Start-up of the Week / App Reinvents "Happy Birthday"

Year-old Israeli start-up Groovideo has released a new app that lets groups of people make video greetings for their friends' birthdays online.

Videos of family and friends offering greetings or congratulations make great presents. The problem is producing them. You have to coordinate filming with people in different – sometimes remote – locations. And then you have to put in the time and effort to edit the footage into a decent film.

Having dealt with these challenges in producing countless videos for friends' weddings, four young Israelis set out to find a better way. The result was Groovideo, an app that lets people create video greetings in an easy, enjoyable and cool process that could one day work for a variety of occasions.

The brains behind the company – which was founded in July 2011 – met as students at Tel Aviv University. Roi Oron is the CEO, Ron Zohar is the chief marketing and business development officer, Guy Zisman is the chief technology officer and Keren Yaniv is the chief product officer. Assaf Nachmani joined the group as head programmer.

In June, the company launched their first product, Groovideo, which allows people to record, edit and share birthday greetings as a group. The app is available both online and as an iPhone app.

To create a greeting, a user picks a soundtrack and records a 15-second message and a 30-second dance or movement-based performance. The creator then invites Facebook friends to add their own content. The app helps each invitee create video clips and then automatically edits everyone's work together – it only takes a few minutes. Users can check in on the greeting as others add to it.

In the future, the founders plan to incorporate additional features, like karaoke and different atmospheres and themes – think Charlie Chaplin or romantic comedy. They also say they will add greetings for other events, such as weddings, graduations and American holidays, like Christmas.

Since the app launched, it has been used to produce hundreds of videos. On average, greetings are produced by 7 to 10 people – of the 15 to 20 who are typically asked – and last a minute and a half to two minutes. Most people use the app from Israel or the United States.

In a couple months, the company is expected to expand to different platforms, including Google's Android mobile operating system. At this point, the service costs nothing to use and is currently not generating any revenue. But in six months the founders plan to switch to a "freemium" model, where users will pay for advanced features or functionality.

Groovideo's founders recently returned from a three-month stay at UpWest Law, a business accelerator in Silicon Valley that helps Israeli startups get closer to their target markets and expand their contacts in Silicon Valley. During the program, they met with employees at Facebook.

“As far as we’re concerned, Facebook is an amazing platform for us because it enables a shared experience and facilitates the extraction of pieces of information such as birth dates, weddings, or changes in employment, which are events that we can offer to provide for,” says Zohar. “This is a collaboration that interests us very much and also interests Facebook. This is inherently a viral product – you create a video clip with other friends who then go and create other clips. Large percentages of posts on Facebook are about birthdays, and these posts are not currently being leveraged."

Groovideo' founders also met with investors in Silicon Valley and have continued to raise funds since returning to Tel Aviv. So far they have won $400,000 from the venture capital firm the Cedar Fund and various individual investors. Their goal is to raise several million dollars.