VC Cafe Exclusive Interview with Yossi Maaravi – Founder & CEO of Sutree.com

sutreeEarlier this week I had the chance to interview Joseph (Yossi) Maaravi, the founder and CEO of Sutree.com, a subsidiary of E-learning Knowledge Solutions Inc. Sutree is a great resource for content discovery: it aggregates thousands of free how-to videos and lessons from across the web on topics ranging from Tennis to Investing in stocks.

Below is the transcript from my exclusive interview with Yossi:

VC Cafe: Can you give me the elevator pitch of Sutree for the potential investor and end-user? What is the need that Sutree is trying to solve?

Yossi: The problem with information nowadays is finding it.
Google is doing a remarkable job (and revenue) in searching information, but still: most people don’t search beyond Google’s first results page and ~30% of the searches in search engines fail (http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-5712127/Report-30-of-web-searches.html).
SuTree is in the business of finding and arranging information. Since people always prefer getting information in a visual form* – and preferably on video – we decided that the main part of SuTree will be educational, instructional and how-to videos from all over the web.

For the potential investor: our vision is to become a one-stop site for people who want to learn something, anything. We intend to index each and every instructional video on the web (both manually and automatically – done by our team, partners and users) first in English and then in any other language. In addition we are creating a knowledge community. A place where instead of just poking people or inviting them to wolves parties, one can meet people who share his interests, talk to them give and get advice…
For the end user: whenever you want to learn something, anything, on video and for free – try SuTree.
(*based on a research done by: http://e-learning.co.il/index2.htm . E-learning knowledge solutions is Israel’s leading company for e-learning solutions for organizations. The owner and CEO of this company, Mr. Gideon Zailer, is SuTree’s co-founder and part of its advisory board).

VC Cafe: How does it compete or complements existing products?

Yossi: The natural answer would be: videojug, expertvillage, sclipo, 5min, viewdo, ehow, graspr, answerstv…– who are all in the instructional video ring, but we do not consider these sites to be competitors but partners. Since our vision is to be the first place people visit when they wish to acquire knowledge our real competitors (not at present, though) are huge knowledge sites such as: answers.com, about.com, wikipedia…

VC Cafe: So what is Sutree’s secret sauce?

Yossi: Here’s what makes us special:
a. Our being vertical. You’ll never find professional videos in user generated content sites such as 5min.com (e.g.: http://www.sutree.com/how-to/5201/Biology%2c-7th-Edition%2c-Chapter-15–Protein-Synthesis);
You’ll never find academic videos in privately owned sites such as videojug.com or about.com (e.g. “>http://www.sutree.com/how-to/5096/01–Powers-of-Ten–-Units—Dimensions—Measurements—Unce )
A single site can never encompass the entire human knowledge on video. An aggregator can at least try. This is our vision: that every instructional, educational or how-to video will be listed in SuTree. Our goal for 2008: 100,000 videos.

b. The emphasize of the community: the new SuTree was designed as a community of knowledge and just as an aggregator of instructional videos. When you enter a search term to SuTree’s search box you get 3 types of results: instructional videos, video courses (created by us or by the users. You can read more about our courses here: http://www.sutree.com/Faq.aspx ) and people. These people are registered users who tagged themselves as interested in that specific field of interest. This way you can get to know people who share your interests, get advice, find comfort : – ) …
* I’ll tell you a secret – besides the above 3 types of results there’s another one that we are about to launch soon. I promise that you’ll be the first to know about it as soon as it’s ready.

c. The ability of ‘light’ users to be active: only ~ 0.16 percent of YouTube users actually ‘tube’ (windowtext”>http://www.technewsworld.com/story/56984.html ), the rest are not really participating in the web2.0 party. Using SuTree you easily can be active even if you don’t have the time/equipment/energy to create your own videos. You can: upload video links (easier than uploading a video), you can create a course, you can wrap a few videos and send it to friends/family/students, you can meet people who share your interests…
d. Discovering new sites: part of the joy of the internet is the new cool sites we occasionally find. Using SuTree one can also enjoy discovering new sites. Here are a few examples:
* http://www.sutree.com/how-to/11019/Chess-Killer-Tips–06-a-Beautiful-Chess-Study-by-Kubbel
*
* http://www.sutree.com/how-to/6253/Bass-guitar-lesson–How-to-clean-bass-or-guitar-strings
* http://www.sutree.com/how-to/5368/Homemade-Pizza-in-3-Acts

VC Cafe: Sutree went through a major redesign last month. Are you seeing a difference in the way users interact with the site?

Yossi: Yes.
a. People are now registering and interacting with each other.

b. Average page views per visit increased dramatically.

c. We see a steady growth in visits to SuTree.

+ We took a unique approach in designing our new site. We knew that the core service we provided was needed, but as for the added-value features and community aspects we decided to let the bloggers outline the specs for us. Shortly after the launch of the first version on March 07, the blogosphere reacted with thousands of posts reviewing SuTree. Then, our team carefully read (almost) each and every post for more than three months; we then digested these reviews into the new SuTree.com version. You can see what Ayelet wrote about the new SuTree: “… It is always nice to see a startup that actually listens to its users’ feedback and suggestions…”(http://www.blonde2dot0.com/blog/2007/11/14/the-new-sutree-relaunching-today ) This is exactly what we did.

VC Cafe: what are the most popular categories of instructional videos?

Yossi: food & drink, health, sports, languages, school & high school and college & university.

VC Cafe: what are the five internet products you can’t do without?

Yossi:

  1. Google
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Skype
  4. Compete/alexa
  5. RSS

VC Cafe: Lastly, what’s in store for Sutree in 2008?

Yossi:

  • raising money
  • indexing at least 100,000 videos
  • enhancing SuTree’s community.
  • creating more partnerships
  • adding more knowledge sharing channels and features besides videos/courses/people (cannot say more…)

 

Eze Vidra
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Eze Vidra

Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote
Eze is the Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote, a startup helping patients search and match to clinical trial, to accelerate medical breakthroughs. Previously, Ezewas a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before GV, Eze founded and led Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and was the Head Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.
Eze Vidra
Follow me

Eze Vidra

Eze is the Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote, a startup helping patients search and match to clinical trial, to accelerate medical breakthroughs. Previously, Eze was a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before GV, Eze founded and led Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and was the Head Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.