Yoni Bloch’s latest project began with a flash of inspiration in the recording studio. Bloch, an Israeli rock star and former host of the local version of “American Idol,” couldn’t come to an agreement with his band mates over who would get to play a particular solo.
“In the middle of the argument, we said, ‘You know what? Let’s just record all the solos and see what people choose,'” he says.
To make that happen, Bloch, 32, swapped his guitar for a laptop. He and his fellow musicians formed Interlude, a technology company that lets fans instantly remix songs and videos. Their startup helps musicians, directors and advertisers create interactive videos that allow Web watchers to switch between various scenes with the tap of a button.
Interlude’s best-known project is an interactive music video for “Like a Rolling Stone,” which singer Bob Dylan commissioned last year. The video lets viewers flip through 16 mock television channels, using the up and down arrows on the keyboard, where different characters are shown lip-syncing the classic Dylan hit. Fans tuned in more than 70 million times to create their own custom videos. Bloch, Interlude’s chief executive officer, told Bloomberg Television that the Dylan video contains “billions of different combinations.”
In Israel, tech entrepreneurs seem to be the new rock stars. The country has become one of the hottest startup scenes on the planet, thanks in part to recent billion-dollar acquisitions of homegrown companies, such as Google’s purchase of Waze and Rakuten’s deal for Viber. That activity has caught the eye of foreign investors, including those in Silicon Valley.
Interlude has raised about $20 million in funding from backers such as Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. The startup, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York, has filed a dozen patents, according to Bloch. He says they’re testing versions of the technology that use eye-tracking software as well as one that runs on Oculus Rift, the virtual-reality headset that Facebook is acquiring.
In addition to high-end versions of the content-creation tools targeted at professionals, Interlude has a website called Treehouse that aims to enable anyone to craft their own interactive works. Treehouse was the center of a global music video competition, where winners were featured this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Beyond music, Interlude has created ads for PepsiCo, Subaru, Lincoln Motor, Shell Oil and ESPN. Interactive content helps advertisers better understand whether people are paying attention, what they click on and when they lose interest, according to the company. These attributes could also translate to other industries. Bloch says universities plan to use Interlude to create interactive classes, and real-estate agents are using it to provide virtual tours of homes.
“The time is ripe for the next evolution in how people interact with films, rather than just watching them,” Bloch says.
Bloch describes this as a “megalomaniac vision.” At least that’s one quality that rock stars and tech entrepreneurs have in common.