Sramana Mitra: What I have understood is that the members of your user community belong to various categories. You talked about data scientists, bloggers, business users, and so on. Help me to understand where your real business is. Who are the paying customers?
Stew Langille: The platform is driven by the community. That is why I mentioned it. The community primarily involves the designers of the visualization. The other people are involved in its creation. The interesting thing about creating infographics and visualizations is that you need more than just someone designing them. The task is different from running an application, a website, or a banner ad. If you want to do it well, you need a professional journalist to help find the story. Because it is data, you need someone to go through the work of [determining] the different types of data and condensing it to a point where a designer and a journalist can understand it and put it into a final output. This is why there are different people involved. The customers are either publishers or brands that say: “I want to create a visualization on the unemployment rate, and I want to see if it has risen or fallen in the past year, and I want to publish that.” Sometimes they don’t have the people in-house to do it, or they don’t have the time to commission somebody in-house to do it. So they come to us and get the project completed with us. We are able to do it because we have the core expertise to do it much faster, cheaper, and with higher quality. We focus on providing value and speed as opposed to just providing a rock-bottom price.
SM: I would like to talk about a couple of use cases next. This is something I do with all our interviews. Take three of your most interesting customer use cases and describe how customers are using your data. What are they able to do with your tool that they cannot do otherwise?
SL: One specific case is UNICEF. They wanted to look at [availability of] clean drinking water to children by region. They ended up coming up with a report that they circulated. It got minimal attention in the media and social media because people just didn’t have time to read through this report. So, they can summarize the report in the form of an article and get more people to read it. People are inherently drawn to visual media and visual content. This is how we digest information in this world. If we can put that in form of an infographic – because the story has really great graphical elements to it – then it becomes very powerful because of this much faster and more effective way for UNICEF to educate the general population about where children around the world are suffering from [having to use] poor drinking water. Here at Visual.ly we have a website that has 3.5 million visitors per month. We also have a number of prominent journalists who get news from us because they know when somebody creates something visual, they come to us. We can also [help journalists] push their message in a better way.
Another use case I want to mention is on the corporate side. We work with Deloitte on a number of projects. Deloitte will want to have internal reports. They want to know their sales performance in any given region around the world. I am talking about their internal sales, which they want to have communicated to their salespeople and consultants around the world. Normally they would send an email saying: “Sales in Latin America are down 12 percent, sales in China are up 20 percent, here is an attached Excel chart. Take a look at it.” The problem is that no one ever reads that email because they get a number of these emails. Deloitte decided to come to us and create infographics and sometimes even motion graphics, which are videos that animate the progress, to put it into a more engaging form and make the data tell a story. Even internally employees are much more likely to share this than if Deloitte had just sent a text-based email with some charts. It is just a better way of communicating this type of information. What we have seen with other clients such as Ericsson, Oracle, and Salesforce is that there are better ways to communicate internally and externally – to their partners, their shareholders, or their teams.