How Kaltura Went From Free-Spirited Collaboration Tool to the Future of Online Video
Nearly a decade ago, Ron Yekutiel, Shay David, Michal Tsur, and Eran Etam began talking about starting a new project. It wouldn't be quite like their former entrepreneurial endeavors--each of the men had started at least one company previously and had well made their money and earned their entrepreneurial stripes.
The project, dubbed Kaltura, would be humble in nature. It would help artists. It would allow collaboration. And it would be free and open to people to incorporate their ideas and not just build a new project--but build new frameworks for creativity.
Fast Track to Growth
Sound idealistic--a little whimsical, even? It was. The company's logo, a hypercolor sunburst, speaks not to what the company creates but rather represents to its founders "pluralism and openness," according to Yekutiel. Even the name of the company, Kaltura, which Yekutiel says is "jibberish for 'culture,' and not in any particular language," says nothing about the company's product.
"When we started the company, we wanted to pick a word that would keep us true to what we were trying to do, which was pluralism, openness, and collaboration," Yekutiel says.
When Kaltura, the online video-collaboration tool created by the four co-founders, launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2006, it was billed as a marriage between Wikipedia and YouTube.
Turns out the co-founders were onto something. Only, the core of what the company did--online collaboration for video--wasn't the crux of it.
As users started to share and collaborate on video on Kaltura in 2007, the founders say they got lots of requests for more basic video-sharing and -storage tools.
"People said, 'We love collaboration, but we have a lot of pain in the basic video stuff,'" Yekutiel says. "We figured out there was a much bigger gap and a bigger opportunity.”
So Kaltura's team of developers, mostly based in Israel though the company is headquartered in New York City's Union Square, got to work on building a suite of video tools, some extremely simple, some maddeningly complex. One solution particularly loved by the company's clients is the ability to seamlessly share video across platforms and devices--it will stream in an appropriate program, at the correct size--after publishing. Kaltura is seen as a market leader in video-publishing tools, and sells custom solutions to media companies (such as Disney; Inc.com also uses Kaltura), educational institutions (including Harvard University), and enterprise companies (IBM is a customer). It has more than 300,000 customers.
Kaltura employs 200 people and expects to double its team this year, thanks to a new cash infusion of $47 million in a round of venture capital led by SAP Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners, Commonfund Capital, and Brazil-based Gera Ventures. The company is expanding its teams in Israel, New York City, and London and creating a new office in Brazil. It has a total of more than $115 million in venture investment.
So much has changed over the past few years for Kaltura, right down to the core product it sells. But the initial vision--all that sunshine and pluralism--remains unchanged.
"We are the Linux or MySQL player of our industry. We have an open-source product; people can download it for free if they want to," Yakutiel says. "The ethos of Kaltura, the culture of Kaltura, is one where the people--not just the product--embody openness and flexibility and collaboration."
CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer
Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.