YC posted a list of top alumni companies by valuation, as of October 2018. You can see the full list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.
Here’s a Q&A with Stefan Lederer and Christopher Mueller, the founders of Bitmovin, one of the companies featured on the list.
What does Bitmovin make/do?
Bitmovin provides Software Infrastructure for Video on the Internet
How many employees does Bitmovin have?
How many founders?
What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
We are the first company to launch an encoder for the new and open-source AV1 video codec. It’s the most efficient compression technology on the market.
What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
Video is getting more and more complex, as content providers have to serve more and more devices in a fast changing technology ecosystem with new formats, standards, and compression codecs.
Bitmovin lets content providers and developers focus on their media offering, rather than go deep into video infrastructure. On top of that, we develop more efficient delivery methods that enable media providers to reach customers in low Internet bandwidth environments that they could not reach before. This helps them save money and reduce data transfer.
What’s an interesting element of Bitmovin’s company culture?
We are distributed across 7 offices with people on 5 different continents, as we have a worldwide customer base. While it’s necessary for us to be close to our customers, it is also challenging to have a distributed team. We still manage to work together as a very efficient and hard working team, and we also have fun together.
Looking back, what motivated you to start Bitmovin?
We are excited about solving complex problems in engineering, in particular about video. We co-created the MPEG-DASH video streaming standard that is now used by companies like Netflix, Youtube, etc., and responsible for more than 50% of internet traffic. Based on this expertise, traction and success, we wanted to build the most efficient video infrastructure products. That led us to starting Bitmovin.
Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?
We are still working on the original idea, but we are focussing on the target audience and market that’s fitting best with our product and DNA: developers. This is a big source of our success, as software developers are building the future of video products in the media and internet space, and we have the best software infrastructure and APIs for them.
Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.
In the early days of the company there were many days where it was especially hard. Challenges and topics come up that founders have never seen before, and each of them is unique. Whether it’s negotiating a fundraising deal, or landing your first customers — these things cause founders sleepless nights. We have been lucky so far, but a startup is definitely not an easy journey.
What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
In the media industry we discovered a shift from hardware-based products and infrastructure — like cable or satellite based distribution — to a software and internet-based distribution architecture. We built our products to fit this trend in the market, together with a targeted go-to-market and marketing strategy. Our competitors are still stuck in their legacy architectures, which makes it hard for them to move fast or to catch up.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Go out and talk with as many potential customers as possible. You might think you have an idea about the market and its needs, but that might not be the case. By talking to potential customers you can focus so much more on what’s actually valuable and needed by the market, and save yourself useless engineering time on products and features that do not matter enough. And by talking to the market, you are going to identify your first customers as well.