Jérome Taillé-Rousseau and I had been thinking about the importance of user experience in Television for a long time : one day, new technical means (network bandwidth, mass storage) and multi-screens usages would enable a "smart delinearization" of TV.
So we had the idea to build up a Network TV Recorder that provided end-users with copies of television programs as old VHS recorders used to do : simply by clicking on a red/rec button. The service shoud be designed with two basic features : it would enable recording in one click from an EPG available everywhere and user could get a copy that could be played on any devices: PCs, TV boxes, video iPod (smartphones did not exist yet…).
So we founded wizzgo with $200,000. We hired our first developper to design iWizz an iTunes-like desktop client-app that was both the EPG and the download-sync manager. Jerome was working on legal and marketing points. I was developping the back-end recording system.
Our mockup finished, we started running after business angels, VC's and all people or organizations that could finance the launch of our service…
In summer 2007, we convinced Innovacom a French tech VC to finance the commercial launch of the service with a $2.5 million funding round. Then, we deployed the system in 5 months, hiring 6 people more and finally released a beta version on May 2008.
The service was online on sunday, May 18 at 5 am after a very stressing debugging night. A few hours later, a TechnCrunch blog journalist made a post with an awesome title : "Wizzgo, a service that could blast Joost". Then the wildfire happened… 12,000 users in 72 hours, 80.000 by the end of june and finally 400.000 users on november 2008. Almost all the French newspapers, TVs and tech bloggers were talking about the wizzgo phenomenon with enthousiastic words. However, some comments were asking the question whether TV broadcasters would let wizzgo grow or not.
Lawsuits came one month after the launch. The first one was introduced by M6, quickly TF1 and a few other broadcasters followed…
Wizzgo lost before the lower Paris Court, judges saying that wizzgo service was not "fair use" but copyright infringment. Then came the time of heavy fines : on november 2008, the startup was condamned to a $2 million fine that sounded like death penalty.
Supported by 86,000 people who signed its online petition, wizzgo wrote a letter to President Sarkozy. As parliament was discussing the Creation and Internet law (HADOPI Law), wizzgo was auditioned by the National Assembly and the Senate commission to expose its case. An amendment to the law was proposed by the Socialist Party to definitively legalize this means of on-line and cloud recording. This amendment was rejected by the Government and its parliament majority.
Wizzgo had to stop on january 2009.