San Francisco- and New York City-based social video platform Spreecast announced today that it has added $7 million in Series A funding from investors including Meakem Becker Venture Capital, GGV Capital and MentorTech Ventures, including participation from existing investors. Spreecast’s platform allows people to create live or recorded video chats and encourages viewer participation, and it’s currently being used by bloggers, journalists, and media companies, including VH1 and Sports Illustrated.
Spreecast’s browser-based live social video platform targets both content creators and viewers who want to engage in live “spreecasts.” The platform allows up to four people video chat at one time, either publicly or privately, and anyone can watch and participate in spreecasts by submitting comments and questions during the session. Spreecasts are automatically recorded, and in February the company introduced the ability to embed them across the web. The company debuted an update to their producer dashboard in July, so hosts can see who’s watching at any given time, privately chat with other producers, and control who gets to claim one of the video slots.
Founder Jeff Fluhr was the founder of StubHub, and launched Spreecast in November 2011. He said this new round of funding will be used for hiring, community, developing partnerships, and product development. He also said they’ll be using the funding for several new features and additions that have been requested by users, including mobile apps, and the ability to export video files. “The goal is really to invest in product development, the features and accessibility of our product,” Fluhr said in an interview. “We want to build out new core features and functionality based on feedback from our user base about what they want in our product.”
While the company doesn’t have a monetization strategy in place right now, Fluhr said they’ll be adding subscription accounts with premium features for business users or producers with specific needs, and they’ll be adding advertising to the site. They’ll also be giving producers the ability to charge for their spreecasts.
Fluhr said the company targets several different audiences, namely media companies looking to promote their content, notable personalities who use it to engage with their fans, and social media enthusiasts who use Spreecast to discuss current events. The company has worked with politicians, celebrities, and musicians, and notable users have included author Paulo Coelho, who discussed his new book, actress Reese Witherspoon, and Glee actor Chris Colfer.
Though there are countless video creation and video chat tools available, from YouTube to Airtime to Skype, Fluhr points to Spreecast’s interactive components as its biggest differentiator. “YouTube and Socialcam are both all about recorded videos, Skype and iChat are all about private video calls,” he said. “We’re much more about an interactive broadcast, in many ways we’re more like TV than we are like the telephone.”
The company’s biggest competitor in terms of similar feature sets is Google+ Hangouts, which provides similar group video chat functionality within Google+’s social network. Again, Fluhr pointed to Spreecast’s interactivity, noting that viewers on their platform have the ability to chat with other viewers and ask questions, while Google+ Hangouts focus primarily on video. “Our player is very interactive, and their player is very passive,” Fluhr said. Google+ does support screensharing though, something Spreecast users can only do by installing webcam tool ManyCam, and it also allows users to add apps like Slideshare for presentations, and YouTube to pull in videos.
The company raised $4 million in seed funding in December 2011 from investors including former Viacom CEO Frank Biondi, and though they’re not disclosing traffic or user numbers, their most-viewed Spreecast to date was in August, with over 930,000 views. Fluhr said moving forward the company will be looking to form partnerships with content creators, which will ultimately help give them the distribution they need to stand out against other video platforms.