Chris founded Wistia in 2006 together with Brendan Schwartz. The two were both students at Brown University. Whereas Brendan was a computer engineering major, Chris was a film student, and their original concept was to create a site for artists to post video portfolios. The shift happened soon on, when Chris found himself working for a production company and winning an Emmy award for its feature-length film, Buddy:
“So working on that film, I was very lucky that I got that job and very lucky that that film did well. And so I had a good reel what it’s called like the reel is all the video examples of your work. It’s like your video resume. So really good reel, because I did that, and I worked in some commercials and some other stuff when I was 21. So that was awesome. But the way that I would send people my reel was I would make a DVD, and then I would ship it to them. That seemed insane to me.
Back then, I was putting stuff online. I had my own website, and it seems impossible to believe, but if you wanted to put a video on the web back in 2005, that meant you had to decide if you’re going to use time QuickTime. Basically, only Macs could see your video, but a video would look good, compression was good. Or you could use RealPlayer, which basically everyone could watch RealPlayer, but the player was terrible. It was just horrific. It was a horrible experience. You could then get Flash, like Adobe Flash. You could code it into Flash, and most people could see that, but that costs money. So I had to pirate Flash if I wanted to have my video on my website be Flash.
And I had been a trying to get my stuff out there on the web in all these filmmaking communities because there were some, and none of them were that vibrant. There was not that much happening, and so I was very aware of that problem. Then Brendan and I saw the very beginning of YouTube right when it launched. And the funny thing that most people I’m sure do not know or remember is that there was like ten companies that are exactly the same as YouTube, Metacafe, Veo, Vault, all of these things, they were all exactly the same.
It’s a side note, but the way that YouTube got traction back then was like giving away free iPods and allowing pirated content, that is like what helped them scale, which is crazy. But we saw all these companies, and we realized something is happening, something fundamental to how online video works. We dug into it, and it turned out that there was now opensource tools to do video and coding that would allow you to code into Flash. And what that meant is that anyone could write software that could take, basically, any format of video and turn it into Flash. And so this problem that I had experienced, which was why I thought the video communities were not taking off before the filmmaker communities, we thought it was going to be solved.
And so that is what we saw as an opportunity. It was a huge technology shift happening, and we felt like this is just starting to happen. It is unproven. We were both incredibly naive and young and had no experience, but we thought, “Well, we don’t have any experience. No one else should have that much experience in this market. Probably if there was ever a time to start something, be in control of our destiny, this would be a good opportunity.”