We’ve heard relatively little from Steve Chen since he joined Google Ventures after parting ways with Chad Hurley, his co-founder at YouTube and more recently Avos. It turns out that alongside some commendable philanthropic projects, he’s also been quietly working on a new startup: Nom.com, a live, interactive video community and app for foodies that presents a mix of professional cooks alongside an open-ended platform that will let anyone direct, produce and host “your own food show.”
Co-founded by YouTube’s first head of engineering Vijay Karunamurthy — who is taking on the role of Nom’s CEO (with Chen as CTO) — Nom is launching publicly today. But in the background, over the past several months, Nom has been quietly building up a network of contributors.
“Collaboration is key for us at Nom,” said Karunamurthy in a statement. “We worked with an incredible group of chefs, makers, and creators to build the site and app they would want to reach an audience live.” Names involved from launch include Corey Lee (who is also an investor; more on that below), and Master Sommelier Yoon Ha of Benu in San Francisco, Pastry Chef Joanne Chang, Tim Hollingsworth of Otium in downtown Los Angeles, Hubert Keller in Las Vegas, and Michael Tusk of Quince in San Francisco. You can find these and other creators in Nom’s Channels page, where people post a mix of stills and videos.
And indeed, Nom has been raising money. Back in September, Nom Labs, as the parent company is called, filed a Form D with the SEC, and today it confirmed to us that it’s raised a Series A of $4.7 million.
In addition to Cheryl Cheng of Blue Run Ventures, who is named on the SEC filing, the investor list is full of other big names, including Google Ventures’ managing partner David Krane (but not GV itself), WI Harper Group, Khosla Ventures, SV Angel, PSY (of Gangnam Style megafame), actor Jared Leto, 3-Star Michelin chef Corey Lee and American restaurateur Ming Tsai.
Nom is based around a confluence of a couple of the bigger trends in online media today. The first of these is a learning from Chen’s first huge startup and traffic magnet, YouTube. Now owned by Google, the video network based its business around user-generated content from day one, but in more recent years one of the big mainstays of that content has been high-wattage YouTube stars, who have attracted enormous audiences around series of videos that are often of a humorous but also factual and how-to nature. Add to that the new emphasis on live broadcasting, not just on YouTube but also large social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.
(For a company like Google that has struggled to build a lot of traction in social media, YouTube is not only popular fodder on other social networks, but the conversations between viewers and creators on those video pages are the closest thing to social that Google has going for it.)
In keeping with that how-to element, Nom promises to give viewers an opportunity to “learn from their favorite chefs, brewmasters, grillmasters, baristas or bloggers, and interact directly with them as they stream live.”
The second trend is in regards to the subject matter. If digital media today is all about images, and specifically video, food has been one of the popular mainstays in that vertical. It’s telling that one of the most popular new launches from Buzzfeed has been its Facebook-only Tasty series of short how-to cooking videos, commanding millions of views; and that one of the early and still most popular use cases for Instagram is for taking pictures of food.
“Nom is a place for food lovers,” said Chen in a statement. “If you’ve ever snapped a picture of your dinner, Nom is for you. If you have a food blog and want to connect with a bigger audience, Nom is for you. If a restaurant kitchen is your office, Nom is for you.”
In addition to tapping into existing trends, Nom is also looking to raise the bar on what it is that you can do in video creation for user-generated content, and in particular live UGC. There is an interface that lets creators upload and mix videos, photos and GIFs in their live broadcast; a two-way interaction tool by way of a nodelay 2way chat; and the ability to use multiple cameras if you are so technically inclined, useful to toggle between face shots and close-ups of the food.
Along with Krane’s investment, Google Ventures confirmed to us that Chen will be staying on in a role as an advisor at GV. When Chen originally joined the investor group in 2014, he told us that part of the reason was to tap younger founders’ minds — essentially steeping himself in new startup thinking to feed into Nom, so to speak.
“Chad and I have always been on the inside of one company, so the opportunity to start from higher up across multiple industries and talk to the people at the forefront of the future… that’s something that is exciting and alluring to me…It’s a very different time from when we started YouTube, before the iPhone and the cloud were so in play.”