Back in March of last year, we wrote about how video curation seemed to be growing up, or at least taking some strides forward. Its progress being evidenced in part by a young startup called ShortForm, a social network for video jockeys. Or, better said, ShortForm is attempting to let all those video enthusiasts out there create and curate their own personalized channels of web video, pulling that content from YouTube and Vimeo, among others.
On top of allowing users to create streaming back-to-back videos, they can widget-ize their channels and embed them just about anywhere. But, more importantly, they’ve taken a page out of Turntable.fm’s book, adding a synchronous, social video experience, called Live Video Parties integration, which allow video jockeys to broadcast video content to a live audience.
The startup also has a Google TV app that brings VJ channels to web TV, and have built tight integration with the Facebook open graph, Twitter, and YouTube to give VJs and viewers a channel of their Facebook friends’ video posts or a channel of their Twitter followers’ posts with one click, for example. Which makes it easy to get started.
Perhaps more importantly, ShortForm recently added Hulu integration (in addition to Vimeo, YouTube, and College Humor), as well as partnering with IGN to create ongoing curated video contests on their properties, via the startup’s widget. All this has been part of ShortForm’s continued push to bring social video curation offsite to big media properties, says CEO Nader Ghaffari.
Of course, with YouTube’s redesign in December, Google’s online video behemoth became a whole lot more social. And with that, it’s become harder for social video curation sites like ShortForm to continue to differentiate and offer services and features that enhance the YouTube experience, rather than replicate it.
The reactions to YouTube’s redesign were mixed, and at the time, while Channels got an upgrade and recommendations are getting better, many were turned off by YouTube’s tight integration with Google+, as Google continues pushing its social network across properties.
If ShortForm can remain network agnostic and offer content from across video sites, they have plenty of room to survive under the enormous shadow cast by YouTube. There is also plenty of opportunity (and interest) for social video curation sites abroad, which can allow ShortForm to continue pushing curated video content offsite to big web media properties.
This was demonstrated by the startup’s announcement today that the company has entered into a partnership with Japan’s leading social networking service, mixi, which will introduce ShortForm into Japan. In fact, mixi was intrigued enough by ShortForm’s service that it has also made an equity investment in the startup through NetService Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture fund mixi has a direct investment in.
With the size of mixi, this can be a big win for ShortForm. The Japanese social network counts 25.35 million registered users among its ranks (for perspective, that’s 20 percent of the Japanese population), more than 15 million of which login monthly.
The partnership will bring VJ curated video channels to brands, personalities, and consumers on “mixi pages” (their profiles), and more. The two companies are customizing and localizing the ShortForm experience for the Japanese market both on mixi and offsite, through a Japanese version of ShortForm. The integration is still in the early stages, though, and will be rolled out over the course of this year.
Tak Miyata, mixi’s chief of “alliance”, said that its users will now be able to access a curated video experience that leverages its existing social graph, which will allow users to discover videos online based on recommendations from their friends. Sounds a whole lot like what YouTube has been trying to accomplish with its upgrades. (Miyata will be joining ShortForm’s board of directors as a board observer.)
ShortForm has raised $1.3 million to date from NetService Ventures, Individuals’ Venture Funds, Seraph Group and others. Mixi’s investment (about $250K) is one of the first investments in ShortForm’s proposed $2 million series A round, which the startup is currently in the process of raising. And surely, mixi’s endorsement will be a leg up.
Again, it’s a challenging road to navigate with YouTube’s massive user base and significant reach, but Ghaffari says that ShortForm is looking to build an entertainment platform analogous to what radio once represented for audio content, but with a far more personalized touch. Pandora, anyone? Through connecting content creators with viewers through VJ curators, who build an audience, know their viewers’ tastes, and program channels that match their audience’s taste (a la Turntable), Ghaffari believes ShortForm can have some staying power. And an international reach certainly helps. Not many can boast a partnership with an international, 25 million-user strong social network. Not even YouTube.