Koozoo is launching today in San Francisco and Austin with a new twist on social video.
The emphasis here is on utility, rather than performance and entertainment (though it can be entertaining, too). Wouldn’t it be useful to know if the weather is nice at a nearby park (though I suppose that example is best-suited for cities with microclimates like San Francisco’s). Or whether a nearby store or restaurant is super-crowded? Koozoo founder and CEO Drew Sechrist is trying to build up a network of live video streams that can give you that information.
Sechrist said he first had the idea in 2008 during a trip to Mexico when he took his BlackBerry with him: “I had this strange realization that at my fingertips I had access to all the world’s digital information. But I thought it was incredibly ironic I can’t get a simple view of my neighborhood in San Francisco.”
The initial concept revolved around old smartphones – if, say, there’s an old iPhone sitting in your drawer since you bought the iPhone 5, you can set it up as a full-time Koozoo camera. So if you have an interesting view outside your office or home, you can mount the phone on your window (Koozoo provides free mounting devices), plug it in, and connect it to Wi-Fi, then it will constantly stream footage that anyone can see — or rather, it will stream footage as long as someone is watching, so that it doesn’t hog your bandwidth unnecessarily.
Sechrist said the Koozoo concept has expanded beyond those 24-hour streams. It also allows users to share shorter clips of live footage from wherever they are, so if you want to show everyone that it’s a beautiful day at the beach, you can share video evidence of that beauty with everyone else.
The footage is organized by location, so it’s more about finding video streams and clips that are useful and interesting rather than browsing footage shared by your friends. (It also emphasizes the informational content of the videos by not including any sound.) Sechrist predicted that users will start out in the more casual mode, watching videos and posting short segments, but over time more of them will become serious and start posting full-time streams.
Naturally, a big concern is privacy. Sechrist said that Koozoo will be approving each of the 24-hour streams, and those streams are supposed to be limited to public spaces (privately owned areas like coffee shops and restaurants are also allowed if the owner approves). Nonetheless, I’m guessing this will be an ongoing topic of debate, especially if Koozoo becomes popular.
Another issue is whether those streams risk being incredibly boring. After all, many locations may be interesting (at least to some people) for part of the day, but not all the time. Sechrist said he’s “very confident” that, thanks in part to a limited geographic rollout, there will always be some relevant content in the app. He also said the relevance could be improved over time as Koozoo adds technology to automatically spot the interesting segments in longer footage by looking for anomalies, for example where there’s suddenly a lot of motion in the frame.
At the end of last year, the company announced a $2.5 million seed round led by New Enterprise Associates and Tugboat Ventures. Sechrist said Koozoo is focused on building the community for now, but he sees a number of opportunities to make money, including advertising and syndicating footage.
Koozoo should work on iPhones going back to the 3GS, Sechrist said. (And on older Android phones, though the specifics are a little more complicated due to the range of devices.) Only people in San Francisco and Austin can post footage, but anyone can watch. You can download the iPhone app here, and sign up on the Koozoo site to be notified about the release of the Android app.