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Digital Dealmakers: Brendon Mills

Sep 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Player: Brendon Mills, president and CEO of RipCode
The play: RipCode does the heavy lifting for Web video. The company’s technology converts multiple video files simultaneously so they can be viewed across computers, mobile devices and iPods. That process, known as transcoding, essentially moves a piece of video into another format, for instance from Adobe Flash to MPEG-2. Currently, many traffic-heavy Web sites manage the transcoding process themselves on their servers. However, as Web video traffic grows, transcoding needs will increase, too, said Mr. Mills, adding, “Video encoding is one of the most algorithmically challenging things to do on a [computer].”
The pitch: RipCode set out to create a piece of hardware that can transcode video more efficiently than PC-based servers, which is what most Web video sites use today, Mr. Mills said. RipCode markets its encoding equipment to mobile TV operators, such as Verizon or MobiTV; to user-generated video sites such as YouTube, MySpace or Yahoo; and to studios and syndicators of video, such as Brightcove or Fox. Mr. Mills estimates a RipCode transcoding appliance can handle the same capacity as 10 to 20 computer servers, with significant power savings.
In the mix: RipCode competes with homegrown solutions, primarily the servers that Web sites already use to convert video into the proper formats for the Web. “But the amount of transcoding they are doing has been doubling, quadrupling, because you have to output more versions of the file,” Mr. Mills said. “When iPhone said it would offer YouTube videos, that’s a different format, so now YouTube has to reformat for Apple, increasing the workload.”
The backstory: Mr. Mills said RipCode will launch commercially on Sept. 17 and will announce its first customers then. The company currently is testing its technology with 30 different customers and expects to make commercial announcements as it converts those tests into deals. The company has spent the last 18 months developing the technology and inking testing deals with initial customers.
Pros: “We are delivering a solution people are starving for,” Mr. Mills said. “They have relied on their own servers.”
Cons: The sheer number of video formats and codecs for those formats makes transcoding a daunting business. “We need to make sure we have solutions for all of them,” he said.
The money guys: RipCode has raised $17.5 million in two rounds of funding. Venture partners include ATA Ventures, Hunt Ventures, Vesbridge Partners and El Dorado Ventures. RipCode will make money by selling its equipment to media companies, online video sites and mobile TV operators.
Background: Mr. Mills was born and raised in Dallas. He earned a degree in English from Westminster University. He is 39 and lives in Dallas with his wife and three children. Prior to RipCode, he served as CEO for voice-over-IP company General Bandwidth, and also worked at Cisco.
Who knew: Mr. Mills has been interested in both computers and business from an early age. When he was 13, he purchased 100 shares of Apple computer at about $32 a share. He sold it for a $700 gain. It’s one of my business regrets,” he said.

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