Venice, CA-based Laffster today announced the release of its political satire and humor discovery app, Mock the Vote, and the closing of a $750,000 seed round funding from Greylock Partners, Howard Lindzon of StockTwits, and Adam Nash, former VP at LinkedIn, among other angel investors. The company wants to help people discover online comedic content as easily as they would music, wanting to be for online humour what Pandora and Songza are for music. It plans to use the funding to build out its team and continue to develop the platform with the help of researchers from its institute partners Dartmouth and UC Boulder. It is also a graduate of the Santa Monica-based startup accelerator MuckerLab.
The company was founded by Dan Altmann, formerly at CollegeHumor’s parent company InterActive Corp, Eric Posen, and Geoff Plitt, a former Google engineer who also performs as a standup comedian. “I spent some time studying this massive nature of people wanting humor online, it’s more than 50 percent of all videos watched, it overtook news as of 2010 online, and really saw this massive market but because of the nature of what was going on, you had to go 10 different sites to find one piece of comedic content,” Altmann said in an interview. “We wanted to take what we saw as actively scattered even within YouTube and really put some sophistication and technology behind it, in ways that music has had for years.”
The launch of its Mock the Vote app is the first project for the company, and aims to leverage its comedic content discovery algorithm and API. The app categorizes humorous content by political leaning and allows users to pick a side, or stay neutral. It will include original content from partners like Maker Studios, The New Yorker’s cartoon desk in addition to curated satirical content from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Saturday Night Live and The Onion. “One in three of Americans 40 and younger see satirical sources as replacements to traditional news. We wanted to take that idea and apply it with our technology through a very simple and easy to use application,” Altmann added.
The app is free to download with the company focused on gaining traction and building out their user acquisition strategy, however it sees a variety of monetization opportunities in content sponsorship and advertising by virtue of their strategic partnerships and content licensing agreements that would give the company the ability to tap into their audiences.
Discovery is the word of the hour, with every brand, content creator, and consumer looking to have a wide assortment of ways to have content framed in a manner that’s easy to access. In terms of video discovery, recently companies like fliqq have launched to help users get together with friends to share videos, not to mention Pinterest-style video discovery tool Chill which enables users to discover videos according to genres and includes a ‘funny’ category, not to mention sites like MovieClip or AnyClip let let users browse video clips via a variety of filters. However, Laffster sees itself more as a backend technology provider that can be applied to any form of online comedic content.
“We started working with different production companies as well as traditional rights holders at movie studios to show how we can take traditional catalogues or constantly-updated portfolios of content and drive more views to them,” Altmann said. “We’ve done some tests and different kind of outreach with content on our own Laffster.com property and YouTube and we’ve shown that users who discover content in an easier way watch more, so our goal in the future is how to get users to watch more video and not have to jump to ten different platforms.”
The company views its own apps as a testing ground for its backend technology and hopes to enable other third-party platforms to leverage its API to enable better content discovery on their sites. It will also be looking to launch an Android version of its Mock the Vote app, and iterate on its offerings based on user feedback. Laffster recognizes that its technology could also be leveraged for other genres of content, but will have to prove itself in driving views for online comedic content first before testing new waters.