Disruptive Innovation in Progress? The Pixetell Story


At Innovationedge, we enjoy spotting incipient innovation success, and work to coach our clients on how to turn their products and services into more successful innovations. We have seen that many innovation failures begin with clever people looking for problems to solve with their cool technology. Some of the best innovation successes begin, on the other hand, by understanding what jobs users really need or want to do, and then providing solutions that make life better. The essence of disruptive innovation success often comes when these solutions are more convenient, less expensive, and more accessible than existing solutions in the marketplace, as Clayton Christensen has documented. Based on what I can see as a new user, I believe that the Pixetell screen recording and information sharing system is an example of an early stage disruptive innovation in progress.

For quite some time I’ve struggled to find a convenient way to make videos of PowerPoint presentations. I tried a popular commercial screen recording system and found it to be expensive, difficult to use, and so resource intensive that I gave up and removed it from my computer. I tried some other lower cost screen recording systems but found the limitations in features and the quality of the service to be inadequate. Then I ran into Pixetell, and have been surprised in several ways at what it does. I’ve also been surprised at the level of support provided by the start-up company. They’ve won me over and gained enough interest that I reached out to them and asked about their story. How did their founded, Sebastian Rapport, get started with this? Here’s what I found out, courtesy of Dan Cook, Manager of Content at Ontiier, the company providing Pixetell.

Pixetell traces its roots to 2007. It really grew out of necessity. There were a couple of catalysts. Sebastian’s wife, Gabrielle, was working with a team of web designers and struggling to communicate design changes to them in text and email. She would not get back what she was looking for. So Sebastian set to work on the problem. He showed her how to capture her screen, draw some circles and arrows on it, and share the result with the designers. That was fairly effective for her. Sebastian continued to enhance that initial product.

Additionally, at about the same time, he was working with a group of off-shore folks and they were supposed to be on Sebastian’s clock. The reality was, he was oftentimes up from 9 p.m. till 2 a.m. to talk through designs, architectures and so on. He realized that what was needed was a more effective way to communicate visually rich information that was disconnected from time (asynchronous is the word we use). This solution, combined with the work he was doing on behalf of his wife’s business, came together as a single rich communications product. Once again, necessity proved to be the mother of invention.

As Sebastian pursued what would eventually become Pixetell, he began to gather more input from people who saw new and different applications for such a product. A small team of software engineers gathered in Portland to move the project forward. In March 2009, the concept received rave reviews at Demo ’09, a conference where entrepreneurs can demonstrate “how their product will change the world,” according to Demo’s web site. With that additional impetus, Sebastian and his team have raced ahead to put Pixetell into the highly competitive position it now enjoys in the market for visual communications software.

Sebastian’s closeness to the needs of real users helped him identify a huge unmet need and offer a convenient solution.

Part of what makes it so convenient is the speed at which you can set up a recording, make it, and share it. It can include what you do on your screen as well as what your webcam sees. A compact recording is quickly uploaded to a server and is then ready to be shared with others by simply sending them a hyperlink. Compare this to my experience in using movie-editing software to record a simple presentation. Saving a 20-minute presentation in a movie format can take over 20 minutes, and then you have a massive file that needs to be converted to YouTube or uploaded to a server. Pixetell takes away that pain. In moments, I can answer an email with a recording showing someone how to do something such as a patent search and send it right to them. Or I can record a PowerPoint presentation with very little time from the end of the presentation to the time that it is up for others to see. Part of the convenience and flexibility of Pixetell is that the recording can be shared via email or embedded directly on a webpage or blog, as I’ve done here. it can also be saved as a flash video file directly on your computer, so you are not dependent on Pixetell always being in business.

Piexetell files can also be edited. You can split the recording into multiple clips, delete unwanted ones and record new ones in between. That’s a lot of power. It’s a tool that stays active and ready to use whenever you want to make a recording – no lengthy waits for bulky software packages to load. Swift, easy, and convenient. I’m predicting this will be a winner that force some big companies to flee upstream by focusing on advanced features while Pixetell gets a foothold. They have some patent applications filed which may be important in the future. Time will tell if they can adequately protect their intellectual property, which often becomes one of the key factors for success later on.

What innovations do I see coming next for Pixetell? There are already some pretty advanced features, including the ability to attach files to Pixetells and have multiperson conversations. While there is a risk that a start-up will fall into the temptation of adding too many features at the expense of focusing on marketing and delivering the simple, convenient core that gives it disruptive potential, there are also opportunities for some simple audio enhancement such as filters to make recordings sound better or take out some noise, or adding the ability to capture system sounds rather than relying on microphones alone. But I think the most exciting future innovations with Pixetell might come from collaboration with other partners and industries. What could Pixetell do to help health care workers, customer service providers, retailers and Ebay merchants, or primary and secondary educators? What will Amazon reviews look like when reviews start adding Pixetells to their work? What synergies could be found with Skype, Ebay, Flickr, Hollrr, Google Earth, and the hottest social networking tools? How will Pixetell interact with smart phones? So many possibilities–some of which would be distractions at this point for Pixetell, but rich opportunities for the right minds with the right business models.

This will be an interesting experiment to watch.

(Note: I have no financial interest in Pixetell and offer these comments purely out of interest and enthusiasm for the product.)

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