Vungle, a new company that wants to help mobile developers market their apps through video “trailers,” has just raised an enormous $2 million seed round from the who’s who of Silicon Valley. The round includes Google Ventures, AOL Ventures [Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by AOL], Crosslink Capital, SV Angel, 500 Startups, SoftTech VC, as well as several notable angels like Maynard Webb, Scott McNealy and Tim Draper.
“Much like the same way a movie trailer might entice people to watch a film, we think a video trailer might encourage people to download an application,” explains Vungle co-founder Zain Jaffer of the company’s product. The problem Vungle wants to solve for app developers, is two-fold: getting that video made, and then getting it seen by prospective users.
Vungle has created a process where it can produce a high-quality, 15-second video of an app in action using screen capturing tech, and best of all, it can generate the final product within 24 hours. The app “trailer,” so to speak, is filmed in HD and offers professional voiceovers of the action displayed.
The other part to Vungle’s service is its in-app video platform. Functioning like an ad network, participating app developers will display the videos for other apps within their own apps, and others will do the same for them. The idea is that users will find the video trailers more interesting than a simple banner ad, for example, and will be encouraged to try out the new app or game being advertised. Developers can also opt-in to show these trailers in their apps as another way to monetize their content, even if they’re not participating with ad spend of their own.
Maynard Webb, former board member at AdMob and founder of Webb Investment Network, raves about the service, saying that when he saw the technology, it was one of those ‘aha moments’ for him. “They have figured out a way to create high-quality video trailers at scale and an accessible cost – and integrate them into applications for maximum downloads, analytics, and monetization. This company could win big in the exploding mobile applications space,” Webb says, “and that’s why we’re putting our money on Vungle.”
Vungle was created by two young Brits, Zain Jaffer and Jack Smith, who have a reputation now as something of hustlers. While that typically has somewhat of negative connotation, people seem to mean this in a good way. These guys read TechCrunch’s post about the AngelPad incubator and then hustled their way in by buying hyperlocal, targeted search and Facebook ads to reach AngelPad founder Thomas Korte and his friends (!).
The ads said that they had an urgent message, and if you knew Thomas Korte, then click here to send him an email. The landing page, of course, included Vungle’s video pitch. After dozens of people emailed Korte about the ads’ appearance (do you know these guys?), he took their call, asking them to please take the ads down. Like now. Despite the heavy-handed tactics, the ads did their job. The guys snagged the last spot in AngelPad, flew to San Francisco, slept in the boardroom for a bit, and proceeded to pitch investors everywhere from elevators to their own homes.
While I’m sure most investors hope that all founders won’t adopt the same (slightly crazy!) ad-targeting tactics, when the product is good enough, a little hustle can seemingly pay off. (Heck, these guys almost hustled their way into two TechCrunch posts – the funding announcement and a TCTV interview, but we talked amongst ourselves and discovered that they were pitching multiple writers simultaneously. Still, way to get on the radar guys!)
Currently, Vungle’s product is only in its alpha stage, and is being tested with a handful of developers. A wider beta rollout is expected for June. Pricing has yet to be determined, but for now, the founders tell me that they’re not thinking of offering the video trailer creation offering as a standalone service.
Interested developers can register for Vungle here. Below, an example trailer.
Correction: Originally, the startup informed us investors were the individuals, as in “SV Angel’s Ron Conway, 500 Startups’ Dave McClure, SoftTech VC’s Charles Hudson.” This was incorrect. It was actually the firms themselves that made the investments. The post has been updated to reflect this change.