Up-and-Comer Vualto Hits the Ground Running
It's only been around since February, 2012, but this video consultancy has been hard at work since day one.
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Feb. 1, 2012: Streaming experts Camilla Young and James Burt decide to found Vualto, a high-end consultancy for live and VOD streaming applications, deployments, and support. ("Vu" refers to "vision"; "alto" refers to the Latin word for "high.") They officially launch Vualto the next day.

March 1, 2012: Vualto moves into its new office at the Tamar Science Park in Plymouth, Cornwall, in the U.K.

May 14, 2012: Vualto is hired by France Televisions SA (FT) to create a large-scale Flash Access DRM project in just over a month. Meant to support FT's pay-per-view streaming media business, this Flash Access DRM project must include online and downloadable Flash players to meet the client's go-live deadline.

Vualto meets the deadline, with a little time to spare.

FT remains one of Vualto's clients, says Young, who serves as Vualto's CEO. "We now have other European broadcasters as well, including Spain's Antenna 3 and France's M6," she says. Vualto also supports a secure web portal for the BAFTA Awards. It allows BAFTA judges to view all of the nominated films on their own computers.

"We have been extremely busy since the day we started," says Burt, now Vualto's CTO. "Fortunately, it appears that our reputation has preceded us."

It probably has. Before launching Vualto, Young and Burt had worked for years at Twofour. Their specialty was streaming media, both live and VOD, with and without DRM. And the pair had some serious credits to their names.

For instance, during their time at Twofour, Young and Burt developed the audio encoding and delivery systems for the BBC's iPlayer Radio player. "We also designed and deployed online VOD systems for HBO Central Europe, and a 24 language Web TV website for the European Parliament," Young says. "As well, we managed the live streaming for the UK Parliament," Burt adds.

While working as Twofour's CTO, Burt was selected for the 2011 Streaming Media Europe Dream Team by this magazine. In sports terms, this is comparable to being chosen for the England National Football team.

Clearly, Young and Burt were doing some heavy hitting at Twofour. So why did they leave? The answer is that they had to, through no fault of their own.

"Around the start of this year, Twofour decided to change their business strategy; moving more into content and moving away from tech," Young explains. "This is what got James and I thinking about our future, and where to take our skills. With Twofour's blessing, we set up Vualto. They allowed us to take a few clients with us, and we still work closely with them when it makes sense."

Three Employees, Three Specialties

Today, there are three people working at Vualto. Amy Prosser has joined the firm as its technical operations manager. She's in charge of booking and coordinating webcasts for clients. Prosser's "Who's Who" list of previous webcasts include Emirates airline, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, The Salvation Army, The Book People Ltd., National Trust, the U.K.'s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and Edelman PR.

Webcasts are part of Vualto's "three strands" of business, says Young. The first strand encompasses webcasts and streaming events. The second focuses on DRM access and platform management, and the third on software development/integration. That said, "We are not positioning ourselves as platform developers, but rather as platform customisers and implementers," she tells Streaming Media.

Vualto's fast road to success makes it sound like this up-and-comer is leading a charmed life. In a sense, this is true: the strong resumes of Burt and Young, plus the contacts they've acquired through Twofour, certainly gave them an advantage over other startups.

In addition, Vualto was able to find affordable offices at the Tamar Science Park. Funded by Plymouth University and the Plymouth City Council, Tamar was built specifically to provide startups with the facilities they need to get going, at minimal cost. "There are all kinds of people here," Burt says, "everything from Web design firms to people who make dentist equipment."

Still, the bills have to be paid, and Vualto's founders have been paying for all of them without any outside financial support. So Young and Burt were fortunate to bring over some clients from Twofour and to nail FT's DRM project as soon as they did.

Getting that job was a case of being in the right place at the right time: "Originally, this project was to supposed to be executed in Silverlight," Young explains. "Luckily for us, France Televisions changed the specification to Flash Access. Their original streaming contractor couldn't meet this new spec in time- but we could and did."

As a small firm, Vualto has the speed and nimbleness to meet tight deadline demands, in ways that larger firms with more bureaucracy and infrastructure cannot. It helps that Burt and Young are usually the people who meet with clients; rather than salespeople who lack management authority and direct technical expertise.

At the same time, relying on such hands-on participation could limit the amount of work that Vualto can handle. "This is why we are backed by an army of experienced freelancers, who we have worked with over the years," says Young. "They give us the added depth we need on demand, while allowing us to keep our overhead low and our approach responsive."

At press time, Young and Burt were hard at work, expanding Vualto's client base as well as consulting on various steaming media projects. As for the future? Growth is the name of the game, albeit with an eye to maintaining project quality and customer satisfaction at all times.

"We want to be the people that people call to help them solve their streaming media challenges, and to keep their streaming websites going," Young says. "But we don't want to do content: we like to do the back-end stuff. That's because James and I are techies at heart, and always will be.

This article first appeared in the autumn, 2012, issue of Streaming Media, European Edition.