When you’re an itty-bitty company and your first big customer win is CBS, you turn a few heads. And so it is with iWidgets, which makes video applications that are customized for the likes of MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle and other social networks. Now that they’ve landed CBS, they’re working to bring on more TV broadcasters, as well as online video producers, as clients.
Syndicating your content or web site to social networks generally requires either hiring a developer who knows the inner workings of writing code for each site, or going with a one-size-fits-all widget provider. San Francisco-based iWidgets simplifies the process with a drag-and-drop web interface that spits out custom widgets.
CEO Peter Yared’s pitch goes something like this: Traffic to destination sites across the Internet is tracking downward. Everybody’s spending their time on social networks instead. If you’re in the content business, you need to deliver your stuff to where the people already are. So CSI, for example, has nearly 450,000 fans on its Facebook page, where an iWidgets app of top clips is front and center.
We’ve long been bullish on tying together communities and content, to the point of integrating characters, fans and storylines. But that’s a bit too ambitious and fuzzy for Yared, who said he’s focused on where the money is flowing today. iWidgets is set up in such a way that it can take a piece of lucrative video CPMs as an affiliate. In Yared’s opinion, video is the most monetizable aspect of social networks because users hate banner ads, whereas they’re used to dealing with an in-stream video ad, no matter what the environment. Indeed, CBS uses thePlatform to manage its video advertising, and iWidgets — at least according to its published rates — takes 15 percent of that ad revenue.
iWidgets just started offering a self-serve version of its platform, though it doesn’t allow integration with outside video advertising, so users won’t be able to make money from it.
Yared said iWidgets’ advantage over its main competition, Sprout Builder, is that its applications aren’t in Flash, making them more flexible; and over competitors like Clearspring, that iWidgets’ applications are customized for each social network rather than one-size-fits all. iWidgets is tightly entrenched in each social network; for example, it plans to offer its customers easy integration with Facebook’s new paid program for placing application items in users’ newsfeeds.
iWidgets has already raised a seed round of more than $1 million from Opus Capital, and is working on closing a Series A round that’s so far been held up by this fall’s market downturn, according to Yared.
Yared told us that the day his company launched with CBS (which didn’t go entirely smoothly, as there was some conflict over whether little iWidgets would receive full episodes or just clips), he received calls from nearly every other network. So his seven-employee startup, which to date has really been more focused on refining its nifty widget creator technology than cutting deals, has a lot to get done — including hopping on many flights to Los Angeles.