While preparing for my interview with Sunil Kowlgi, founder of Outklip, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I had an idea. I interview startup founders all the time, asking them why they created their product. What problem did they discover in the market that they believed they could fix?
As we began, Kowlgi introduced me to his boot-strapped venture: Outklip. A one-stop-shop for recording video and audio on a screen or on camera. With a full editing suite built in, customers can trim video, add text and music and upload to YouTube all in one sitting. Outklip was created before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it proved to be essential to teachers as the world came to rely on digital even more.
Outklip was originally created for K-12 teachers to enhance their video creation skills in the classroom, but the pandemic caused teaching to abruptly move to the online space, hence creating a unique opportunity for the product to pivot.
The passion in his eyes and his words for a company that had just survived (and thrived) in a worldwide pandemic was apparent. What better time to innovate a video editing and screen recording system that helps teachers create absorbing video and audio recordings than during a period where classrooms were not meeting face-to-face?
I had to know: What makes Kowlgi most passionate about Outklip?
Kowlgi’s response took me by surprise.
In my mind, I imagined he would speak about the code behind the project or the entrepreneurial high that comes from creating something new.
I was wrong.
Instead, he said the TikTok culture we are living in has caused video to be the newest form of self-expression. Where it was once writing, video has taken the lead. It can make or break how an individual is seen or known.
Therefore, Kowlgi wanted to create an equal playing field for people to have the ability to express themselves fully through video, without any roadblocks. To create a system where people could convey themselves as easily as they do in writing, but on a screen.
“I didn’t want people to have to jump through hoops to be able to do this. That is why I created software that does it all in one easy sitting. My broad mission was this: How could I make video creation as easy as writing? I am always working to make video much easier to create, edit and publish.”
Teachers were having to explain homework assignments that required video recording capabilities to students learning remotely. This did not come with ease to all. In the past, teachers did not have to be proficient in video. Most teachers were not trained in the basic principles of video recording, let alone how to captivate an audience through lighting, editing and screen casting. 2020 was an unprecedented year for teaching, and teachers’ curriculums had not yet encapsulated the need for integrating within the online space. Kowlgi found that teachers were running into a lot of problems adjusting to a new way of teaching while also struggling to create videos that were digestible for kids. The result? Lukewarm responses from students to their videos.
“Students these days are raised on a diet of YouTube,” said Kowlgi. “They are used to videos with super high quality. Outklip basically was created to solve the problem for teachers by packaging the screen cast video creation with video editing and video sharing capabilities all into one single solution.”
Prior to Outklip, Kowlgi was working on a device that measured jet engine noise. Manufacturers would use the tool to track noise of planes flying over cities, with the goal of reducing the disturbance to residents. This is where Kowlgi realized his passion for solving physical world problems. He knew he wanted to solve pain points for people as a software developer and knew it would be through the creation of a SaaS business.
Though the ideation of Outklip is much older, the business itself was established two years ago. It was based on a sense of an opportunity in the market. Sound familiar? Millions of people were creating videos for the first time after Snapchat and Instagram released story features that pushed video marketing fervently. Over time, more and more people became very comfortable making videos right from their smart
The learning curve for the generation pre-Snapchat? Well, that seemed to be quite a challenge.
Kowlgi jumped at the opportunity. He explained, “I set about building video tools for creating, and it immediately gained traction. People were using the tools for remote work. I had a freelancer using it to demo products to their clients. It was also being used by a lot of teachers for distance learning to allow for recording videos for students overseas. We were also seeing a lot of YouTube content creators use Outklip.”
After the initial interest at the start of the pandemic, it was very clear that teachers had an important pain point that he could solve. “I had always been working on looking to narrow the focus, because the rule of thumb is you want to keep your market focus an inch wide and a mile deep. Otherwise, you spread yourself too thin. Especially when you are a very small startup. I thought that this would be the perfect focus area, and that I had an audience that could resonate with the product and had a pressing need for something like this.”
The product grew exponentially during COVID-19. In early March 2020, when the pandemic had not hit the US in full force yet, Outklip saw an influx of people in Italy using its software. Then Thailand and New Zealand. Soon, teachers from all over the world were capitalizing on the product.
Creating an appropriate pricing plan for a SaaS business is key. When asked about Outklip’s pricing model and any changes he made during COVID-19, Kowlgi’s response was centered around putting the teachers first: “The most important stakeholder in SaaS is your customer. In my case, teachers. I did not want to leave them hanging, especially during a pivot. I wanted to be very open with them and communicate with honesty. Any SaaS business looking to pivot should try to support users and taper the change over a period of extended time. Do not drop surprises on them.”
At first, he had a la carte options based on the market need; however, he later eliminated these options and streamlined the pricing model to appeal to his audience.
“Luckily, you can always change pricing plans if something is not working. My goal is always to try and optimize so that people get a lot out of the product, but I must make sure I always get them past the threshold where they want to pay for the product,” he said. “How can I make this more attractive to a customer? How can they get more value out of this?”
Now, Outklip has both a month-to-month model and an annual subscription model for individual subscribers. Kowlgi also offers domain license accounts for school systems to use. A school can get a subscription for their entire staff on their school email domain, and the domain licenses get a bulk discount.
Pricing wasn’t the only COVID consideration. Kowlgi also developed creative marketing strategies for Outklip.
“We would use content as promotion and created several articles that gave tips for people who needed help creating videos. We also produced videos providing tips that helped people improve their videos,” he said. “To get in front of teachers, we post on teacher community websites, including Google Jamboard and Google Classroom. We post articles with ties to those tools to try and create a bit of leverage. We also participate in teacher forums on Facebook, due to the high volume of teacher support groups that are on there.”
Kowlgi knew that by lending resources to teachers, he would learn a lot about his target audience in return. He would hear about the kinds of problems they were facing and how they thought. He would use this knowledge to improve both Outklip and his marketing of it.
“The future of teaching is changing. Teachers now must learn new skills that they were not taught in their education for in-person teaching. They now see the value for having both an online and in-
Scaling the product
I asked Kowlgi about his experience with scaling Outklip and what he thought was key to successful growth.
“Differentiation is key. If you have a different product, it is much easier for people to know that you exist and try it out. The question you must ask yourself is, ‘How can I build differentiation into this product to make it really stand out at a fundamental level?’ The second part is about execution: What are the right things I can do to scale? The most important piece is that you are in the right place to scale.”
Kowlgi knows the importance of being visible. People need to be on the lookout for your kind of solution. It is important to have a SaaS offering with product-market fit. “In Outklip’s case, people are looking for video creation software on the Chrome store, so by making Outklip a browser extension, we were able to get in front of that audience. The goal of scaling is word-of-mouth, but that is extremely hard. You cannot give up just because it does not happen right off the bat. I knew I needed to be in the right place and try to use automation as much as I could. I use email automation as outreach to reach users and find them.”
The future of Outklip
As our virtual interview ended, I asked Kowlgi one last question: What is the future of Outklip?
With bright eyes and a hope-filled smile, he shared his vision: “I am working really hard to serve the teaching community and to find out on a deeper level what problems they face in video creation. And then figure out how one goes about solving it. I want to always create better video editing tools than I had before. I want to create software that helps their videos stand out. I also want to provide useful content and maximize leverage. From a business standpoint, the primary focus will be reaching out to schools to get them to try a domain wide license. Hopefully growing the business to a level where I can hire in the next six months.”
I smiled at his answer as it was, like I imagined it would be, focused solely on the teachers his product was serving.