Toronto-based startup and Extreme Startups grad Instaradio is unveiling a brand new Android app this week, and is also updating its iOS application with a significant overhaul. The app provides instant live audio streaming broadcasts for users, via their smartphone device and using nothing more than their built-in mics, unless they opt to add their own additional accessories.
The app enables broadcasts published via social networks like Twitter and Facebook, so that those doing the broadcasting can instantly reach their existing audience without having to build one on a new network. It has a little over 50,000 downloads since its original iOS launch last year, which isn’t bad but isn’t good, but its founder says it’s finding purchase in significant use cases, including as a platform for expressing social unrest in politically volatile locations like Egypt and Turkey.
“[There's] no pushback from government as of yet,” Instaradio founder Kevin Kliman explained in an interview in answer to a question about its role as a political tool. “Right now, it’s being used jointly as community organizing and political platform for someone trying to get elected in one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighbourhoods. I’m hoping that it can be used as an example for other community leaders.”
Kliman says that Instaradio is better-positioned to target amateur broadcasters than competitors like SoundCloud, regardless of whether they’re political dissidents or just aspiring singers hoping to find an audience with live streamed performances. That’s because of how people perceive SoundCloud as a platform, he says.
“Relative expectations are important for a publishing platform,” he said. “Most people won’t put themselves out there if they think what they make is below the expectation of the community. I think that’s a big reason why Instagram works so well: Anyone can produce good-looking pictures. There’s a ton of great studio produced content on SoundCloud, but most people can’t create audio on that level. “
Instaradio is still trying to find its footing, however. When I attended the Extreme Startups cohort demo day for the company’s class last June, it was talking about its potential among the amateur comedian crowd, who were using it to broadcast shows to their non-local followings and build a bigger audience. Kliman admits they’re still feeling out their best target audience.
“To be perfectly honest we are still searching for the best niches,” he said. “Comedians can be shy about putting their sets online, but like doing short funny blurbs. Conferences are a simple pitch and accessible to us, [since] all they have to do is plug a mobile device into the soundboard and press two buttons to create another media channel that can be monetized. Tech events are especially good because attendees tend to be more creative with how they use technology.”
In addition to those opportunities, he says they’ve also seen interesting uptake among churches, amateur artists and would-be teeny-bopper YouTube celebs, and educators. The biggest opportunity, however, in terms of potential for monetization, is linking the sale of goods and services to broadcasts. They’re also looking at ways to derive value from their growing library of recorded content, and from potentially licensing their tech.
Instaradio raised $480,000 in seed funding last fall before ceasing their fundraising efforts and turning attention to product building. Starting in the spring, the team will be looking to raise another $500,000, hopefully sourcing the funds from strategic partners in the audio industry, Kliman tells me.