A group of Chicago entrepreneurs has started Strimm TV, which lets people and businesses pick from among their own videos and those available on the web to create their own personalized TV channels online for free. In the year since it was launched, the “social internet” video platform has grown to 1,133 channels created by people in 126 countries worldwide, including 783 channels that play continuously, according to Max Stolyarov of Northbrook, one of the cofounders. Stolyarov, a native of Ukraine whose family fled the former Soviet Union as religious refugees in 1987, spoke with Sandra Guy of the Chicago Sun-Times. An edited transcript follows.
Question: You and your partners are taking no salaries while you’re building this online video platform. What’s the goal?
Answer: A profound shift is coming very soon in television. Young people, in particular, are asking why they have to pay for a big cable TV package and only watch the video that’s offered there.
Also, parents need to have greater control in customizing the video their children watch.
We have a search bar so the viewer can find videos by user, by channel or by videos currently playing. When my 12-year-old son says he needs to learn something about the Middle Ages, I can search videos on the topic and organize and curate them. I then show it to him on a channel I create, in a scheduled and curated format.
We built our platform to be social, customizable and with continuously broadcasting TV channels.
Q: How does it work?
A: People can go to our website — http://www.strimm.com — and watch custom TV channels in the categories they love. They can also register, produce their own videos, upload videos and set up a TV channel.
Strimm differs from online video services such as Vimeo, Netflix and YouTube. Strimm provides any individual and organization with the tools to structure and schedule their video content in a continuous live-video stream — like traditional TV. They can create a 24/7 channel with unique daily programming.
Q: Who has created channels?
A: There are specialty channels, cooking channels, movie channels, entertainment channels. There’s a channel called Inspirations about people who’ve made the world better — like Michelangelo, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla. Another person is showing hip-hop competitions in his neighborhood. There are channels in English, Spanish, French and more.
Q: How is Strimm interactive?
A: People can chat online while watching and share the channels. We are set to roll out additional social features very soon so people watching the videos can post questions in real time, discuss by posting comments on-screen and send and recommend videos to others as the videos are streaming.
Q: How does it work for businesses?
A: Businesses pay $9.99 to $89.99 per month, based on the package, for adding TV channels to their websites.
Q: After Niles West High School, you and your twin brother Denis attended the Illinois Institute of Technology. You’ve said you have the White Sox and Jerry Reinsdorf to thank for your college educations?
A: The White Sox have a scholarship program through IIT. My brother and I had very good grades in high school even though we worked since 15 — bagging groceries, working at a True Value hardware store and spending our senior year creating a line of temperature controllers as drafters at PolyScience, a Niles company that specializes in temperature-control equipment. My brother and I applied for the scholarship, and we both got one. We are very grateful to the White Sox because we had no money to go to college. I majored in mechanical engineering and minored in computer science.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I have three sons, and we like to go camping and skiing. We build and race RC speedboats, sailboats and quadcopters.