Last summer, Harvard i-lab resident Momchil Filev and his cofounder Denis Grosz were brainstorming ways to help promote their new startup BestReviews, a platform designed to help consumers find expert recommendations on products as varied as water heaters and credit cards. They had an idea for a video that would introduce users to their service through a fun visualization of the computer age.
And so, “Evolution of the Desk” — which has reached 150 million viewers online, found its way on display in museums, Fortune 500 executive presentations, and news shows around the world — was born.
“We wanted to show how technology has revolutionized our world and made our lives simpler,” Momchil said. “It’s difficult to see how the digital transformation has taken place when you look back at it year by year, but taking a snapshot of a longer period shows the truly dramatic changes we have witnessed.”
To create the short film, Momchil and his team first had to put together a home office from the 1980’s. They purchased vintage items from consignment shops, garage sales, and individual collectors, including everything from a rolodex to a fax machine. They then hired a freelance videographer, Doug Thomsen, to photograph the evolution of the desk through the dawn of the Internet era.
The public response the video received was shocking, to say the least. “We thought it was an interesting project,” Momchil says, “we had no idea it would receive even a tiny fraction of the attention that it did.”
Within hours of launching, the video was circulating virally on Facebook and Twitter, and eventually ended up featured on the popular technology site Gizmodo. From there, other publications like FastCompany, Wired, and Time picked it up. Then, Forbes, Newsweek, and Bloomberg called. Within a month, the video had be featured on the front pages of major newspapers in Brazil, Portugal, England, Italy, Spain, and Hungary, and also spread like wildfire in Asia.
While it has gone on to receive 150 million online views (and counting), what has really made an impression on Momchil has been the offline interest in the video. “A few months ago, we had an inquiry from one of the largest contemporary museums in Paris to put our video on display in an exhibition,” Momchil says. Several other museums have since followed suit.
“We also have had public companies use the video in their own marketing materials, executive presentations, and internal conferences,” he added. The video has been featured in news shows, research papers, college lectures, and even homework assignments.
And what happened to the company itself, BestReviews, the product behind the “Evolution of the Desk” video? The platform now has 3 million monthly visitors and is growing.
“The video was the catalyst we needed to get the business going,” Momchil says.
So, what’s next for Momchil and his team? “We are diligently working on a sequel,” Momchil says. He won’t reveal more details, but he implied that it will tell the rest of the story — the next step in the evolution of technology.
“It will be hard to follow in the footsteps of the first video,” Momchil says, “but if it’s even one percent as successful as the original, we’ll see it as a success.”