Digital Dealmakers: Cynthia Francis

Oct 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The player: Cynthia Francis, CEO of Reality Digital, an online video technology company that creates video-rich social media Web sites for media companies.
The play: Reality Digital operates as a white-label service to power online video for media companies and publishers. Because Reality Digital operates private-label sites, the player and the site are customized for each client. Reality Digital grew out of the digital asset management space, so it’s experienced in helping big enterprises manage their media. “We saw there was a market opportunity to solve not just media moving inside an organization but media flowing to the consumer that the consumer is going to add to in some way that will be a critical part of creating the brand,” Ms. Francis said.
The pitch: The company’s secret sauce lies in social media. Reality Digital can layer video and media sharing, blogs, forums, profiles, communities, contests, reviews, polls and other forms of interactivity into the sites it builds.
In the mix: Reality Digital competes with online TV technology providers such as Maven Networks, Brightcove, Narrowstep and Extend Media. Reality Digital’s customers include Lonely Planet, newbaby.com, Capitol Hill Broadcasting Network and MTV.
The backstory: Ms. Francis founded the company in 2003 and bootstrapped it financially until 2005.
The money guys: In 2005, Reality Digital raised $2.5 million in a round of funding from individual investors. The company has been profitable via license fees since last quarter.
Pros: Online video and social media are growing quickly. Advertising in online video should hit $775 million this year and rise to $1.4 billion in 2008, according to eMarketer.
Cons: The business is crowded and competition is fierce.
Background: Ms. Francis was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied dramatic art and dance. Prior to Reality Digital, she served as an executive at digital asset management firms eMotion and Cinebase and she also worked at Apple. Ms. Francis is 45 and lives in San Francisco with her family, which includes three children.
Who knew? Ms. Francis was a classical ballet dancer and performed in ballet and modern dance until she was 25. “The level of discipline is terrific experience for being an entrepreneur,” she said.


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