Start-up of the Week / Wibbitz Brings Words to Life

Israeli start-up Wibbitz has created a product that converts online text into narrated and animated video clips.

Imagine that instead of reading this article, you're watching a video clip of an announcer reading it to you over a progression of related photographs and video clips. The Israeli start-up Wibbitz is helping make this scenario possible with a new software platform that allows users to transform any piece of text into a video segment in less than 20 seconds, and without any additional effort by the content producer.

"We see a lot of value in what we are working on for the post-PC era," says Wibbitz co-founder and CEO Zohar Dayan. "Today, many more people are consuming content not through their personal computers, but through devices like smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. With these devices, reading large amounts of text is much less convenient if we take the example of a smartphone and is impossible if we are talking about TV."

Wibbitz was founded in 2011 by Dayan and partner Yotam Cohen, who participated in the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at the Interdisciplinary Herzliya. Soon thereafter, Wibbitz released a free product that enables content producers to transform their website headlines or most-read article sections into video clips. In the clips, the headlines are read aloud, much like news bulletins and presented on backgrounds created by the website's graphic design elements or Wibbitz's color themes.

At the moment, the company has a more advanced product in the beta-testing stage, which will be launched within three weeks. This premium product will turn whole text-based articles from news, sports, entertainment and financial sites into video clips. For example, an article about the singer Adele would be accompanied by audio narration taken from the text and enriched with photographs of Adele and video clips of her taken from the Internet, as well as dynamic info graphics. Instead of reading the article, the user will then be able to view it as a video. Wibbitz expects that large news organizations around the globe will use the product.

The company’s next step will be to let users turn any page of text into a dynamic video clip through browser plug-ins and apps. To achieve this goal, the company is working with smart device manufacturers.

"The company's vision is that everyone will be able to consume text-based content in a simple, laid back fashion," says Dayan. "Today, creating video content requires resources and time."

Dayan continues, "Essentially, we make it possible to create broadcast-quality video within seconds. Until now, if I wanted to create a video I needed to shoot some video and then edit it in a long and expensive process. Today, it takes us 15 to 20 seconds."

Video clips produced using Wibbitz can presently be viewed on over 40,000 websites that draw in 12 million views per month. Every month, roughly 7,000 new video segments are created using Wibbitz. The company has enjoyed rapid growth in recent months as the number of websites using Wibbitz-produced video content has doubled since June of this year.

"The number of websites [that use Wibbitz's video platform] doubled without us doing any marketing," says Dayan. "Everything was spread through word-of-mouth between websites." He added, "It has a big impact and things are progressing at an impressive pace."   

Wibbitz success hasn’t gone unnoticed. It was one of 15 Israeli companies selected to send representatives to London as part of a British Embassy-sponsored program to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between Israel and the United Kingdom in the field of technology and entrepreneurship. 

And in June, Wibbitz completed a round of fundraising that brought in another $2.3 million from investors. Altogether the company has received $3 million from investors to date. Among the company's backers are Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who led the round of fundraising that ended in June, and French entrepreneurs Xavier Niel and Jérémie Berrebi, who run the Kima Venture fund that invests in approximately 100 start-ups around the world every year. Israeli venture capitalists lool ventures, run by Yaniv Golan and Avichay Nissenbaum and Initial Capital, run by Roi Carthy and Elad Cohen have also chipped in.

As part of its growth plan, Wibbitz has expanded its workforce to 11 employees, most of them programmers developing text and language analysis software. The company is currently focused on English – and to a lesser extent Spanish – but plans to tackle additional languages in the near future.

Daniel Bar-On