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Demo Duck helps explain your company in digestible video form

Explanation videos have become an essential staple of the modern startup pitch. With new ones popping up every day (and nearly half of them ending in “ly”) it can be a serious battle to get your message through to potential users while distinguishing your company from the rest.

Imagine this: You hit the homepage for some startup your boss told you about -- something involving sumo wrestlers who will do your taxes for free if you can best them in the ring. Okay, you’re not really sure so you click the “About” page and you get a wall of text. That little X on the browser tab has never been clicked so fast. Who has time for that? Who even cares what that company does? Reading is for chumps.

This is the exact scenario that makes entertaining and concise explanation videos more vital than ever for emerging businesses, according to Demo Duck founder Andrew Follett. Demo Duck has produced animated, screencast, and even live action explainer videos for companies like Pongo, ZenCash, and Trulia, taking an idea from writing the script all the way to the encoding the finished video.

What is the backstory behind Demo Duck?

Out of college I was working at a small company as a marketing director. Three years into it I went off on my own to run a different startup and tried to figure out how to make money there.

At the same time I was freelancing making screencast videos on the side. After a year, I realized I was making a lot more money doing that than the actual business I was trying to build so in January of 2011 I decided to give it a shot and put together a WordPress site.

After $100 and a couple of weeks I had the site up and running and it took off pretty quickly and started growing from there.

Is there significance behind the name?

I actually wrote a blog post on how the name came about. Unfortunately it’s not much of a great story; at the time I thought “demo” was kind of important for our keyword strategy.

I wanted the word in the URL and I wanted another four-letter alliteration for “demo.” I just started going down the list of what could be matched with it. I got to animals and going down the line: demo donkey, demo dog, etc. I settled on Demo Duck because it sounded good, and also because the domain was available.

We have fifty different ducks in our office. People buy us rubber ducks all the time. It’s kind of become a little obsession here. Anything duck that we see we usually buy it.

Why have “explainer” videos become so crucial to emerging businesses?

It’s always been important to explain your business quickly and concisely. I think that’s always been true throughout history; as a business you need a way for people to understand what you do and get excited about it.

Everyone’s online and everyone seems to be watching videos more and more. The meeting of those two things has helped accelerate the industry in general and the need for these types of videos.

What are the key elements to creating an entertaining and effective explanation video?

I wouldn’t say there’s a magic potion to do it every time. You need to know your audience because different audiences react to different material.

In general we follow a pretty standard format for video content: we start with explaining the problem -- that’s typically where people get engaged and interested, then transition into your solution and describe how it works so they can understand it, and finally close with some call to action, something that directs people and gives them a next step to do.

What advice would you give to any entrepreneurs out there looking to turn their passion into a company?

Don’t be afraid to charge for something or to make money right away. The first company I was working on we focused too much on trying to perfect something that we thought people wanted.

We found out later that people weren’t willing to pay or pay enough for it. It’s important to do something right out of the gate that you’re willing to charge for and that people are willing to pay for.

It’s kind of cliché, but in addition to that I’d say it’s also not about doing something that makes money. It’s doing something that you enjoy and that you’re passionate about. If that’s not part of the equation it doesn’t matter.

What do you like to do for fun?

I like to travel. We’re taking a company trip next week to Buenos Aires that we’re all looking forward to.

Other than that in the summer I like to be outside in the sunshine, on the lake. In the winter I like to get out and play hockey.

What’s next for Demo Duck?

We’re currently running two sites: Demo Duck and Video Brewery -- a site we launched last spring. It’s a video marketplace where people can post a video project, including a budget and timeline, and then get proposals from a curated community of video producers. I think that has a lot of potential in regard to the fact that we can essentially take on unlimited projects there and just let the marketplace and the system do its thing.

With Demo Duck our goal is to be working on stuff that we enjoy, working with clients that we like, and continually trying to improve what we do and try out new things. We’re getting more into the live action arena and we’re starting to do some 3D things.

We’re always trying to improve and expand and work on bigger and better things. I think Demo Duck will always be somewhat of a specialized boutique video production studio, whereas Video Brewery is more of a scaling system that’s out there to do the rest.


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