Video app threatens to shake up greeting cards market

March 28, 2014 3:30 pm

Video app threatens to shake up greeting cards market

By Dalya Alberge

Next Mother’s day, a British-American technology company is hoping consumers will forgo sending traditional cards, and ping a personalised digital greeting to their mother’s smartphone instead.

VuGreetings, a new app that launches in the coming weeks on iPhones and iPads, is the latest technological update threatening to disrupt the world’s £9.7bn ($16bn) greetings card market. Instead of spending money on a card, consumers select a theme, such as Mother’s day, birthday, or Christmas, and record a 30-second personal video greeting on their smartphone. The software then frames the clip with digital graphics and animation, and the whole message can be sent within an email, or shared on social networking sites.

Claiming to be the first video card app of its kind, Vumanity, the company that developed it, has been granted 15 US patent claims on the technology, with another 28 in the pipeline. Some $4m has been spent on research and development, funded by wealthy British and American investors.

One of these is Gary Smith, a leading British film-maker who has made more than 30 movies, including Heartbreakers. The technology was developed by two Americans, Jeff Geoffrey and Walter Josten, who have worked in the film industry for decades. Mr Smith told the Financial Times that the investors’ shared film background meant that storytelling was the driving force behind the technology, which they believe will transform the greetings card market when people see how easy it is to use.

“Nobody’s got the technology to do this, nor can they have now that it’s patented,” he said. “Films take up to two years from script to screen, and they [Geoffrey and Josten] became frustrated. They’re storytellers. They want to be able to tell stories. That’s how it all evolved.”

The global online greetings business is worth around $4bn, growing at about 20 per cent a year. UK-based pioneers such as Moonpig, owned by Photobox, have shown there is a growing market for personalised greetings cards, but Mr Smith argues that most e-greetings services are little more than variations of animation clips.

He claims that inserting personalised film clips inside a branded digital message is unique: “There is nothing like this on Instagram, Vine, Hallmark or Moonpig,” he said. “They can’t have moving images and a personal recording all in one, enabling people to put their own stamp on it.”

A pertinent question is whether consumers will be prepared to pay for it. VuGreetings will be free for the first month, but will then cost £1 per greeting – still considerably cheaper than the cost of buying and posting a card – and a £20 annual subscription allows limitless use.

The company plans to seek additional equity investment under the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme to further develop the technology, which allows up to four people to record a video conversation from different locations. Discussions are under way with the corporate sector, as the company believes there could also be a market for businesses to create corporate videos and hold video discussions with their customers – not just their mothers.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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