Vijay Koduri had been working at a payment startup in California when he got a call from his childhood friend Murali Raju. They had known each other from back in the day in Chicago when they both had their own web hosting company. Over time the two took their separate paths in life; Koduri towards Google and Raju to medical school in southern California. But it was Raju’s brief foray into indie film-making that led him to make that call to Koduri and suggest that they both set up Hashcut, an online editing tool that helps fans make videos from their favourite clips from social media videos.
‘Don’t be fooled by Murali’s doctor facade, he’s actually a coder at heart. That’s why I’ve been working on him since high school, saying quit this medicine bhatawas and do something real.’ Koduri said. ‘This neurosurgery he can do on the weekends if he wants but I’d rather he give me some coding on video editing.’
Cut to summer of 2016 where these two brothers from another mother get to work on their newest venture; Raju working on the code behind Hashcut and Koduri on the marketing side of the product. What was clear was that the current process of downloading videos and using complicated software was too cumbersome for many amateurs to use and they set about to fix that. ‘People tend to be intimidated by editing because it’s always these big software packages like Final Cut or Premiere or something where you’ve got to learn it. It’s a big complicated process.’ Raju said, figuring that the story should be a lot easier to tell. ‘If we could make it so that it’s very easy to use then we’d have a tool that would open up that process to a lot more people than just editors.’
Today, they are part of Berkley’s Skydeck Accelerator Program where they’re trying to stay ‘lean and mean’ and, in expanding their online customer base, they’re attacking the task on all fronts. They’ve been in touch with sports leagues in the US as well as film studios in India. ‘One of the things we’ve done with Hashcut is that, outside of manual clippings, we’ve developed some artificial intelligence to do auto-clipping of sports highlights.’ Koduri said, which means that the program can automatically coordinate clips according to specifications, like ‘Steph Curry’s 3-pointers’ or ‘Ronaldo’s goals’ for example.
Because of the rights involved in sports leagues, this route became a little trickier to work out and their main focus of late has been on taking a slice out of the gaming market. Hoping to harness the more than 650 million video game watchers online by allowing fans to auto-clip hours of video game footage into a highlights reel, Koduri said that the ‘market is very much underserved today. They don’t have all of the rights issues as regular sport and there’s growth potential when you look at that market. Those guys are watching more e-Sports than they are regular sports.’
An early coup Hashcut had was in pairing with SNG Comedy from Mumbai where they had a contest asking fans to make mashups from their favourite comedy clips where the best videos would score free tickets to the Youtube Fan Fest that was held in 2016. They had 900 people submit entries which doubled the number of videos that were watched as well as the traffic and minutes watched.
One SNG user couldn’t decide what his favourite was so he made a mashup of 56 clips. ‘We joked that that was the stress test of our system but he was actually able to put it together. We were impressed at how dedicated he was to go through 20 hour-long videos and find 50 different clips. The creators [comedians] were also pleased as they could see what parts of their show really worked.’ Murali said. This led to a second twitter handle Hashcut India which had contests where they asked fans to make clips of their favourite Bollywood moments.
On a related note, Koduri and Raju are also hoping that they can eventually get to audio recognition to make auto clippings based on what the computer hears. Koduri was given a practical use for this next stage when a cousin asked ‘Man, if you could just give me Indian movies and cut out the songs that would be great.’
Being fan-based, they’re also hoping to keep the service free for Youtube creators. ‘We don’t want to charge our fans directly – we want them to be able to give it away to their fans as well.’
Hashcut is available as an extension for Google Chrome