.
Axle AI’s software helps video teams to better and more efficiently identify, organize, and share their video content, and with the use of artificial intelligence, this process becomes automated; individuals no longer have to comb through large amounts of footage manually to find a certain shot or scene, for instance. With AI’s computing power, you can use Axle AI’s platform to “identify who or what is in the videos, do speech-to-text translation, and even identify specific objects and faces in the video,” Sam says.
The Founding of Axle AI
Sam Bogoch (CEO), Patrice Gouttebel (Project Manager), and Katie Scott (Operations Manager) make up Axle AI’s founding team. Sam’s front-facing, big-picture thinking is complemented by Patrice’s back-end, developer management skills, with the two forming a strong partnership built on a keen understanding of the market, the consumer, and what the consumer’s unfulfilled needs are. Katie handles an entirely different aspect of the business, making sure that Axle’s complex operations are carried out smoothly and efficiently, and serves as the glue between all of Axle AI’s moving parts. They’re joined by 15 other people that make up the rapidly growing, intensely motivated, and extremely dedicated Axle AI team.
Before Axle AI, Bogoch led media asset product management at Avid, a Boston-area company that develops software and systems for broadcast and media companies. It was during his time at Avid, where Sam grew his department’s revenues by 223% over the course of 5 years, that he began to identify a huge gap in the market. He realized that “Avid was only targeting the high-end of the market — the biggest broadcasters and enterprise customers,” and that no one was catering to small and medium-sized production teams, or “the middle of the pyramid” as Sam puts it. Given the larger trend towards fragmentation and decentralization in the media production industry that would prioritize the needs of small teams, Sam realized this created a huge opportunity.
He pitched his idea to Avid’s management, twice, but ultimately found that if he wanted to execute on his vision, he’d have to do it his own way, through his own company. Today, there are about 250,000 post-production teams worldwide (post-production consists of editing and formatting footage), a figure that is expected to grow to reach 500,000 in just the next five years.
Despite believing in the fundamental concept behind the product, Sam and his team had very few expectations about the company at the beginning. In fact, they attended their first trade show with a stack of resumes, deciding that at the very least, they would go around to the other companies and hand out resumes in an effort to meet new people in the industry. And then, much to their surprise, they won “best of show” at that trade show (the IBC conference in Amsterdam). And then they won again, at the NAB show five months later. Pretty soon, they had the momentum they needed to confirm that there were real customers, and a real market to be addressed.
As they were building the product, they kept this question at the forefront: “How does a non-technical person who just wants to create video benefit from us?” And ultimately, they managed to deliver on this vision. The ease with which non-technical individuals can use their platform, along with its much lower price point than what’s typical in the industry, make Axle AI’s products an exciting, viable and increasingly, an absolutely essential option for content creators moving forward.
While Avid (for example) software contracts tend to be designed for large clients and can run into the millions of dollars, Axle AI software provides 70% of the functionality at only 20% of the cost. This has meant that an entire sector of the market consisting of smaller production teams was not being served, and simply couldn’t afford the software developed for large companies, whereas Axle AI is now meeting the needs of teams as small as 2–3 people.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Media
In 2017 Sam and his team rebranded the company as Axle AI (previously just “Axle”), when they realized how artificial intelligence was completely transforming their capabilities. Their software is trained to find visual or audio similarities, at 95% accuracy, so if, for instance, you wanted to find all the times a certain phrase was spoken, or all the instances a certain character is present in the footage, Axle AI can accomplish that. Additionally, the AI capabilities of their product allow them to provide value to clients in ways that has never been possible before, by allowing people to analyze their media even as they’re working on it, resulting in much greater ease and efficiency.
In terms of how video editors’ jobs will change, Sam says that “the average editor is going to start having new editing tools, but they’re going to be AI assistants that will give you the best 20 clips to look through — basically a Cliff’s Notes, or a highlight reel, as to where the good material is.”
“On the production side, every shoot now involves far more footage than it used to. AI is going to be critical in extracting the exactly the right material, and in a few years, people will take it for granted that they have AI capabilities helping them put together videos and content. Otherwise, they’re confronted with way too much video to even sift through. Ultimately, it’s about finding the best content and making it available to the most people.” — Sam Bogoch
Warm and effusive, the Axle AI team has seamlessly integrated into Quake’s collaborative and open culture. Axle AI has found the Quake accelerator program to be very valuable so far, noting that working with the Founding Partners and the rest of the Quake NYC team has been meaningful and effective. Sam notes that “it’s great to bounce ideas off of other entrepreneurs that are at the same stage as us,” and overall, there’s a “personal feel” to the whole experience — the advice Axle AI receives from the Quake team is perfectly tailored to their needs. Additionally, through the Quake Accelerator Kickoff Event, Axle AI was able to identify an investor who will likely be leading their upcoming $1.5M round, which will enable them to continue expanding at increasing rates.
Recently, Axle AI launched Connectr, a toolkit that allows customers to integrate Axle with other products along the production chain. Through launching this new product and continuing to market their core AI product, Axle AI is expecting dramatic growth in the next several months, and are projecting outstanding revenue growth of 80%, possibly even doubling in just the next year. They anticipate, for the first time, spending significantly on sales and expanding their marketing efforts, as their growth up until this point has largely come from referral and in-person events. Through their planned efforts, Axle AI hopes to attack multiple industry verticals where video is produced — churches, sports venues, universities and the Fortune 500. Going forward, they also hope to make the product as robust as possible, so that customers can easily install and use it with little or no technical support.
Axle AI’s current clients, totaling 500 at this point, include many household names, including Turner/CNN, CBS, Madison Square Garden, Bleacher Report, Warner Bros., NBC Universal, Reebok, and REI. Who’s their absolute dream client? Well, they’ve got “several dream clients already,” but it’d be amazing if they got “half of the Fortune 500,” Sam remarks. Here at Quake, we have no doubt they’ll achieve this goal.