French mobile software development startup, Phonitive — one of 16 finalists in the LeWeb startup competition last month — has raised a €400,000 ($534,000) first round angel investment from Toulouse-based seed investors, Capitole Angels and DP Invest.
The startup said the funding will go towards further developing and commercializing its current flagship product: a video personalization tool called Touchalize which makes video content interactive by allowing viewers to change and customize what they are watching. Objects within a video can be customized by, for example, changing their colour.
The technology also supports further personalization by allowing the view to add their own photo content directly to the video. Users tap on a component within the video to momentarily pause playback as they make a change — after which the video continues to play in its new form from where they left off.
Touchalize has obvious applications in the digital advertising space, since it allows viewers to interact with ads and make them more relevant. It’s this commercial potential the startup is hoping to capitalize on with this first batch of funding — describing advertising as its “main target,” although it also sees other use-cases for the technology, including in the e-commerce space, for online learning and in the music industry.
“Our main target is advertising because interactive mobile video improves the user’s engagement. Touchalize doesn’t only let people to get more information about what they are seeing, but also to really play with the video (not just play the video),” the startup’s co-founder and CMO, Elena Lemoine, told TechCrunch. “The point is that people can touch objects in any video, modify them and share results on social media.”
Asked who it views as the main competitor to Touchalize, Lemoine name-checked Adobe Flash. ”We want our technology to be a tool for creative people and video makers. Our purpose is to focus on the service that our technology can provide and make it as useful as possible. So our main competitors are technologies/tools which allow to create interactive video, like Flash for example,” she said.
Prior to the angel investment Phonitive was self-funded, taking on mobile projects for clients to finance R&D and to create the Touchalize prototype. ”We had to prove that the real time modification of video on mobile was not just science fiction,” she added.
In addition to further developing Touchalize, Phonitive said the funding will go towards R&D work on future products — which it says are “already in the pipeline” — and will also fund additional recruitment to bolster its development, marketing and sales teams.
Commenting on the investment, Jean-Luc Bernard, President of DP Invest, said in a statement: “At DP Invest, we like to bet on start-ups with strong potential for growth, and the reception given by the industry sectors in which Phonitive is involved, including advertising, digital media and mobile, points to a bright future for the company. We are very pleased to be part of this initial investment round.”
Arnaud de Latude, Founder of Phonitive’s other first round angel investor Capitole Angels, talked up Touchalize’s potential, and also lauded the startup’s ”forward-looking ideas”.