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Saturday, December 27, 2014

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Web services company puts you in the picture

Tags: Business
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Percy 3D brings together all of company founder Julie Steiner’s interests.

WALL-E, the lovable childlike robot from the movie of the same name, has a cousin in Toronto. His name is Percy.

Percy is innocent, cute and fully tuned in to the high-tech world of downloadable apps and scientific whiz-bangery. Unlike his more famous Hollywood cyber kin, however, Percy is not a movie star, though he does have a connection to the entertainment industry.

Percy is the front “man” – make that front automaton – for Percy3D, a startup company that bridges the world of Hollywood fantasy and corporate marketing. Founded by Julie Steiner, Percy3D offers consumers and retailers the opportunity to “put yourself in the picture” through personalized 3-D visual effects to send a fun message. “Percy,” in fact, is a short form for “personalized.”

The company’s “video personalization platform” is a downloadable app that permits the user to append a message to a scene from some of Hollywood’s most popular films. The clips are only 10 to 12 seconds long, at the end of which you can type in a text message for friends, colleague or business associates.

It’s not unlike the flat 2-D video greetings that have been available for years, but Percy3D takes the process one or two steps further by employing real scenes from Hollywood blockbusters licensed from Universal and Paramount studios.

You can have John Belushi, of Animal House vintage, spit out a message on your behalf, or tack on a greeting to a scene from Back to the Future. Other new and classic films that get the three-dimensional treatment include Kong, Hop, Forrest Gump and Despicable Me. Percy3D permits users to create “vanity videos” while adding its own audio to complete the effect.

PercyFX, the downloadable and save-able app, is an important component of the company’s business, Steiner said. Available at Blackberry App World and the App Store, it features a real 3-D look that’s as far from simple 2-D cartoons as today’s video games are from Pong.

So far, in only a few months of operation, the company has recorded more than 50,000 downloads to a variety of devices, such as iPads and BlackBerrys. Coming soon are downloads for Android devices and Windows phones.

The app itself is free but customers pay for movie clips – $2.99 for 10 or $4.99 for 20. Once downloaded to your device, “you take possession of the file,” Steiner said.

Steiner believes Percy3D is just beginning to gather steam as retailers and film studios see it as another way of monetizing their assets. The business concept brings together social media, movies and technology, items that appeal to today’s tech-savvy population. “People like to personalize things,” Steiner said. Even when she was a kid, “I got personal licence plates for my bike.”

Retailers like it because it’s a marketing tool that spreads their brand around while providing a fun application to their customers.

There’s lots of potential to further monetize the product by working with retailers to continue developing the items to make it even more attractive to customers, perhaps by adding personalized photo files, she said.

“We’re in the beginning stages of pulling different revenue levers,” she said.

Steiner came up with the idea for the product in 2008. “It’s all about me,” she said. “This company brings together all my interests.”

Prior to founding Percy3D, Steiner worked as director of strategic accounts for Side Effects Software. Before that she was in sales for the Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, and she’s worked in post-production at Sullivan Entertainment, a multimedia company.

When she started pulling together the components of Percy3D in 2008, during the worst part of the economic downturn, she found that raising money was not easy. She did succeed in finding a group of “angel investors” who came through with funds to get the company going. The angels took a piece of the company, and she took the other piece.

“I’m fortunate in that I’ve got very patient investors,” she said.

Looking ahead, Steiner believes she can grow the company by improving PercyFX’s profile in the Apple Store. It doesn’t take much to get a product placed in the store, but to be on the website’s opening page, which everyone sees – that’s like hitting a marketing home run. Or, as WALL-E might appreciate, like seeing a green bud sprout from a mass of clutter.

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