A few weeks ago at SXSW, Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning briefly mentioned — during a talk about another company they co-founded, Napster — that they were working on a new social video startup called Airtime. Now it looks like the company is gearing up for launch.
The jobs listed on the homepage are all engineering positions — yet one more testament, if one was needed, of the big drive right now to look for good technical talent (and, as some believe, the lack of it on the ground). The positions Airtime is looking to fill are software engineer, web UI engineer, test engineer and operations engineer.
“Our small team shares a passion for using the latest video technology to bring people together,” the company writes. But there is still precious little info on the site about what Airtime will actually do.
Is the illustration on the homepage, designed by employee Shyama Golden, a clue? There we have a command control center, like those set up to manage air traffic or the landing of NASA shuttles, with the screens at the rows of seats filled with videos of people, with another video of people on the big screen up above. Then, on the left, a listing of “live” and “next” with percentages underneath each… and another column with “good” and “great” with more percentages.
Perhaps some kind of mass, user-generated kind of broadcasting network where people vote on the quality of the content? Back in October, Fanning and Parker said the effort was inspired by Chatroulette but hinted that it would be engineered to be viral from the get go, unlike Chatroulette, whose random-video-meetup network grew fast and picked up a lot of iffy user-generated content in the process. “[Chatroulette] was just scratching the surface of what it could be—a universal host that is introducing people, smashing people together,” said Fanning at the time.
Although the company is using Facebook as its initial sign-up point for now, it looks like it is building this very much as something that is almost the anti-Facebook: “Facebook is about identity, the people you already know,” Parker said back in October. “It has little to do with people you don’t know.”
Airtime’s investors, who have so far put in $8.3 million into the effort, include a pretty stellar list of backers, with the celeb sparks that could give a mass-market consumer play just the kind of attention it needs to succeed. It includes the Founders Fund, Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Ashton Kutcher, will.i.am, Scott Braun, and TechCrunch’s founder Michael Arrington.