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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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April 30, 2008 2:52 PM

Seattle video startup Mixpo enters pupa stage

Posted by Brier Dudley

Maybe it's a springtime phenomenon, but startups across town seem to be emerging with new business plans and increasingly a focus on the emerging online video advertising market.

Today's metamorphosis is Mixpo, a 15-person Seattle company that announced a new approach and technology that it's been working on for the past year.

Mixpo's last big launch was in January 2007, when it unveiled a platform promising to simplify the process of posting multimedia online. The focus was on small businesses that wanted to reach new customers, but couldn't afford to hire Web designers.

Mixpo's still going after the small business market, but its emphasis is now on a suite of tools that simplify the process of posting, analyzing and modifying online video ads. The tools are powerful enough to appeal to ad agencies and publishers as well as businesses handling their own ads.

In some ways, the company is shifting the focus from the video player (they're a dime a dozen now anyway) to the cool tools and dashboard behind the scenes.

"People are very much focused on video production and how to host video,'' explained Anupum Gupta, Mixpo's chief executive. "To me those things are very much commodities -- anybody can host a video, put together a good Flash player, that's easy. The hard part is if you believe video is going to be a valid marketing tool, how to focus on performance."

Gupta is a former MSN manager who was brought in after Madrona Venture Group invested in the company two years ago, as part of a $6.5 million funding round. The company started out as a consumer play in Victoria, B.C., where its development team is largely based, but is now run from Seattle.

Mixpo's tools suggest the direction the ubiquitous Flash video ads are headed. Instead of a fixed stream, the ads will become more interactive.

The software lets companies, or their ad agencies, insert interactive components such as a click-to-print coupon midway through a video ad. The analytics also let advertisers monitor in real time the effectiveness of different spots.

For instance, the dashboard will show a winery whether its ads showing cabernets are getting more clicks than ads that start off showing a merlot. That would allow it to adjust which spots are appearing. It also includes geographic data so that ads can be monitored and tuned based on their response in different regions.

Gupta said the company is also pulling back on its "self-service" ad platform approach and pitching its product to ad agencies and publishers, where Mixpo could be a tool to simplify account management tasks. That's based on the realization that only 10 percent to 15 percent of companies are handling online campaigns themselves, even with Google's supposedly self-service AdWords platform.

Today's "launch" is keyed to Gupta presenting the system today at a Kelsey Group local advertising conference in Seattle, and the company's start of a push beyond the Seattle market.

Mixpo also announced that that Jeff Lanctot, senior vice president of Microsoft's Avenue A | Razorfish digital media business, has joined its board of directors, and that it signed contracts with real estate network ActiveRain and two condominium marketing agencies, MCM Group and Realogics/UrbanCondominiums.

This is B-rollish, but here's their video pitch:

VideoAd by Mixpo

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.