Last.fm co-founder and former Jumio technical director Thomas Willomitzer wants to bridge the gap between television and the internet with the app Snapscreen.
"Every start-up story has to include the word Silicon Valley," says Thomas Willomitzer. In his case, you don't have to look far for connections to the epicentre of the start-up world. As head of technology at the start-up Jumio, founded by former JaJah founder Daniel Mattes, the 40-year-old Viennese last worked for four years in Palo Alto, California. It was there that he had the idea for Snapscreen. While watching the Super Bowl with colleagues, he noticed that the connection between television and the internet was not working well. "People are interested in interacting with the TV images, but conventional solutions like Twitter hashtags or second-screen apps are too segmented," says Willomitzer, "Usually there is only one app per programme or channel. That is too cumbersome."
With Snapscreen, Willomitzer wants to "break down the barriers" between television images and the interaction possibilities of the internet, as he tells futurezone. All you have to do is take a picture of the TV pictures with the app - "snapping" them - and you get information about the programme and the actors, links to further websites, pictures and videos. "We recognise what's on TV through the pictures and can get information about the programmes from the internet," Willomitzer says.
The basis for the app is an image recognition technology that the Snapscreen team has developed over the past few years and which identifies programmes based on the snapshots of the TV images. Willomitzer borrowed from the music recognition app Shazam, which recognises songs from short audio sequences. The developer also worked on image recognition with Jumio, which has developed a solution for identity verification via photographed ID cards.
The Snapscreen app, which was recently made available for download for the Apple operating system iOS, also allows users to express their emotions and feelings about TV content. To do this, they can swipe up or down on the screen, similar to the dating app Tinder, depending on whether they like what is on offer or not. In the future, TV viewers will also be able to network and exchange information about content via the application.
The start-up wants to earn money with advertising, among other things. For example, betting on football matches or TV series could be linked to online retailers with merchandising articles. However, Willomitzer expects higher revenues from licensing the technologies developed by the start-up. With the app's functions, telecom providers with TV products, cable operators, TV stations and also streaming services could supplement their online offers. Willomitzer has already presented the solution at industry trade fairs in Singapore, Nice, London and the USA and made initial contacts.
The start-up's team includes a prominent comrade-in-arms, US TV producer and author Howard Blumenthal. He had read Blumenthal's book "The Business of Television" and was enthusiastic about it, Willomitzer says. After contacting Blumenthal via LinkedIn and telling him about the project, he agreed to join. "Howard Blumenthal is our industry expert. We have him check all the feature ideas we have to see if there is a market for them in the industry," Willomitzer says. "He also knows a lot of people in the industry worldwide."
The team also includes K. Flo Schneider, who founded the Apple retailer McShark and sold it at the end of 2012. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the start-up went to school with Willomitzer at the Theresianum in Vienna. Management consultant Thomas Jungreithmeir, founder of TJP, is responsible for the finances.
For the time being, the start-up is financed by its own funds and by a grant from the austria wirtschaftsservice (aws). According to Willomitzer, another round of financing is about to be concluded. When asked how he assesses Vienna as a start-up location in comparison to Silicon Valley or London, where he co-founded the music recommendation service last.fm at the beginning of the millennium, he answers: "It correlates with the size of the country".
Willomitzer wants to take Snapscreen international. There is a separate sales team for the USA and the founder says he is also confident about Austria and Europe: "We are in talks with many companies at home and abroad.
This article was produced as part of a media cooperation with aws. Editorial sovereignty rests solely with the futurezone editorial team.