Digital Dealmakers: Alex Castro, CEO and co-founder of Pluggd

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Player: Alex Castro, CEO and co-founder of Pluggd
The play: Pluggd is pursuing a place in the wide-open video search business by marrying targeted ads to the precise point in online video most relevant to the spots. The company provides video search and online video-ad targeting technology to content creators and video-sharing sites. It’s trying to attract clients ranging from large media companies to basement video bloggers. Pluggd is marketing its service directly to content owners to incorporate into their sites.
Pitch: The company’s search technology combines speech recognition with semantic analysis of the video content. It then locates the portion of a video that best corresponds to a user’s search and overlays a targeted ad, letting users jump to the exact section of the video they are most interested in. “It really allows people to search within the video and navigate. We are seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of videos consumed,” Mr. Castro said. When a site adds Pluggd technology, the time spent viewing videos rises between 100 percent and 300 percent, he said.
Backstory: Mr. Castro founded the company in early 2006 as an online directory to help Internet users find podcasts. He’s since transitioned the underlying technology to video search.
In the mix: Content providers using Pluggd include CNET. Pluggd expects to strike deals with additional media companies this fall. Competitors include ad networks such as Digitalsmiths, Adap.tv and Yume Networks.
The money guys: The company has received $6 million in funding from Intel Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Labrador Ventures and angel investors. Pluggd makes money through a service fee paid by its content partners and an ad revenue split. Mr. Castro declined to disclose a time frame for profitability. Pluggd monetizes video by providing targeted ads alongside the search results.
Pros: Online video advertising will grow 89 percent this year to $775 million, up from $410 million last year, according to market research firm eMarketer.
Cons: Video search is a highly competitive business. “From every decision we make, from hiring folks to who we partner with, we are in a very competitive environment. Good is not good enough,” Mr. Castro said.
Background: Mr. Castro was born in New York City and raised in Miami. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science at Cornell University. He has held managerial positions at Microsoft and Amazon. He is 33 and lives in Seattle with his wife.
Who knew? Mr. Castro loves to cook Cuban food, especially a dish called ropa vieja. The term is Spanish for “old clothes” because the beef becomes so tender it falls apart, Mr. Castro said. “I taught myself how to cook so I could have some of the food I had growing up.”

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