#FoundersFriday with Violaine Iglesias from Cadmore Media
We are very excited to bring you a new interview for our #FoundersFriday blog series! If you’ve missed our previous posts, Founders Friday is a forum in which we interview the founders of different technology businesses, asking them to share their advice for others and their perspective on the industry as a whole.
For this edition, we have interviewed Violaine Iglesias (@ViolaineIG) from Cadmore Media. Violaine and her co-founder Simon Inger (@siox14) were recently awarded a Digital Science Catalyst Grant. Cadmore aims to transform the dissemination of video and audio content in the scholarly and professional world through expert technology.
You have just launched a new company, Cadmore Media. Why focus on streaming video and audio?
The time when research communication solely relied on journals and books is long gone, and efforts are underway across the community to better integrate a variety of research materials and formats. Simon Inger and I founded Cadmore Media to give video and audio their due place in that ecosystem. Needless to say, in the “real” world, video and podcasts are growing in popularity. I could give you impressive bandwidth usage stats, but I find real-life examples more telling. Ask anybody under 20 today to research a topic and they will get started on YouTube, not Google. Podcasts are also exploding, fueled by increasing mobile usage, effective ad models, low production costs and the indisputable seduction of the human voice. We need to remember that students, researchers, academics, librarians are also everyday people who watch Netflix, share clips on Twitter and Facebook, film the world around them on their phones and listen to podcasts while doing the laundry. And if we are going to reach out to the public to promote science – which seems quite needed in our new “alternative facts” universe – we need to reach out to people where they are.
Tell us about your background, and how you decided to start a company?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to run a business. But this outcome was far from preordained. I was born and raised in a sleepy suburban town just south of Paris. I studied the humanities and English literature, got a master’s degree in translation and spent a few years translating books for UNESCO, before going back to school to get a master’s degree in publishing. I worked at Editions Flammarion before seizing an opportunity to move to New York, where I held a business analyst position at Random House. One move to Washington D.C., two babies and a few more book translations later, I entered the world of academic publishing at SAGE, where I managed platform development projects before taking on a managerial position. At that point, I faced a choice between a clear career trajectory and the growing itch to get out of my comfort zone again. I took on a business development position at GVPi, a very small platform vendor in possession of an excellent reputation but in need of a clearer strategy. That highly formative stint came to an unexpected end with the acquisition of the company. The decision then to launch a business really was a “lightbulb” moment. The conditions were ripe. From my previous roles, I had gained the right experience: in streaming media and academic publishing, of course, but also in web technology, business development, finance, sales, marketing, management and strategic planning. I had an idea and the opportunity to bring it to life. I had an exceptional co-founder in Simon, who shared my vision and excitement. And, after a few years on the road representing a small business with no name recognition, I had developed a very supportive network and a healthy dose of resilience.
How is streaming media relevant to research communication?
Video and audio are growing in scholarly and professional communication, albeit not as fast as they could. There already exist across many media applications, from marketing clips and video abstracts and journals to demonstrations and best practices, lectures, academic collections, primary sources and companion podcast series. Simon and his colleague Sam Burrell of Renew Publishing Consultants have just released a fantastic report that assesses this landscape based on interviews with 25 publishing organizations. It is important to remember that media works better for certain use cases than others though, and needs to bring something more than text would to convey the same information. It is often faster to demonstrate something than it would be to describe it with words, from proper pre-surgery hand-washing to complex operating techniques. In fields where observational study is key, like psychology, video has been popular for decades. Perhaps more surprisingly, narrated videos are perfect to learn skills like coding and math. Video also allows for incomparable storytelling, which is useful for advocacy and outreach to lay audiences. And podcasts are a perfect tool for societies to foster communities, promote research and offer digests to busy professionals during their commute (providing they are not in the Netherlands, where I am told cycling does not lend itself as well to podcast listening!).
What does Cadmore Media do to help organizations publish audio and video content?
Videos and podcasts poses unique challenges for publishers. They are often difficult for users to find, whether from the open web or from discovery tools, because the lack of metadata and full-text descriptions makes it tough to index, interlink and cite them. Once found, longer videos and podcasts are inconvenient to search, skim and navigate. As Stephen Rhind-Tutt, founder of Alexander Street Press, puts it quite simply: the path to multimedia is text-based. There is currently no easy way for scholarly and professional organizations to create that path, and Cadmore offers an expert environment for them to do it. We provide hosting and streaming services, and a platform to add metadata, closed captions, transcripts, translations, segments and cross-links. Our player is fully accessible and offers an enhanced user experience on our clients’ websites, platforms, LMS or CPD with tools like synchronized transcripts, citations and clipping. We distribute content to outputs ranging from discovery services to social media and we work with industry partners to provide content enrichment services.
“As Stephen Rhind-Tutt, founder of Alexander Street Press, puts it quite simply: the path to multimedia is text-based. There is currently no easy way for scholarly and professional organizations to create that path, and Cadmore offers an expert environment for them to do it.”
Our goal is to transform media assets into digital objects that are well-identified, tagged, searchable, standardized, indexable, accessible, and discoverable. To put it simply, we allow video and audio materials to be published with the same care that has been awarded to digital journals and books for years. And our efforts are not limited to our own technology; we also promote the standardization of video and audio metadata by working with industry bodies to establish best practices.
How is Cadmore Media different from other streaming platforms?
Most video platforms serve large media companies and corporations and wouldn’t know where to start in our scholarly publishing world with its DOIs, COUNTER reports and citations. Since streaming technology is becoming more commoditized thanks to global content delivery networks, those platforms are now competing by expanding their services into business models and features that are not as relevant to research information. We do provide similar streaming services and analytics, but most of our offering is built specifically for scholarly and professional communication and is simply not offered by other platforms.
We serve scholarly societies, professional associations, IGOs/NGOs, and publishers. Our main strength is our focus, our knowledge of the scholarly and professional space. Simon has obviously been working in scholarly publishing for three decades, and his experience with journals, societies and publishing technology is invaluable. I have been working with academic video for years, having helped develop large video collection subscription products for academic libraries and built streaming infrastructure with a technology vendor. We bring streaming best practices to the scholarly and professional world, and we bring publishing tricks to streaming technology.
You were just awarded Digital Science’s Catalyst Grant. How do you intend to use it?
Let me start by saying that we were beyond delighted to be among the winners. Those who know me will have no trouble imagining me literally jumping up and down upon learning the news, and for days thereafter. We applied for the Catalyst Grant to fund accessibility research for our player by leading multimedia accessibility experts. Accessibility is at the very core of our mission, especially because video is such an effective medium for education.
While we certainly appreciate the financial help, we see the Grant as a vote of confidence in our vision and mission; seeing our concept validated by the Digital Science panel at this stage is hugely encouraging. We are also excited at the prospect of integrating our technology with Digital Science portfolio companies, and helping create metadata that will make it easier for them to better integrate video and audio within their products.
Do you have advice to give to others who might be thinking of founding a start-up?
I certainly cannot yet give any advice on how to run a start-up, but I can speak about what it has taken to get to this launch. Up until now, I had always felt a tinge of envy towards those who are able to build their career steadily, over the course of many years in the same organization. I now see the range of tasks I have performed across diverse organizations as an essential asset to becoming an entrepreneur. If I had to highlight the one key role, though, it would be sales. There is just no job that better teaches you how to listen to customers, how to overcome failure, how to learn both humility and self-confidence. One of my favorite anecdotes is my first foray into lead generation, which I undertook the hard way at a midwinter ALA conference, not having a single contact to work from; I went from publisher stand to publisher stand, giving away my card and trying to capture someone’s attention with a smile and a good story, burdened with a heavy coat and a backpack that I had not been able to check for lack of three dollars in cash. Not exactly a pleasant experience, but how can you be afraid of anything in your career after that?
There are other keys to success, obviously. I will list just a few here, not just based on my own experience but also inspired from many discussions with entrepreneurs. First, set up some discussions with entrepreneurs and other thought leaders from our industry or adjacent sectors. I have yet to meet anyone who was not willing to tell their story and give advice when asked politely (and with the promise of coffee). Be open, humble and ask questions. Also, only surround yourself with people whom you want to work with, who share your self-motivation but are different from you and smarter than you, and who know things that you don’t. And, as much as possible, preserve your ownership and control of the company.
Finally, impostor syndrome is as real as it is surmountable. As a newly minted female founder and unapologetic feminist sensitive to the subtleties of gender discrimination, I can attest that the main obstacle to launching a business had been a lack of belief on my part that I could take the lead, combined with a lack of expectation from others that I would even try. I could not be happier that I have now made the leap.
When Simon told me he bought a wood after he sold Catchword in the early 2000s, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and I’ve promised myself that I’ll have my own one day – or maybe a lake! So we named the company after that woodland.