Azuki Eases Mobile Web Video Viewing

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Azuki Systems, a company promising to ease the mobile video experience on any phone, is coming out of stealth today. We spoke to the 18-month-old company, formerly known as Peermeta, this week about its middleware system, which it hopes to sell as software-as-a-service to media companies.

Azuki encourages video to be played in a user’s phone browser (or media player if necessary) by chopping up the relevant clips into short, “snackable” lengths, personalizing them and recombining them with relevant conversation (i.e. comments) and advertising. The company’s key technology, according to CEO Jim Ricotta, keeps this process lightweight and accessible for all users, delivering higher-quality versions to those whose phones can handle them.

“Our media mashup engine will deconstruct a stream of data and break it up into media objects, and then we can do some filtering and some recombining of objects,” he said. “We basically make facsimiles that we mash together — we virtualize the delivery process for the user.”

Mobile video is indeed a market ripe for change, but I haven’t seen the Azuki product in action. I do like that it lives mostly in the mobile browser. Apparently the key is only delivering video when it’s demanded, or as Ricotta put it, “keeping traffic in the cloud, and not until you actually want to stream a clip do you pull the clip down.”

Ricotta sees this as a way for TV networks to keep in touch with their viewers. Say a user participated in a contest show’s voting via SMS — they can then opt into a more regular relationship with the show, getting sent content throughout the week. And, if they like the media, they can share it with friends through their contact list or their Facebook and LinkedIn connections.

Azuki’s first customer, WheelsTV, is currently in private beta and is expected to launch in the next two months. Other customers should be announced this fall, Ricotta said. After media companies, the company wants to target mobile carriers hoping for data plan upgrades.

Ricotta and Azuki founder Cheng Wu have a pile of startup exits between the two of them, helpfully highlighted in the press materials we were sent: ArrowPoint (acquired by Cisco for $5.7 billion), Arris Networks (acquired by Cascade Communications for $217 million) and Acopia (acquired by F5 Networks for $210 million), SightPath (acquired by Cisco for $800 million) and DataPower (acquired by IBM for $100 million). So, while it’s hard to say whether they can knock this one out of the park, they’re already batting well above average.

Ricotta and Wu raised $6.6 million for Azuki last fall from Sigma Partners and Kepha Partners, and the company currently has 30 employees.

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