2023 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: Clips AI, University of Texas (McCombs)

Clips AI

University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Industry: Software as a Service (Video & AI)

Founding Student Name(s): Armel Talla (Co-Founder & CEO), Benjamin Smidt (Co-Founder & CTO), Vedant Nair (Co-Founder & COO), Johann Ramirez (Founding Engineer)

Brief Description of Solution: AI that repurposes long videos (i.e. podcasts and streams) into clips.

Funding Dollars: $25K in non-dilutive funding from grants and pitch competitions

What led you to launch this venture? During their freshman year, Ben and Armel started the Adapt or Die Podcast. The podcast focused on their passion for life learning, with each episode focusing on extracting takeaways from a book they enjoyed. They found some initial success with their podcast but sought ways to grow their audience even further. Their answer was social media: By posting clips of their podcast onto TikTok, their listener count exploded. But the growth was unsustainable. Ben struggled to create the clips, spending 15-20 hours of mind-numbing work each week to edit the content.

We knew there was a better way to clip content, so we used AI to help automate parts of this workflow. The tool helped Ben save hours of time every week and gave him the most optimal clips to post for maximum engagement. When other creators told us this was a problem they also faced, Clips AI was born.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Since we’ve launched our beta at the end of June 2023, we’ve amassed over 7,000 monthly active users and have paying customers.

How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Startup founders are usually jacks-of-all-trades, and I feel as though my Management Information Systems degree with a computer science certificate empowers that skill set. My exposure to technical classes lends me the ability to build tools while my pure business classes give me the logic to execute the strategies.

In short, my business major has taught me how to learn quickly and be adaptable, two things that make-or-break startup success.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? I enjoyed Longhorn Startup Lab (LSS), a semester-long ‘incubator’ that gives student founders the chance to develop their products and pitch for investments. The course gave me exposure to founders and venture capitalists who greatly helped refine our vision, iterate on feedback, and introduce us to potential users.

Best of all, at LSS we met our advisor, Jacqueline Samira, CEO and Co-Founder of Howdy.com. She’s been instrumental in our success, helping us see around corners as the problems we face continue to evolve.

What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? While he doesn’t teach a class, McComb’s Entrepreneur-In-Residence, Quoc Tran, has been an invaluable mentor to me. Quoc has helped build multiple companies, raised funds, and applied to accelerators. He’s been great at giving me candid feedback on how I can improve as a founder.

Thanks to Quoc, I’ve learned powerful mental frameworks for growth that I’ve applied to the company.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy has always been an inspiration of mine. I started using Khan Academy as an elementary schooler and it helped me fall in love with learning. The videos were simple, the lessons were helpful, and the gamification made me compete even harder to learn more.

It was the perfect software for millions of kids around the world and one that will prove as a defining factor of my generation’s education.

As I grew older, I reflected more on the power of Sal Khan’s vision. It seemed laughable that someone could be the teacher for everyone in the world. It seemed laughable until he did it. The purity of his vision was reflected in the quality that he delivered. Executing on such an idea only seemed possible for someone who was wholly focused on helping people, not generating wealth or fame.

As a founder myself, Khan Academy also helped solidify the mantra ‘do things that don’t scale’. What started as a few YouTube videos has now transformed into Khanmigo, a personalized AI tutor that (in my opinion) will be a primary source of learning for >1 billion kids in the future.

His story makes it clear that one idea can fundamentally change the world. It’s his story that inspires me to use my talents and ambition to build things that contribute to humanity’s ability to survive, thrive, and advance.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? My co-founders and I grew up in the generation of video. We learned from Khan Academy (and unfortunately Zoom lectures), were entertained by YouTube, and talked to friends and family through video chat. We empathize with the rapid proliferation of video in every nook and cranny of the internet.

However, video is still difficult to navigate. Most video search is based on the titles, hashtags, and transcriptions that tag the video.  Even the most advanced search algorithms struggle to see and understand what’s actually going on in the pixels themselves. Our mission with Clips AI is to make it easier for the world to search and manipulate videos with AI. We aim to help developers more easily use AI to create video experiences that are seamless and user-friendly, not clunky and technical.

One day, things like autonomous vehicles and AI healthcare assistants will see the world through video. We will be there to power them.

As for what’s next for our team, we’re building a video search engine that allows users to use natural language to search through moments in videos. We’d love to get your feedback on it – look out for updates at clipsai.com.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? For all the reasons that I attended the University of Texas, a burgeoning entrepreneurship scene wasn’t something that crossed my mind. However, I’ve been amazed by the wealth of great ideas and ambitious founders in Austin, both on campus and beyond. These people have motivated me to work harder and given me room to unabashedly think big. I met my co-founders here, playing basketball after class and eating dinner at the dining hall, discussing our big dreams between every bite. It’s hard to imagine that a story like mine could have happened anywhere else. Just some kids from Texas looking to make their home state proud.

I’m bullish about Austin because we’re trailblazing our own culture. We’re hungry, foolish, and excited to build. We’ve watched as our city has slowly climbed onto the world stage and are now motivated to push it over the edge.


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