How-to Web site teaches through video
By Jeff St. John
FRESNO, Calif. — Want to know how to pop a wheelie or crochet a scarf? Ever yearned to share your knowledge of how to do the Hokey Pokey — or how to disarm an attacker using nothing but packing tape — with the rest of the world?
If so, then the people at WatchDoit.com want to hear from you — and, if you’ve got a video camera, they want to see what you’ve got to offer.
"As we’re talking, I’m uploading video," Brendan Kane, the 27-year-old president of Clovis, Calif.-based WatchDoit Inc., said during a recent interview. "There’s no time to waste."
With WatchDoit.com’s official launch last month, Kane and his small staff — marketing assistant Yulia Chavez and videographers Troy Russ and John Gelbraith — have been busy combing through the hundreds of video submissions they’ve both shot and received since the company got started last fall.
Of all those submissions, about 150 are now available on the site, teaching everything from how to replace your car’s air filter to how to make a champagne cocktail — oh, and lots and lots of skateboarding videos.
Most of the videos were shot and performed by California State University, Fresno, students, Kane said — an important part of his business plan.
After all, instructional video sites like eHow.com, or the how-to sections of Internet giants like YouTube and Google, have built audiences that give them a big head start.
But Kane envisions WatchDoit.com as a combination of a how-to site and a social networking site like MySpace.com or Bebo.com — both of which have been bought up for hundreds of millions of dollars by media giants hungry for their online audiences.
Now it remains to be seen whether starting with a core community of young people, armed with video cameras and sharing their talents both serious and silly, will lead to the growing community that WatchDoit will need to thrive.
Bulldog Capital Partners thinks it will. The Clovis-based venture capital group has invested an undisclosed amount to fund the company’s startup costs, including video production and Web site development, after being introduced to the company through Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where Kane was a graduate student.
"We’ve made a bet that we’re very excited about," said Steve Heinrichs, Bulldog’s managing partner. "These kinds of sites are very exciting, the whole arena of getting the attention of younger people and putting them in a social environment."
Cassidy Smith, an 18-year-old mass communications and journalism student at Fresno State, shares the buzz. She’s shot about 50 videos for WatchDoit.com, including a series of video interviews with Fresno State students asking them what they wanted out of such a Web site.
"What they like the most about it is that it’s peers making these videos, people they can relate to," she said. "Kids coming out and doing Tae Kwon Do kicks, riding a unicycle, juggling — it’s amazing."
With the site’s success dependent upon how many advertising dollars it can draw, Kane also plans to offer additional features to boost that revenue.
For example, the company’s programmers are in the process of building customized pages for businesses interested in creating a unique presence on the site, with the option of using instructional videos as a form of advertising, he said.
Stephanie Reilly, a 19-year-old Fresno State freshman, wasn’t thinking of advertising potential when she shot several how-to fashion videos for the site.
But if the videos lead to a "fashion buzz" among the site’s visitors, that could help draw attention to Poparazzi, the vintage bottle-cap jewelry business she started at the Lyles Center seven months ago and hopes to expand to include a line of clothing and accessories.
"I think it’s a really great deal for businesses to hone in on a niche market of people interested in this Web 2.0 community," she said, using the buzzword for Web sites that incorporate community interactivity.
Matt Sconce, the 26-year-old "Ninja Guy" who can be found sharing techniques for disarming attackers and withstanding pain at WatchDoit.com, also wouldn’t mind any attention he gets from his videos.
A martial artist since the second grade, Sconce is also a filmmaker opening a production company in Fresno, and he said he understands how video clips can propagate themselves across the Internet and create new audiences.
It will all depend, he said, on how WatchDoit.com’s community grows.
"As long as the content keeps coming — and the more recognition it gets, the more content will come," he said.