Interview: Lisa McCabe, president of YesVideo

Since 1999, YesVideo has provided a wide array of media conversion services for consumers, beginning with transferring of videotapes and home movies to CD. Lisa McCabe, a 20-year veteran of the company who was named president last year, shared some insights into what has kept the company at the forefront of the market. 

“Our mission, our guiding principle, over the many years has not changed,” says McCabe. “We care deeply about helping people preserve and relive their fading memories. How do we do that? We make our service widely available through large retailers and we enable our global licensees to do the same. We truly are on a mission to save memories from fading away!”

Lisa McCabe, president, YesVideo

At first, the need for a conversion service seemed obvious, but it evolved greatly over time.

“As I look back at our starting concept, it was very much before it’s time and is now, over the last few years, coming to fruition,” says McCabe. “Our founder, Sai-Wai Fu,  had the vision to enable consumers to view and enjoy their analog memories online. We called it webcasting back then today it is the likes of Google Photos.”

McCabe on the early startup team. A film major in college in the U.K., she interviewed for a marketing internship, thinking it would be a short-term assignment. “YesVideo really pulled me, in I was heavily involved with customer service operations to start.” CEO Michael Chang passed the reigns to her last year.

From her vantage point from the early days, McCabe has seen YesVideo adapt to changing customer requirements several times.

“We started as a direct to consumer business and then quickly realized that a retail supply chain would enhance our reach,” she said. “Independent camera stores through Kodak was our first step into retail, we then moved to large retail chains through Kodak/Qualex. We expanded rapidly as we took on more retail chains. By 2004 we were servicing many retailers through Kodak and Fujifilms’ pick-up/delivery logistics.

“As we grew, we enabled Kodak to capture on-site using our platform, to eliminate the need to send the customer’s media on an additional journey to our processing lab,” she added. “In 2004 we deployed 400 minilabs throughout the Ritz Camera retail chain to provide video and image transfer in-store. This was powerful in the sense we were capturing the customer’s content without it ever leaving the store. It was a great fit with Ritz as their employees were technical. As you can imagine, sales for this were strong due to the very appealing in-store 24-hour turnaround time. The minilabs remained a staple at Ritz until they closed their doors.”

As Qualex and Fujifilm’s photofinishing logistics declined, retailers shifted to working directly with YesVideo: “By 2010, we were servicing about 85% of photo counters in the United States through Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and many others,” she said.

Global aspirations

YesVideo has global aspirations, as well. The company began to license its patented technology to partners servicing retailers in Asia, Europe and beyond.

Also around that time, YesVideo executives knew customers would be soon starting to think about viewing and sharing content line. “That was our original dream in 1999,” says McCabe. “We launched our cloud platform that was positioned as an add on feature to the transfer to DVD offering. People were starting to grasp the cloud! We believe it’s the ultimate solution.” That’s one reason why YesVideo has partnered with Google Photos for long-term storage. (One of the next challenges will be getting the digitized photos from CDs and DVDs from YesVideo’s previous 10 million families into the cloud, she adds.)

McCabe says, despite the fact the company has been in business for 20 years – and there are now numerous competitors – the demand for conversion services will remain buoyant for years to come. “There are $17 billion in video and film deteriorating in closets,” she said. “There is a ticking time bomb in the attic. People need to be made aware their media is fading.”

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Despite the changes in technologies – from CDs to DVDs and now direct to web – McCabe says the common thread of saving customer memories has been an on-going inspiration.

“The mission, to save memories, was right up my alley,” she says. “My happiness comes from delighting customers when we bring their memories back to life it brings them genuine joy. I absolutely loved this about YesVideo. I continued to grow at YesVideo with a heavy focus on customer service, which remains my true passion to date and a great match for our retail partners who rely heavily on a positive customer experience to gain them loyalty,

“Being customer-centric is key. We are entrusted with people’s irreplaceable memories. More often than not, the media that they hand over for transfer is their only copy. We are customer centric in everything that we do at YesVideo through our quality standard as well as our heavy focus on keeping customers memories safe at all times,” adds McCabe. “Internally, we are a software company that helps manage the incredible scale we have; imagine 2,000 videotapes, film and slide orders arriving at your door every day. Each order has its own idiosyncrasies.

“So what has changed? The output format is what has changed. When we entered the market, the common transfer was transfer to VHS – not even digital! We entered with transfer to digital offering CDs for PC playback as the output. We then quickly moved along to DVDs and then coupled it with putting it online. For us, online has evolved as consumers have evolved in how they store, view and share. We had our own storage platform but ultimately realized that we are making the problem of fragmented content worse by providing yet another place to store your content online. Last year we partnered with Google Photos to transfer content to the customer’s Google Photos account after it had been digitized. This is the current offering coupled with a DVD.”

A turning point for memories

“Consumer acceptance of the cloud has only been in the last 3-5 years,” says McCabe. “DVDs are going away. Our estimate is that by 2021, DVD players will be rare to non-existent. Take a look at Netflix’s data: Back in 2017 Netflix was down to 3% of subscribing households requesting DVDs vs streaming. It’s tough to even buy a DVD player or a computer with a DVD drive now.

“We are at a turning point because the next phase is the ultimate solution: By transferring customers memories to the cloud, it is digital and managed by a third party, we see this as the end point for their content,” she adds. “Whether it is streaming in your living room, sharing through an app or making a canvas to hang on the wall and enjoy. By unlocking these memories and delivering them to a publisher we have arrived at the end point.”

The biggest challenge, according to McCabe, is the fact digital memories are scattered across on different services, from Google Photos, Amazon Drive to individual photo storage site. She believes there will be a few online services who will store the majority of people’s digital memories

“Fragmentation is challenging for both consumers and publishers,” she says, explaining why YesVideo has chosen to partner with Google Photos for storage. “By encouraging consumers to keep everything in their one chosen place, we dramatically improve the experience for the consumer as well as solving challenges for the publishers.”