Over the years, I’ve written about the need for a “Pandora for video” app — something that will allow viewers to enter a simple search term and then get offered up a continuous stream of related videos. And now, it looks like video discovery startup Shelby.tv has built just that, with the new Shelby Genius iOS app that it’s launched today.
For those who might have forgotten, Shelby.tv last year rolled out a video discovery platform that allowed users to check out a continuous stream of videos that were shared by their friends on social networks. But then a few months ago, the Shelby team shut down its video discovery service, with plans to rebuild everything from the ground up. The public shutdown was a little unnerving for some Shelby fans who questioned whether the tiny startup had enough left in the tank to work on another iteration. But their fears might have been assuaged by the news that Shelby raised a little bit more funding to keep things going while it retooled its video discovery engine.
Anyway, while prepping for a public launch of the new Shelby.tv, one of the things the team has been working on behind the scenes is the Genius API, which is the basis for the new app. “Our teammate Mark Johnson built Genius last spring once we decided to rebuild our infrastructure for Shelby.tv. We’ve been playing with it since and it’s compelling enough on its own that we wanted to release it in an app,” CEO Reece Pacheco wrote in an email this morning. The whole app was hacked together in just a few weeks, as a way for Shelby to test out and refine its Genius results, and now it’s being made available to everyone.
The Genius app allows users to search videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion, and like Pandora, it allows you to pick a subject to start and then get a continuous stream of related content. That works particularly well when paired with an Apple TV — all videos can be streamed to a TV via AirPlay, allowing for the same type of lean-back viewing users are used to with TV. I tested this out by searching for “The Hobbit,” for instance, and was then fed a series of movie trailers on my TV. Currently the Genius app is available for iPhone and iPod Touch, but Pacheco says a version that is optimized for the iPad will be available soon.
One of the cool things about the Genius app and the API is that the results evolve over time, as Shelby gains more data and learns which videos work and which don’t, what users are keen on viewing and which videos are related to the terms they search for. The whole idea is that results will get better as people use it, which is probably one reason for the app’s release ahead of a full Shelby.tv relaunch.
Speaking of, when is the full Shelby.tv experience coming back? “Shelby.tv web relaunch is coming very soon,” Pacheco writes.
Shelby.tv has raised about $3.9 million since being founded in early 2011, from Avalon Ventures and a group of angels such as DFJ’s Tim Draper, Buddy Media’s Mike Lazerow, Simulmedia’s Dave Morgan, and others. The company is based in New York City and is made up of 10 of the most attractive startup employees you might hope to find.