Techstars Hackstar Launches Her Own MassChallenge Startup ZoomTilt, 99Designs For Video

ZoomTilt,Boston startup,MassChallenge,TechstarsAnna Callahan is a Techstars hackstar turned startup founder who went through Mass Challenge. With all that startup pedigree we know her startup ZoomTilt is already destined for success. The magic comes into play now that they’ve completed MassChallenge and were named a finalist.

But what is ZoomTilt?

Well think 99designs. Callahan loves film making, in fact it was reading a script while working as a Techstars hackstar that made her decide to take the plunge into launching her own innovative idea. The idea, link filmmakers to people who want to build a brand using short films, mini tv shows if you will.  If you’ve got a brand and want to see film and tv stars in a video featuring your product, ZoomTilt is the answer. If you want to have an engaging YouTube mini series or Facebook page video series that highlights your brand, ZoomTilt is the answer.

Callahan tells nibletz in an interview that they’ve got hundreds of film makers waiting for the chance to work on your brands short video project. By leveraging the talent and creativity within their network ZoomTilt is able to offer unparalleled, engaging video marketing solutions without a gigantic budget.

So after joining cofounder Chris Bolman, and ditching their first name, CrewTide, which Callahan says made people think they sold nautical supplies, they hunkered down over the summer as one of the 125 startups in MassChallenge and emerged as a finalist.

We got a chance to talk with Callahan about ZoomTilt, in what’s been one of the wittiest, fun and creative interviews to date. Here it is:

What is ZoomTilt?
ZoomTilt is a media technology company that delivers social video marketing solutions to brands. Our integrated model matches brands and agencies with top-caliber creative talent and unique video distribution approaches to generate video campaigns that are highly sharable, memorable, trackable and targeted. By bringing together audiences, brands and professional content-creators, ZoomTilt is fundamentally changing both the economics and the experience of video advertising.

In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
Would you like your own mini-TV show to bring your customers back week after week?  ZoomTilt has hundreds of professional filmmakers just waiting to make a mini-TV show for you.  You can show it on YouTube, your website, on a monitor inside your store or restaurant, or wherever you want.  Just tell us what you’re looking for, and you’ll get dozens of ideas.  We help you pick the best ten, and you get to see ten pilot episodes.  Pick your favorite and you’ll get a season of great episodes.  We even help you test which pilot is the best, showing you the numbers on who is watching and what they’re saying about each one, so when you choose you know it’s reaching the right audience.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

ZoomTilt was co-founded by Anna Callahan and Chris Bolman in 2012. Anna graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in math, and went on to the most logical career: professional jazz trumpet player. After two cds, being featured on United Airlines, and touring Brazil, she moved to Boston to learn computer science. While working as a software engineer for 3M, Raizlabs, Techstars, and various startups, she pursued independent filmmaking in her off-hours, directing eight short films.

Growing up, Chris struggled for attention and acceptance within his immensely creative and artistic family. While siblings and cousins toed the straight line doing conservative, regular stuff like acting in commercials, writing scripts and putting on plays, Chris dared to break the mold and keep it real with edgy gigs at under-the-radar spots like Goldman Sachs. Now, with ZoomTilt, not only can Chris juggle quantifiable, creative responsibilities like digital distribution, UX and AdWords for Video, but he also finally gets hugs at family holidays.

Where are you based?
Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts! (The new upstart tech capital of the East Coast)
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

The Boston/Cambridge start up scene has really gained momentum in the past few years. It’s an incredible community of innovative and creative individuals that we find tremendously inspiring and supportive. Being in Boston gives us the opportunity to be around some of the most progressive and forefront thinkers on the planet (our office is right next to MIT and down the street from Harvard, which doesn’t exactly hurt the local talent pool and intellectual climate). Everyone that we’ve worked with or surrounded ourselves with has an amazing work ethic, and as a whole the community also knows how to have a really good time. (If you are in Boston, stop by Meadhall or Venture Cafe on a Thursday and you’ll see what we mean.)

How did you come up with the idea for ZoomTilt?
I (Anna) was working as a software developer at Techstars (they call us “hackstars”) when I got a great script from a writer friend.  It was a thriller-romance about two people trapped together during a zombie-alien apocalypse who fall in love over a dinner of chocolate.  I already knew I wanted to start a company to help independent filmmakers enter the Hollywood-dominated entertainment market, and I thought I’d test my “crowd-sourced branded entertainment” idea with a single show.  I called up some local chocolate companies and Equal Exchange was very interested.  Our goal was to reach 100,000 views between Feb 2012 and Dec 2012.  We released it one week before Valentine’s Day and reached over 150,000 views in only seven days!  So I put together a team and created ZoomTilt.
How did you come up with the name?
ZoomTilt’s original, precursor name was CrewTide, meant to represent a rising tide of film crews.  Unfortunately, it also kind of made it sound like we sold nautical supplies or household products.  After a long week of brand identity pondering, we chose ZoomTilt.  Both “zoom” and “tilt” are camera moves, so we knew filmmakers and video creators would get us, but our name also symbolizes the fact that we’re accelerating a different perspective in media and entertainment by democratizing web TV and ad creative.
What problem does ZoomTilt solve?
ZoomTilt helps talented, up-and-coming filmmakers get paid for their creative work, make connections, get recognition and build their audience by pairing them with brands’ need for engaging video content marketing.  We see ourselves as a more merit-driven, scalable, repeatable alternative to film festivals for indie entertainment creation, while at the same time feel we can make video marketing campaigns more compelling, authentic, engaging and trackable.
What’s your secret sauce?
Surprise.  Surprise and fear.  Fear and surprise.  Fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency.  Oh, sorry, that’s Monty Python!  We’re prototyping some new software at the moment, but we’re not quite ready to open the curtains on that just yet.  Believe us though, our secret sauce is awfully zesty.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We hustled and bootstrapped our way to approximately half a million content views in 2012 (at a killer CPV, if we may say so), but have great connections with very interested investors and expect to close a round in 2013.
What are some milestones you’ve achieved?
ZoomTilt was a finalist in MassChallenge’s 2012 accelerator class. We were also named one of the “Top 35 Tech Start Ups of 2012 Techcrunch Didn’t Cover” by Over the past year we’ve grown from a team of one to five, garnered a lot of industry press, were shortlisted by Hubspot as an approved video producer, and worked with some very cool east coast brands (more coming quite soon on that, in fact).  We’ve created two full-season digital TV series as well as distributed five pilots as part of the TV Reset Project web series contest. We also have some really big news about 2013 that we have to stay hush hush about right now.
What’s your next milestone?
We just signed our first big brand contract and are negotiating our second, so we will be offering filmmakers serious cash to tell character-driven stories.  Can’t wait!  Feel free to follow us on Angelist, too — we’re definitely going to be making multiple fun announcements over the next few months : )
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
We’ve had the good fortune of getting a lot of great mentoring from several luminaries and role models in the Boston startup community, including John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam from MassChallenge, Bob Mason (Founder/CTO of Brightcove), Bill Warner (Avid), Eric Paley (Founder Collective), Chris Howard (Founder/CEO of Libboo) and many others (too many others to name in fact, as much as we love name-dropping).  A big 2013 priority is to broaden our network and build new mentor relationships in New York and California.
What’s next for ZoomTilt?
Automating our transactional process, introducing new software tools to help filmmakers and brand marketers and continuing to learn and grow as a company.
Where can people find out more and what is your Twitter username?
We’d love it if you stopped by, watched a video or two and stayed a while.  Definitely follow @ZoomTilt on Twitter and feel free to check us out on Facebook as well at (we’re fun and are itching to give a few things away to our followers).  You can also follow our team on Twitter: Anna Callahan is @jazztpt, Chris Bolman is @ChrisBolman and Amy DePaola is @TheAmyDee.

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