The Spring is widely known for its rejuvenation, ideas of rebirth and growth. We accurately reflect these notions. And here's why...
The Beta Review: Proof of concept and our impending bottleneck.
VAPI - Vessel API Plugin: Our revenue driver and preexisting content funnel.
Advisory Team: High-value additions to aid our new customer focus.
"Vessel" Trademark Status: A strong mark in exchange for a bit of patience.
Vessel Beta 1 and 2
On March 19th - After a series of in-house alpha tests, we launched our first closed beta. Setting the stage: we ensured the quality of our feedback by validating the test candidates through a screener survey. (see here). The tested versions of the app do not contain notifications or badging.
- The Map as the home screen produces venue views yet causes decision paralysis.
- Venue engagement actions require better visual real estate.
- Possible peer-to-peer engagement opportunities exist (friend lists, geo-tagging friends, and messaging).
- As regularly updated content combined with notifications are integrated into Vessel, we predict a sharp increase in the interaction with restaurants.
Vessel app Technical Report
As the Vessel app continues to develop, we're focused on three primary objectives:
- Improving core functionality.
- UX enhancements
- Providing a suite of tools for easily uploading and editing content.
One area, in particular, we are looking to improve on is the delivery of video content. Currently, we are using a 3rd party plugin to stream video files in the app. This solution is very convenient but we are finding that the performance is not as good as we would like, therefore we are looking to build a custom video player solution to achieve better latency and operability. This will involve significant research into the particulars of the Android and iOS platforms in order to implement highly performant video streaming functionality with optimal buffering and caching.
In order to drive user engagement, we must be delivering high-quality content on a regular basis and to this end, we have developed internal tools for efficiently managing every aspect of our data. Team members are able to upload content, establish new locations, and make changes to existing entries without any direct manipulation of the underlying database or code. We have also created a tool to automate the collection and importation of data on a large scale by leveraging Google’s Places API. This gives us the ability to collect data on restaurants and any other points of interest for an entire city with the click of a button.
Analyst: Aaron Allen - Senior Software Developer | John Best - CTO
The Vessel API - Our Shift
Close consulting with advisors and conclusions drawn from the beta have allowed us the ability to think creatively about the progression of the company. Realizing our runway, industry, and capital environment, Vessel's two-sided marketplace model cannot survive on its own. In the app's current state, the road to product market fit would take up too much of our resources before gaining sufficient traction. The key for us has and always will be, content. If we can leverage our research and technology to develop the support of a complementary infrastructure, only then will content acquisition and revenue be problems of the past.
Insert the Vessel API (VAPI) | Our proactive step toward a sustainable business model.
VAPI is a revenue-generating content marketing tool for internet publishers. VAPI produces engagement data for Retail-Focused Internet Publishers (RFIP; food bloggers and digital magazines) through visual content marketing tools. Our platform makes their websites more engaging and interactive for the SnapChat/Instagram generation.
A quick rundown of the Retail Focused Internet Publishing industry.
The internet publishing industry has experienced robust growth over the last five years. Few quick facts...
- Advertising is the primary method of generating revenue for internet publishers - 51.1% of total revenue
- Industry revenue is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 12.5%
- The long-term viability of these companies hinges on their ability to attract and retain internet traffic.
- A new ad type that is growing in popularity among advertisers: Video Ads.
- Key Success Factors: 1. The adoption of vertical video usage. 2. The ability to attract advertisers.
- The largest buyer of internet advertising is the retail sector, accounting for an estimated 13.9% of industry revenue.
Websites live and die by the loyalty of their fans and their ability to keep consumers interested in the site. Internet publishers compete for the attention of users by offering original content, attractive design, and website user-friendliness. The popularity of any individual website or service often has a significant impact on the advertising rates the website is able to charge.
IBIS World Industry Report - Internet Publishing in the US.
VAPI x Publisher Relationship.
A symbiotic relationship with Vessel exists within the publisher's intrinsic motivation to constantly create content. Through VAPI, publisher-generated content is funneled into the Vessel mobile app in exchange for actionable engagement data and viable advertising real estate.
VAPI is targeted to the local food blogger who aims to build a bigger brand outside of Instagram. Our premium tiers are geared towards the growing multi-market internet publishing company.
Give us bonus points for crafting something familiar with a fundamentally different design intention for a pre-existing market. Interactive content marketing tools like the Eater HeatMaps allowed us to validate the idea and determine an MVP. Our GA design team has conducted problem interviews and product testing with just over a dozen internet publishers. It’s been a low barrier for us to test, collect feedback and discover unique insight into an evolved market (like restaurants) that are beginning to invest and adopt new technologies.
What does all of this mean?
Well, for the Vessel app, not only will we have solved out content bottleneck, we'll have created a unique value proposition to our users. Now it's "Hey, check Vessel to see high-quality (restaurant and user-generated) visuals of unique restaurant experiences nearby. Browse their Discovery page for category specific listicles provided by trusted (carefully selected) local food publications".
- We're offering our users something truly unique that they can come back to.
- Our publishers obtain valuable data that they can leverage against advertisers.
- Our restaurants can regain control of their brand image with access to data that measures the influence of their content.
We've secured letter of intents from six notable publishers in Austin/Dallas. Each test candidate represents one of the three buyer personas reflected in our pricing tiers (see pitch deck for subscription pricing). Pilot tests will run from July through September of 2018.
More insight on the relationship between VAPI and its content partners: SEE HERE.
Two-year strategic focus below...
The diagram (below) depicts our Mobile app growth in relation to the acquisition of content publishers over time.
What came with this customer pivot was a shift/few additions to our advisory team. We needed an executive-level knowledge base on the digital publishing space - navigating conversations, meeting the gatekeepers and structuring deals. We've even added our first technical advisor.
Joining the Vessel advisory team:
Katie Stout: Sales and Marketing Specialist with digital advertising expertise in search, programmatic and content marketing.
Yohan Bobcombe: Leading growth and operations as the DFW Marketing Manager at Lyft.
Peter Doege: Director of Mobile Engineering at Google.
Amy Ero: Managing Director of Pink Jacket Studio. Former Head of Advertising and Sales for the Dallas Observer.
“Vessel” has been approved in several classes that are not related to software such as ours. There is, however, one software app that does have the Vessel mark. The very good news is that the company shut down operation in 2016 after being acquired. Thus, their mark is not being used. As long as that continues, at the end of 3 years (Oct 19'), it should be quite simple to file a petition to cancel the mark for non-use. In order to be able to do so, we have filed an application for Vessel so that we can have the standing to bring the cancellation. It is also wise to file, attempting to get the mark with a more precise class specification.
Our trademark attorney, R.C. Rondero will attempt to do this, but there is also a very good chance the trademark examiner still issues an office action saying the mark is likely to cause confusion. We can hold on the response and even ask for an extension and make sure we get to the 3-year point and file a petition to cancel if needed. Vessel is a very strong mark, and so it is going to work trying to lock it down and take steps to get us in line and prevent others from trying to file before we can.
- 87850080 - The Vessel online filing is now live in the trademark database.
- Currently, there are no office action responses.
The team is amped up, morale is high and our clients are looking forward to their installations. We are entirely focused on the licensing play right now. If you would like to play with the Vessel app beta, let me know and I will send you access. If you would like to check out the VAPI design prototype, let me know and we'll consider offering access.
Any questions - hit me anytime.
Airion Watkins-Clark | Vessel CEO