When music-video director and tech entrepreneur Paul Boukadakis landed a pitch meeting with Upfront Ventures partner Mark Suster in early 2014, he knew it would be a tall order to convince the famed venture capitalist that his mobile video app was the next big thing.
Boukadakis recalls that Suster, who’s known as a go-to-guy for all content-related tech startups, didn’t seem that excited at the outset.
“He didn’t want to take the meeting,” Boukadakis said, who’s directed videos for artists such as Liz Phair and Cold War Kids. “It was 5 p.m. on a Friday, and he thought we were going to be a cookie-cutter version of Instagram.”
Suster himself admitted that he’s a tough sell.
“I look at a lot of online video companies,” said Suster, whose firm is based in Santa Monica. “It’s not that I’m skeptical. I just have a really high bar for what would be interesting.”
It didn’t take long for Suster to be won over by Boukadakis and his co-founders’ idea for a social network called Ferris, which turns collections of mobile videos into stories that can be shared among friends and family. The iOS app made its official launch this week.
What really got Suster’s attention was the way Ferris lets users stitch their videos together, and even add those taken by others into one long sequence. Its platform creates transitions between videos, though other enhancements or edits have to be done outside the app.
“Whether we’re all at Coachella, the L.A. Marathon, a wedding or a bar mitzvah, everyone’s out there shooting photos and videos,” Suster said. “There was no solution for easily integrating those moments into a holistic story. These guys understood that better than anyone I had come across.”
By the end of the meeting, Suster had agreed to invest. Upfront wound up leading Ferris’ $2 million seed round, with other backers including Machinima Inc. founder and Chairman Allen DeBevoise.
“There has never been a more exciting time for mobile video and video in general than right now,” said Boukadakis, pointing to live video-streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope as well as the proliferation of GoPro cameras.
“We can bring all of that into Ferris as well,” he said.
After starting the company in Austin, Texas, Boukadakis and co-founders Chris Shaheen and J.B. Hager decided to move the company to Santa Monica last May.
“Mark definitely put the bug in our ear,” Boukadakis said. “But it was an easy decision to move to L.A. This is the mecca of storytelling.”
After going public in May, the head count at Santa Monica’s TrueCar Inc. has grown rapidly.
The online car marketplace in July counted 404 full-time employees at offices in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Austin, and in less than a year that number had grown by roughly a quarter, according to founder and Chief Executive Scott Painter.
“We’re approaching 500 people,” Painter said. “We anticipate that to grow over the next year or two to well over 750.”
The company’s offices are spread across four buildings in Santa Monica, and Painter said he’s happy everyone is not in the same space.
“When we’re done we’ll have somewhere between four and six active locations,” he said. “We’re really trying to create a campus-type feel.”
TrueCar also expanded its footprint in San Francisco this week by opening an 8,300-square-foot office in the city’s SoMa district.
Staff reporter Omar Shamout can be reached at email@example.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.
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