Paul serves as the CEO of Kamua, a cloud-based SaaS that lets customers quickly edit and produce films using AI. He has worked in sales, marketing, and company transformation in the past and has an MBA from London Business School and Columbia University. Kamua is a video repurposing facility that uses the cloud and focuses on automation. It is perfect for reusing already-existing video material using AI monitoring, such as by adapting a YouTube dancing video for TikTok. Paul and Radu Amarie are the CEO and one of the two architects, and they are responsible for making sure the product satisfies the needs of the intended market.
A challenge he ran into while developing a prior Netflix-for-x venture served as the inspiration for the company idea. The SaaS quickly expanded after proving the concept with an MVP and is currently producing MRR of over $6,000 per month.
What is your background and what are you concentrating on right now?
Dear Nico: I’ve worked in sales, marketing, and company transformation in the past. My first start-up was a consultancy and software sales company, and this is my second. I am located in London and Bucharest, Romania, and have an MBA from London Business School and Columbia University (New York).
Kamua is a video repurposing facility that uses the cloud and focuses on automation. To utilize our AI to generate videos that would ordinarily take a lot of time, need you to learn complex software, and run it on a powerful machine, all you need is a browser and wifi.
Kamua is perfect for reusing already-existing video material using our AI monitoring, such as by adapting a YouTube dancing video for TikTok. If you have a landscape-shot video of a dancer, our AI can keep track of the dancer and crop the video to make it work really well in vertical mode on platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram stories, etc.
Along with Radu Amarie, a fantastic engineer from Bucharest, Romania, I am the CEO and one of the two architects. It is my obligation to make sure that I have the best engineers and product experts I can find, that they are happy with their jobs, and that the item we’ve produced satisfies the needs of our intended market. Naturally, there are things like intellectual property, investor relations, financial planning, and the rest, but they are either unnecessary or impossible if you do not have a product that people want and need.
Due to the Software-as-a-Service nature of our business model, customers that use Kamua online must pay us monthly or yearly membership fees.
What is your background, and how did you come up with this idea?
Kamua was developed in response to the requirement for software that could automatically convert YouTube-style widescreen videos to vertical mobile formats.
First, we developed a Netflix for short films in the Findie fashion. Then, using the AI we created, we automatically produced hundreds of thousands of 10- to 15-second advertisements for companies including L’Oréal, Nissan, and Red Bull.
The website Findie is like Netflix for short films.
We created further AI that automatically determines the focus point in each segment of a video and reduces it to the required format, such as vertical or square, since it became clear that these films would also need to be transformed into vertical versions.
Then, in order to set ourselves apart from Findie, we developed the brand Kamua.
In Swahili, Kamua means to press, compress, or crush, which is pretty astounding considering that we have technology that can do all of those things. In Hawaiian, Kamua means “the first.” The name came about as a result of a fortunate accident. Our company’s mascot is a chameleon, which we refer to as “The Kamuleon”; we picked it because it is an animal that must adapt in order to survive. We assist individuals in making adjustments to their movies so that they look as though they were created just for the screen being used to view them.
The ability of Kamua to adapt
Widescreen movies can now be watched natively on vertical mobile devices thanks to Kamua, which also uses AI to create subtitles.
I started working on our first project, Findie, while I was getting my MBA. I realized at the time that there was no method to find the best selected short films that were out there. It seemed obvious that there would be a need for wonderful tales delivered by people outside of Hollywood who had access to that sort of distribution given that people were viewing videos online and on mobile devices at an increasing rate. Several thousand users were added, but we soon switched to a B2B business model that makes money.
As a result, this project was only partially effective and fell short of its initial goals. The straightforward reason is that you can only concentrate on one project at a time, and as soon as we launched Findie, we were inundated with requests from very incredible businesses who wanted their own customized versions of the website with original content. As a result, we were quickly forced to produce a white label version and profited greatly from it. We developed Kamua to automate the production of video thumbnails. Maybe one day Findie will become wildly successful if a celebrity loves it or if we spin it off.
I am aware that you like talking about failure and how it affects future choices. We made several little mistakes. We were unable to grasp how to design a user experience that instantly captured people’s attention. Others wanted series instead of single short films, thus we failed to connect brands with content, UX, user acquisition, revenue, and retention. Some people said, “This isn’t the best video I’ve ever seen, so I won’t be returning.” There are simply too many things that can be fixed. You don’t learn to juggle by doing it while perched on a log in an alligator marsh with five samurai swords. It might be better to start with two tennis balls in the garden’s middle.
This taught us to focus on one thing at a time. We just concentrate on Kamua, striving to make it the best and quickest video repurposing tool available. When faced with a decision, we ask, “Will it make our clients happier and encourage their continued patronage?” Olympic gold champion in rowing Steve Redgrave and his crew taught me this. This is how they succeeded in achieving their objective. “Will it increase the speed of the boat?”
How were you able to build Kamua?
I did not create the original product by myself. I made my CTO, Radu, one of the five smartest people I’ve ever met, a co-founder, and he worked with our core group of engineers to build it. Yes, I participated in most choices, but my main task was to establish the concept and get the funding required to launch our MVP.
In order to solve the problem of needing to edit tens of thousands of video trailers, we started by reviewing the completely automated technology we had created. Fundamentally, we asked ourselves what would happen if a client wanted to fully automate the conversion from horizontal landscape to vertical portrait and the accuracy ranged from 50% to 99.9%. What tool do you provide the customer to amend the 1% change or the 50% they didn’t like (or thought was entirely incorrect)?
Think of yourself as the buyer. A self-driving boat offers to take you to the island you need to get to, but it won’t drop you off at the dock. Maybe five meters, ten meters, fifty meters, or one kilometer distant. You must be able to swim in every case. Now, if swimming is something you like doing and that is how you first intended to get to the island, no issue. You would be in serious trouble if you don’t know how to swim and thought the automated watercraft could bring you there.
We spent a lot of time and energy creating a user experience that is straightforward, fast, and intuitive because of this. It takes twenty minutes to learn how to use Kamua. Using desktop software, you can invest 50 to 200 hours in learning the skills required to carry out the jobs that our AI automation does. Even if you do have such talents, our AI is quicker than the quickest, most competent human, and the majority of editors would admit that cropping videos for a living has never been their main goal in life. As a result, we take care not to undermine the love and craft of video editing. Drum machines and MIDI sequencers allowed millions of people to create hip hop and dance albums without using a traditional drum set, nor eradicating the art of drumming. The greatest musical works in history have been created with minimal expertise. Technology has the ability to free creativity by reducing impediments to implementation.
Have you ever wondered what the 1,186 clips of the Apple WWDC Keynote look like together? Kamua completed this task effortlessly and automatically in twenty-five minutes. The fastest human could be able to do the work in 280 minutes. But who actually wants to?
Consequently, let’s go back to the foundations of product creation. Everything was made to work with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari web browsers and the cloud. We did not wish to impose local content processing and acquisition requirements on users. The first company we worked with had the exact issue we set out to address: their social media managers were releasing videos under tight deadlines while utilizing terribly slow and out-of-date computers. This client is the perfect initial customer for us because they are a part of the Omicom group.
Then, we emailed Google to let them know about our development. They invited us to join their Google Cloud for Startups program and gave us $100,000 in cloud credits so we could deploy our service anywhere and offer quick processing to our customers, despite the fact that they were developing a video cropping technology called AutoFlip, which they eventually made open source.
Then, we did the same with HubSpot in their ventures program and Nvidia’s Inception program, forging alliances with these amazing businesses and obtaining support when we need it.
Anyone in the globe can sign up and request access now that our service is fully functional on Google Cloud.
What marketing techniques did you use to grow your company?
Our marketing plan is still very much a work in progress because this specific “prosumer” business is only now starting to grow. We’ll give paying customers priority in the beginning, allowing anyone to utilize Kamua for a fee and quickly sign up as Supporters. We want clients who are prepared to invest the time and effort required to learn how to use Kamua correctly, thus we’re taking a similar approach to exclusivity as Superhuman in doing this. Steve Jobs once said, “The computer is like a bicycle for the intellect.” Kamua, in our opinion, is the Lime Scooter of innovation. You simply keep pressing the lever to rise when things start to become choppy.
We had an open Alpha access period last year, but the bulk of participants were only curious. Since they didn’t take the time to learn how it operated and didn’t feel the need to edit footage or work more rapidly, they ultimately distracted from our purpose. We do not offer free designs, audio files, or stock footage. You won’t use Kamua to its full capacity if you don’t have any existing footage to reuse. As a result, in order to save them time, we are now marketing primarily to those who make a living by repurposing video. One of our clients used Kamua to monitor a 16-hour end-to-end procedure and finish it in 15 minutes. Although it seems like a fairy tale, it is real. Instead of exchanging Excel files, screenshots, and other things that two teams from two different companies used to do, the customer now gets the videos he needs from his client’s YouTube channel, edits and crops the video to the social media format he needs, and sends it to them for concept approval. 15 minutes from beginning to conclusion.
And instead of just one, he offers them three. If we really wanted to boast, we would say “48 hours to 15 minutes,” but we don’t since the customer creates two extra movies, which are added value for his client, and the time savings are added value for him and his coworkers.
That increases the force. They were previously unable to do A/B testing due to time and money restrictions, but they can now.
She shared with us this morning a second amazing use case from a different person at the same customer, and she just informed us about it. She is working from her parent’s Highlands residence due to Covid-19, where a 3G connection is the only one that works. She solely uses cloud-based files that are already available, without uploading or downloading anything, and she only works in Kamua. Because no one else can take care of her parents, she would be unable to work without Kamua, and in the Covid era, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to work remotely with less-than-ideal Internet connections.
This convinced us that there are millions of clients just like this one all around the world, and we are now searching for them.
Revenue has only just begun. The annual pre-paid contract for this particular B2B client is $700.00 per user. We have higher levels and lower tiers available for Supporters, with yearly subscriptions starting at only $21 per month.
Making lessons for Adobe and other competing products on YouTube and Reddit is one of our growth methods. When your target audience is having issues with other legacy software and your product does not resolve their issues, we think it is restrictive to just publish lessons on how to utilize your own product. They are aware of the Kamua name, believe we can help creative people with their problems, and some of them will be interested enough to learn more about what we have to offer. Although it is a slow-burning element of the approach, it works. Even though we only started, hundreds of new people have subscribed to our different social channels this month.
What are your long-term goals?
For creative people who don’t want their options restricted by hardware and software, we want to be the brand of choice.
When we are able to handle free users, we will balance our expansion with a free tier in order to earn income and become profitable so that we can invest in our technology and customer experience. If we need venture money, we will look for it when and where it is needed.
We look for talented and driven people to join our team every day. We have created a tremendous amount of technology and product with such a tiny staff of only six full-time professionals. But with fewer employees, we can work more effectively and avoid becoming unduly bureaucratic. This does not, however, imply that we disregard or disregard process. Visit our Github if you like!
The ability to change the transcript of a video comes next. Even while we currently have automatic captions and subtitles, what if you want to edit the transcript and have the deleted material automatically removed from the video? For those who want to edit video but are put off by interfaces that are either complex or ridiculously built, this will be a game-changer.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you get beyond them?
The biggest challenge we’ve had is distinguishing the signal from the noise. There is a great deal of bustle, and it is really distracting.
Paying consumers frequently ask for new things they don’t require or utilize. Investors advise you to perform X instead of Y even if they are using broad facts they have read or experienced and have no knowledge of your company or sector. Competitors are releasing brand-new features that scare the living daylights out of you, but upon closer examination, you see that they are greatly inflating their capabilities. Everything that you can imagine happens.
The second biggest barrier is money. Overfunding does exist, but because we have always been efficient and lean, we have never encountered it. However, there are only three main ways to earn considerable funds, and if we had $1 million in the bank right now, we would undoubtedly be doing more and bigger things, therefore we must overcome the growth barrier:
Raise money from VCs with a tech emphasis by showcasing a tech benchmark that is much superior than the best in the business.
Earn money by selling your goods or services to paying customers.
Obtain a sizable base of loyal free consumers and highlight your competitive edge in data.
Any of these may also lead to the sale of your business to a party who appreciates your technology, goods, income, or clients. But this is a goal, not a roadblock. Nobody ever failed after discovering, “Damn, nobody wants to buy us,” instead, failure happened earlier.
There is also the challenge I have personally faced. I’ve effectively been unable to make investments to improve the quality of my life for the previous five years. I dropped from having a respectable monthly salary to having less than 10% of it, which has an impact on my ability to travel, buy beautiful things, help people in need, and even choose a health insurance plan for myself and my spouse. Although it is extremely harsh, it is essential to prevent you from acquiring a false feeling of security. I paid the company’s initial $225k investment out of my own money. Although I am aware that some experts advise against it, I feel as though being free of the distractions that come with having greater personal financial resources has helped me concentrate better. Sounds utterly paradoxical, but it also suggests that you must present your idea to potential investors, come up with creative ways to motivate your staff, and cultivate a level of tenacity you never realized you possessed. Though cliche, it is yet true.
What are your biggest flaws, exactly? What were your biggest mistakes?
Our desire is by far the biggest drawback. We are conscious that we are battling against multiple well-funded startups as well as industry giants like Adobe, Apple, and Vimeo (which is a part of the sizable IAC group). We see a day where anybody may express their creativity, regardless of their circumstances or location. Why is there a disadvantage like this? Because we are constantly trying to bite off more than we can chew, launching astounding new technology, and staying ahead of the technological curve. Because we rely on web browser technology to serve our service, we are always pushing the boundaries of what these browsers were planned and constructed to achieve with video. This tends to place a higher focus on development and less on growth. Playing back video in a browser is one thing, but getting a millisecond-specific edit based on the exact time of a sound is quite another. We’ve established a big business with so many moving pieces, all while aiming to make it easier and faster for consumers to convert their films from one format to another. To counteract this, you must consistently innovate for your customers while restraining the impulse to build “just one more feature.” Never undervalue complexity, but don’t allow ambition push you to make it more complex than is really necessary.
What actions would you do differently if you had the chance?
When the first functioning version was ready, two years ago, the fully automated trailer/preview/video thumbnail generator should have been made available. Customers who couldn’t change the outcome would have been quite frustrated, but some people would have been happy with the completely automatic outcomes, and we missed an opportunity to make their lives easier. We chose to develop the editing system rather than employ cloud computing since doing so would have been expensive and we anticipated that users would be upset by the inability to change something that was automated and almost perfect but not quite. I personally didn’t want us to be seen as a company or brand that promised customers they would be able to change things “soon” when browser-based manual editing is a really challenging function to provide. “Fake it ’til you make it” only works if your investors are really credulous or if you are presenting something with a lot of promise. Businesses that consistently lie go out of business, but when we encounter unicorns that once lied, we get prejudiced.
If everything had worked out, we would have had paying clients, or at the very least non-paying clients who were happy, and we would have retained the dissatisfied clients on a distribution list that was considerably larger than the one we have now. So, if we could turn the clock back 24 months, we would have been more clearer about the technology’s possibilities. When our system generated correct results, people would have still discovered value even if they had to go through a lot of irrelevant results.
What educational tools would you suggest for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
I would tell anyone starting out to never underestimate the value of persistent, continuous effort. Success builds up. That should stay in your thoughts.
You need to strike a balance between wanting to know more and having doubts about what you are building. Keep in mind that if you have a remedy to a problem, it might be morphine (required right away) or aspirin (nice but not necessary). A medical video chat firm was on the verge of folding in February of this year owing to weak demand; nevertheless, a month later, they were receiving VC money at a value that was ten times higher than it had been. Do not undervalue the importance of luck and circumstance in your success, but be ready to change course if you find that your product, market, and sales strategy are not aligned. Before changing course, Musical.ly, which later evolved into TikTok, was spending its final $10,000 on a video program for distance learning. It’s okay for progress to be slow. It’s also appropriate to employ the idea of an epiphany. Only when it is used intelligently can persistence yield true benefit.
I’d want to thank Bram Kanstein for his contributions to my schooling. He is a really kind person who embodies many of the values of true business. He developed Startup Stash, which could still be the most favored item ever on Product Hunt. He also provides a course called NoCodeMVP, which I think any prospective entrepreneur should enroll in and take advantage of. AppSumo is now giving $100 off.
For business owners, there are so many diversions that your reading list may grow to 1,000 articles in a single month. Only the top 10 resources from each category will be chosen.
Stash the startup and NoCodeMVP
(To see whether a similar product currently exists) Product Hunt
the publications and tools for Strategyzer’s canvas, as well as
The Art of Startup Fundraising and The Alejandro Cremades
Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, narrated by Oren Klaff.
Hooked and Untraceable by Nir Eyal (download the associated workbook and buy the paperback to annotate)
The Difficult Thing About Difficult Things by Ben Horowitz
Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution
Making Sense with Sam Harris (not technically complex, but instills the virtue of critical thinking)
newsletter from Benedict Evans (mobile and technology-oriented)
For further information
In addition to tech-related content, we also provide video advice on our blog at Kamua, and in the not-too-distant future, writings about business and entrepreneurship.
Though it hasn’t fully started, our social media machine will soon get going. Our direct-to-customer launch is currently being set up and tested.
They are encouraged to get in touch with me on Twitter.
We gather unique business case studies from all over the internet, to inspire you with a wide range of business ideas. This case study was supervised by our team and it definitely caught our interest. You can find other inspiring business stories here.