The cloud storage business is already crowded, with leading competitors including Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, Box, and OneDrive. Hive.im, which just came out of beta, is one of the latest entrants in the space, but it hopes to stand out by turning cloud storage into a social experience. In other words, you can share documents, videos, photos, and other files with other Hive.im users and explore their content without having to download anything, like a combination of Flickr, YouTube, and Scribd.
The company announced today that it has raised $500,000 in seed funding from Bigcolors, German IT infrastructure company Link11 GmbH, and private angel investors.
The capital will be used to build Hive.im’s team in San Francisco (it also has offices in Hong Kong and Croatia), scale up its platform, and find strategic partners for mobile app development.
Hive.im, which had its beta launch in October, uses a freemium business model and makes money by charging for features like faster video playback and uncapped download and streaming speeds. It monetizes free accounts through targeted advertising, which Hive.im co-founder Thierry Lehartel says is based on data from social media accounts users sign-in with instead of the files they upload to the web app.
Though Hive.im’s model revolves around sharing and discovering content, Lehartel says the company also takes user privacy seriously. In addition to not analyzing files stored on the platform for data to use in advertising, Hive.im also hosts files in a DDOS-protected and secured data center in Germany that is operated by investor Link11 GmbH. Lehartel says the company chose Germany “for its data privacy laws, which are among the strictest in the world.”
Lehartel told TechCrunch that Hive.im decided to develop a social cloud storage platform because its competitors focus on backing up data and make it relatively complicated to share files.
“If you have data in the cloud, obviously you have two main purposes. One is preservation, the insurance and security aspect, and you have cloud storage providers that do that well. The trade-off is sharing, which has not been done very well. It’s very utilitarian. We saw that as a gap,” he says. “There is still not an easy tool. With family and friends, I was still using email or social platforms like Facebook to share files, but the issue with email is that it is harder to manage, while social networks are noisy.”
Of course, the success of Hive.im’s strategy depends on building up a large enough of base of users so people see new content whenever they log-in and don’t get bored with the service. Lehartel doesn’t want to disclose how many users Hive.im has until after the company launched its mobile apps, but says that their numbers have been improving every week, with key markets including the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S., and Latin America.