Seattle Startup: Hark Is The World’s Repository For Pop Culture Sound Bytes

Do you remember back in the day, the plethora of .wav based geocities sound bite repositories. We’re talking low budget, bad wav file audio from a handful of movies. No? Good because that’s not Hark.

Hark is the world’s repository for pop culture soundbytes. The best movies in the world, and even the  hard to find treasures, have sound bites on Hark’s platform at Everyone loves a great movie quote from “You can’t handle the truth” to the recent “You didn’t build that” quote from Obama, to “Do you want to play a game” the War Games sound bite that started it all. Hark is the one place to go to hear those soundbytes, embed those sound bites and download those sound bites.

All of this is legal as well. Rather than trying to dodge the movie studios, producers, and tv producers, Hark went with their best foot forward and showed how their website can promote movies, tv shows and other places where great sound bites originate. Through Hark, some of the best sound bites in pop culture and current events have quickly been able to go viral, and what movie studio doesn’t want a viral movie quote.

Hark has partnered with 5 major film studios including Paramount, Universal,Lionsgate and Warner Brothers, to offer over 3 million sound bites from popular movies, tv shows,video games, sporting events,and political speeches.

We got a chance to interview Hark. Check out the interview below:

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Dave Aronchick, CEO of Hark, has been in the technology industry for 14 years. During this time, he has founded three companies and worked at Microsoft on a variety of teams including Windows Client, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Exchange and IP Ventures. Under Aronchick’s leadership, Hark is now:

  • One of the 10 largest entertainment/movie sites on the Web (comScore, 2012)
  • Received more than 80 million visits per month worldwide (July 2012)
  • Created influential partnerships with major film studios, including: Paramount, Universal, Lionsgate, Warner Brothers
  • Obtained over 2 billion listens to date

Fouad ElNaggar, co-founder of Hark, is a 3x entrepreneur and reformed venture capitalist now focused on applying his accumulated learning at scale as the SVP of Strategy and Corporate Development at CBS Interactive. Prior to joining CBS Interactive, Fouad worked at Redpoint Ventures where he managed the firm’s Southern California presence and led/supported investments in Machinima, Blue Kai, The Receivables Exchange, Scribd, Namesake, Xango, BetterWorks, Tantalus Systems and Clicker. Additionally, while at Redpoint, Fouad founded two companies, Hark and Liquid Light, and expanded the firm into Brazil.

What’s the startup scene like in Seattle?

The startup scene in Seattle has been growing rapidly and is now an established epicenter for tech. According to Forbes, “The Puget Sound region has grown consistently in good times and bad, boasting a remarkable 43% increase in tech employment over the decade.

The company culture at Hark is a mix of fun and work – it has to be since we deal with millions of sound bites and quotes every day. We allow dogs in the office, people listen to music on headphones and have free snacks and drinks – and of course there are the daily debates about pop culture across the spectrum.

How did you come up with the idea for Hark?

The entire concept for Hark originated from a love for one single movie: War Games. This overwhelming feeling of loving a single quote so much that you wish to share it universally has crafted a site that now receives over 80 million visits a month.

How did you come up with the name?

Hark actually began as Entertonement, but the name was too creative and long. However, we knew the founders of Hark and we had always wanted to work with a much smaller name (that everyone could spell!) so when they fell on rough times, we took over the brand.

What problem does Hark solve?

Have you ever had a quote that you can’t get out of your head? Do you wonder where you could possibly find this content? Well, Hark most likely has it. Unlike other websites, Hark trims sound bites in shorter increments so users can find the exact line, quote, or sound they are looking for. Additionally, if viewers cannot find a certain quote, they have the ability to upload their own clips and share them with friends and family.

What’s your secret sauce?

Hark is unique because the company holds partnerships with major film studios so the content is legal to view and share – this means that content will not disappear over time. Content can also be shared through social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr), sent directly to mobile devices, and embedded players in websites or blogs.

What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?

When Hark first began in 2006, we were looking for ways to obtain a large amount of content in a legal way. We saw this opportunity when the film, “The Hangover” came out on DVD – a lot of people started using Hark to upload quotes and search for their favorite lines. So rather than taking the sound bites down, we approached Warner Bros. with a proposition. We explained that we could utilize the large amount of data to help promote the DVD, resolve all of this inbound search traffic, and show off their content in a curated and entertaining way. And presto – a star is born!

What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?

The life of a startup is one giant challenge itself because the success rate is in constant flux. I have written about this myself, and here is an amazing Quora thread on the subject. I’ve overcome this by realizing the following:

1. You power through by realizing everyone feels these frustrations.
2. Nothing is more important when you are in a startup than perspective; you cannot get bogged down in the day-to-day, otherwise you will burn out.

What’s the first thing you would do for Hark with a one million dollar investment?

Honestly, we’re lucky to be profitable enough that we can make those sized investments now; which is something that we’re currently doing. Specifically, we think that mobile consumption of our content is going to continue to skyrocket, and we’ll be coming out with an entire array of different ways to contribute, use and share the sound bites on Hark on any device, no matter what.

What’s next for Hark?

The team is currently cultivating the mass amount of content centered on the 2012 Political Campaign to produce various entertaining clips on our recent candidates. Beyond that, Hark has seen the need to offer more features via mobile, so the team is currently developing enhancements for its portable presence.

In the longer scheme of growth, Hark aims to provide a platform for sound bites from every possible source. From movies and TV shows, to video games and live sports, to professional politicians, to kids recording themselves on their phone – we will be the easiest way to upload, find and share the sound bites that are most meaningful to people.


Check out Hark here

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