Shaukat Shamim, the mind behind the Yahoo Messenger, is the CEO & Founder of Youplus, a technology company that has built the world’s first video opinion search engine. Shaukat is a successful serial entrepreneur and technologist with a long track record of driving breakthrough tech innovations. I spoke to Shaukat on his inspiring entrepreneurial journey and how he is steering a never-before-seen innovation in video with his startup Youplus.
Shaukat graduated in Computer Science from the University of Texas, Austin in 1994 when America, particularly Austin, was still recovering from an economic downturn due to which there were far fewer jobs. Shaukat says “Necessity is the mother of invention. As I had no choice of employment when I graduated, I had to per force, start my own venture which soon fell through as I lacked the experience. I joined Symantec the following year and then Yahoo after a while where I led the creation of Yahoo Messenger. It was an interesting time but I felt the need to move on. In retrospect, that was amongst the wisest choices I made as I joined a venture capital firm from where I learned all about business. Being a hardcore techie, I had absolutely no idea how businesses were run and this stint helped me build that skill which helped me in the years to come.”
Shaukat’s entrepreneurial itch surfaced and he quit his job to follow his dream of building his own company Rhythm New Media which sold and served video, rich media and other immersive advertising formats to connect brand advertisers with mobile audiences. In less than 4 years, it was acquired by Blinkx.
Shaukat says “In 2010, I began working on my new company Buysight which was an online display advertising network that provided solutions for brand and performance advertisers. Buysight could accurately predict what over 65 million individual shoppers wanted to buy and connected them to companies that best meet their needs with instantly personalized, relevant offers for products they were interested in. It was basically a channel that created more relevant, meaningful, and profitable connections between buyers and sellers. I would say that we were ten years ahead of time. AOL saw that potential and bought it in just over two years since its inception. After the acquisition, I started another company which did not do well.”
Shaukat knew from early on that the video space was big and with decreasing customer attention and increasing competition, more companies were going to look at videos as their primary marketing medium. He shares “74% of all traffic on the internet is video content and a humongous 5 billion videos are searched on a daily basis. The attention span of people is reducing and they prefer videos over text. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said that he views videos as a megatrend. We realized the potential of videos long back and placed our bet on the same by launching Youplus in 2016. However, today, short attention spans demand shorter videos. Short-form videos are the new wave. Youplus is the world’s first Video Opinion Search Engine (VOISE), with a mission to understand a billion people through videos. VOISE separates salient sections of opinion from videos into single topic short-form video opinions. Further, our cognitive AI engine interprets and indexes the rich, meaningful opinion people have shared in videos. We have created the largest catalog of single-topic short-form opinion videos. The web has evolved beyond text and we are the only company in the world which measures video information to help companies with insights that deep dive into customer behavior, empowering them to leverage real opinions, real facts of real people to enhance decision-making and consumer experience that help build stronger relationships with their consumers. We use very high tech artificial intelligence which helps us provide massive actionable insights in a matter of hours which earlier would take weeks and even months to gather. With AI-powered technology, we isolate and measure human emotion captured in videos.”
Youplus has over 800 of the biggest brands/ agencies as their customers including Tyson, eBay, Unilever, BMW, Proctor & Gamble, Samsung, Coca-Cola, and Colgate. Their tools help companies measure their brand and product perception, shopper behavior insight, ad effectiveness, customer lifestyle analysis and such.
Youplus has been tracking the pulse of the people with regard to the ongoing Indian elections by using their proprietary application MIC to collect opinion videos and extract informative insights. Shaukat shares “We are merely sharing what the people are talking about in their videos and such insights are always fascinating. We did something similar for the Oscars. We decoded information on the trends and celebrities that people were talking about, from their videos. With machine learning, we read videos to decipher what people say and how they say it – from facial expressions to voice modulation. It helps to understand why people think, feel, and act the way they do about anything. This understanding is made possible using our unique TFS – True Feel Score methodology where we score sentiments using a proprietary system.”
On the future of Youplus
Shaukat has immense faith in his team and the product alike which is the only one of its kind in the world. He says “We have offices all over but India is the hotbed of tech innovation. We have such amazingly talented people here and having traveled, met and worked with people all over the globe, I can say that Indians surely possess the best brains. These brilliant minds are the ones who have the potential to make Youplus a 10 billion dollar company.”