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celum imagine Archive
At the Future of Web Apps last month, Thomas Marban presented a product called celum Imagine. I found the product very intriguing since I have worked with image and media asset solutions during my corporate life. Thomas was kind enough to participate in an interview with me about the product and web development in Austria. Below is a transcript of our discussion.
Allen: Please provide a brief overview for yourself.
Thomas: I’m co-founder and CEO of celumsolutions, a company that started in 1998 as a creator of custom web applications for enterprises and has transformed to product business over the last three years. I’m acting at the intersection of business, marketing and technology.
Allen: How did you initially come up with the idea for celum Imagine?
Thomas: Actually the idea arose through an experience we made in the general meeting of a big Austrian company where PowerPoint crashed during the CEO’s presentation because he had used over-dimensioned photos that were intended for print purposes. Today his presentations run much smoother.
Allen: What does celum Imagine offer?
Thomas: celum Imagine is a media asset management solution for enterprise usage to handle, distribute, edit and integrate digital objects like photos, presentations or videos within or outside the company. It’s completely web-based with Plugins for Operating Systems, Office or the Adobe Suite.
Allen: What is the target market for celum Imagine?
Thomas: Companies of all industries and sizes that use digital media assets in their day-to-day business. We focus on the marketing, PR and sales departments.
Allen: Can you provide some insight into the technology behind celum Imagine?
Thomas: It’s completely built on Java (J2EE) and the well proven Spring Framework with support for all major databases – an extremely powerful and scalable combination to handle millions of assets.
Allen: Since you are a company that operates in multiple locations and multiple languages can you offer some insight into your marketing plans?
Thomas: The attributes of our industry and product allows us to spend most of our efforts on web-based marketing. The majority of customer requests derives from our web-site which is our central marketing tool for global operations and in addition the national distributors like in France or Japan run their own, targeted sales process.
Allen: What is the business revenue model for celum Imagine? What are the average costs in both the base and Smart products?
Thomas: We offer celum Imagine as an installed or hosted version, the primer is licensed mainly on the number of users and editions while fees for the ASP version calculate from storage and features. Licensing starts at 5,000$.
Allen: What is the difference between the base product and the “Smart” product?
Thomas: The “Smart” edition is our ASP solution so it offers all pros and cons of a hosted service. There is no restriction in terms of features except for logical things like syncing servers or connecting it with existing systems like CMS or ERP.
Allen: Who are competitors of yours? Why is celum Imagine better?
Thomas: Although celum Imagine can be classified as a media asset management solution it occupies the gap between classic enterprise “bloatware” and modern “lightweight” applications. The whole product addresses real world problems and gives back the fun and ease of use that corporate users miss in their traditional solutions. You won’t find this unique mélange of functionality in any other product, our real competitors are internal IT-departments that insist on using file shares for managing the companies digital assets.
Allen: Any upcoming partnerships or collaborations?
Thomas: We have just announced our French market entry at the Apple Expo in Paris with a national distributor. The same is for Japan and there is a major strategic partnership with a big US group coming up in the next months.
Allen: What are the growth plans for celum Imagine for the next 1-3 years?
Thomas: We will focus on growth through partnerships in Europe, Japan and particularly in the United States.
Allen: What is the Web industry like in Austria? What are the positives and where are the challenges?
Thomas: The web industry in Austria hasn’t changed tremendously over the last years. It’s a happy coexistence of suppliers facing an average demand for possibilities and quality. However, most corporate web activities are still done out of necessity rather than seizing new opportunities. The so called social web is only carried out by a few masterminds who strive for shaping and spreading it but the market is just so small that web trends, who are rather adopted than created, emerge at a later date – if ever. It’s different for the product business where the web is just the carrier. In this case, creating perception and awareness is the biggest challenge. Just the same as in any other industry.
Allen: Compare the Web market in Europe to that of the USA. It appears some technologies are further ahead in Europe such as mobile usage.
Thomas: I think you can’t compare these markets across-the-board. The US are a large country, there are companies that are ten years ahead and there are those who are years behind. We often marvel at all the bay-area startups and their business conducts that are hardly feasible for a European startup due to the lack of markets and investors. Although the web is a global phenomenon, local habits and general rules still apply – the blogosphere in Spain for example is far ahead the one in German speaking countries while I would consider the quality of business software from these countries as world class. The mobile coverage in Austria is much better compared to the US, nevertheless Blackberry users are still a rareness. There is so much growth potential left in all areas and the variety of people and their ways they use the web thrive every day. I think it’s a good time and place to live in.
Allen: Do you consider celum Imagine a “Web 2.0″ product?
Thomas: That depends how one defines Web 2.0. If you think of sharing assets, self-sufficient users, nice and asynchronous GUI it probably is one of the first serious and approved enterprise applications with these ingredients but you won’t find such buzz-words in our marketing materials. celum Imagine is a right time, right attributes, right market product that addresses existing problems and is well-prepared for the ongoing shift how companies make use of web-solutions in their daily business.
Allen: How do you define Web 2.0?
Thomas: I don’t see any reason for claiming that we are entering a new generation or version of the web. I would describe the prevailing trend as changing mindsets encouraged by a set of tools and technologies that allusively realize the fundamentals of a web how it was meant to be. Some early-day mistakes were corrected and new are made. At the moment it’s all about excess – more users, more technology, more exhibition and more information. We should just omit the versioning as progress goes on anyway.
Allen: What are the most important success characteristics of companies like yours?
Thomas: Creating a viable business model and organization that is able to act on an international level while having a product that attracts partners and helps you grow through their help. Staying independent from investors was very important for us to experience all the economic ups and downs. It helped us staying humble and focusing all our endeavors on the customer. Compared to a typical startup I would say that we’ve built the engine before we got plenty of fuel.
Although times are getting better again for IT companies, long-lasting success is not achieved through smart ideas in shiny wrappings alone. Assembling a team where everyone systematically finds and exploits his potential that can turn a shared vision into an economically sustainable product is what every startup should bear in mind. Being an entrepreneur means being pragmatist of reality, always ask yourself what you can contribute and sharpen the saw.
Allen: Name 5 sites you visit on a daily basis.
Thomas: I get all my info through RSS, so there is only feedlounge.com where I aggregate about 200 business web-sites consisting of marketing, business, tech and blog sources. For in between I use my site popurls.com for a quick glance at the latest buzz.