College of Arts and Sciences alumna Susan Danziger ’86 is co-founder and CEO of Ziggeo, a technology company whose cloud-based video software is used by companies such as GoFundMe, SAP, and Netflix.
What does Ziggeo do, and what problem does it solve?
Ziggeo’s technology lets web platforms record and play videos from anyone, anywhere in the world. Previously, it was difficult to securely capture videos so that they could be played across all devices and browsers. Companies would dedicate huge engineering resources to build the technology from scratch. Now, by embedding just two lines of code, any platform can record and play videos easily, right from their site — Ziggeo handles the recording, transcoding, playback and storage. Our technology powers video recording and playback for a myriad of platforms, including educational and training platforms, financial services, e-commerce, customer service – even dating sites.
How did you get the idea for your business, and how did it change along the way?
My co-founder, Oliver Friedmann, and I were actually in the process of building a job recruitment platform with video at the heart of it. We found that no video technology existed that we could simply plug into our platform. We spent months building this seminal piece of technology from scratch. That’s when we realized that the video technology itself, and not the recruitment platform, should be our business. Once we realized that we should focus on video, we quickly decided to close our recruitment platform. It was effectively 18 months of work down the drain. But with that decision, our previous competitors in the recruitment space became our customers, and we expanded well beyond what we had originally imagined.
How has your experience at Cornell impacted how you approach business?
Cornell gave me the confidence to challenge the status quo and to make my dreams a reality. Having studied art history and comparative literature, I wasn’t exactly primed for launching a technology company. But I learned critical thinking and the ability to articulate my vision, both of which have helped me immensely. And classes such as art history, literature and Italian gave me an appreciation of the world that has helped more than you can imagine. At its core, the human connection is what Ziggeo is about: letting us see and hear from people around the world so that we can appreciate who they truly are. Cornell also gave me my first taste of running an organization: I was the leader of the living-learning community I lived in on campus.
Was there a particular faculty member, class or program that influenced you the most? If so, how?
I was in the College Scholar program, which was then led by A&S associate dean Lynne Abel. The program gave me the freedom to choose classes and put together my own curriculum. It was the ultimate entrepreneurial education: structuring my education to fit my interests.
What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? Why?
I’m proud to have built a profitable business with an award-winning, best-in-class technology without accepting venture capital funding. I chose to grow the company on my own terms and not those set by investors. There is a huge freedom in not having to take outside funding, and I appreciate that freedom every day.
Who or what inspires you?
For me, inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time. It may come from a customer email, while speaking with a taxi driver or over drinks on a beach. The key is to be open to new ideas and to do the work to test them out.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?
Just start. Don’t overthink your idea. Once you launch, you’ll quickly discover what works and what doesn’t. Also, if you have an idea for a business, start talking about it with your family, friends, anyone. Don’t be afraid that someone is going to steal the idea. It’s all about the execution. The more input you have, the better.
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This interview was conducted by Savannah Whiting of Cornell Strategic Communications.