Today New York City-based startup fliqq announced the launch of its content-sharing platform which lets users watch, discover, and discuss videos in real-time. It simulates the offline experience of gathering and huddling around a single computer to watch YouTube videos, giving viewers access to a virtual room that has capacity for over 100 participants. The company has received $300,000 from private angel investors and will be looking to raise additional funding in the near future.
“We’ve been fascinated with the whole idea of being able to see the presence of other people online at the same time and forming groups and collaborating around what we call common content, whether it’s a video, photos, or a website,” co-founder and CEO Christian Bendixen said in an interview. “When we first did an alpha test, what we noticed was 80 percent of the time instead of going to a website, people were sharing YouTube videos and other types of entertainment, so we decided to focus on entertainment to get it off the ground, and we developed fliqq as a result of that.”
Once users sign up they get access to their own ‘room’ with a built-in viewer and access to YouTube videos, with the ability to invite friends through email or Facebook. If users sign in with Facebook, they can see which friends are online through Facebook chat, and those friends are immediately populated on their fliqq dashboard. There is a built-in filtering feature that categorizes videos by those trending right now, favorited videos, videos curated by the fliqq team, and users can also browse by artists or follow fliqq users with a public room. The search bar also allows for the ability to preview a video before a person ‘fliqqs it’ and it plays on everyone’s screen. The rooms owner can allow anyone to fliqq a video, or lock the option and be the only one to choose, and the chat feature allows anyone to comment while watching the video.
Bendixen said right now the company’s emphasis is on building a great user experience and ramping up the user base, and right now it’s free to access for all users. However, Bendixen commented that they have plans in mind, and also plan to create partnerships with content providers, something he said they will disclose further details about down the road.
In terms of potential for the platform, the social video space is one that has attracted users and investor attention as of late. Companies like ShelbyTV, which is currently down with a new platform launching soon, brings together all the videos friends share across their social networks on one aggregated news feed, while others like Chill provides a Pinterest-style video viewing and sharing experience. There are also social video sharing tools like Spreecast (which just raised $7 million in funding) and Google+ Hangouts, which let several people video chat at a time. Fliqq is trying to differentiate by staying away from video chatting and rather connecting around content the main value proposition for their young target audience.
“We deliberately left out video chat, it will be a feature down the road, but we thought it was more of a distraction than anything else. We really wanted to focus on the content and the conversation around the content, and not the actual video chat,” Bendixen added. “And we’re much more scalable than some of these other platforms, we can have several hundred people in a group. For us the most important is content so everything we’ve done is around content and around group discovery of content and really trying to mimic that real-life experience.”
The company is currently developing a mobile app, and is planning to integrate with other video-sharing platforms like Vimeo and Ustream and later branch off into sharing photos and websites as well. There is also the potential to eventually offer features that cater more towards the education industry, as the platform could double as a place for learning just as much as entertainment given the amount of academic or how-to content available on YouTube. Fliqq has a way to go before it becomes the go-to place where people discuss YouTube videos, but it provides yet another interesting spin on how social video-sharing is evolving to become the online water cooler.