Valleywag did an embargo breaker today and announced that Loic Le Meur’s video conversations startup, Seesmic, has raised a $6 million round of funding from a group of A-list investors. Additionally, the startup is reportedly close to fully opening to the public and the current wait-period is down to a day.
Among the high profile investors are Michael Arrington, Steve Case (AOL), Jeff Clavier, Ron Conway, Dan Gillmor, Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Niklas Zennström (Skype) and Michael Parekh (Goldman Sachs) — not a typical list of people for a startup that’s only been around publicly for three or so months, having recently come close to hitting a tipping point with its group of early adopters.
The way Seesmic works is that just like Twitter, where people have public conversations, and YouTube to some extent with it’s Responses feature, the idea is to have a public conversation. Users post videos of themselves talking into the webcam about a certain topic, which are noticed by others and replied to (i.e. “I agree with your point about Obama”), and it all flows from there.
While I haven’t covered the product exclusively here on Rev2, I have tried it out and I’m personally a fan in someways, though in someways I’m not. What I mean by this is, in terms of idea, Seesmic is excellent. Video conversations — a great way to communicate and totally parallel to the traditional forms of IM, e-mail, and SMS. I’m a fan of the idea. However, the early group of adopters it has grabbed seem to be are very reminiscent of the early days of Twitter — a tight group of people with the “we’re totally above everyone else” mindset, which I’m not a fan of. As Valleywag very rightly describes it, it’s “suited only for self-important types who overvalue their own thoughts and undervalue the time of those they speak to.”
For Seesmic to move onto to the mainstream, it’s going to need a decentralization of its userbase. I should be able to post my video and get noticed just as easily as someone who has been using it for the last five months, as opposed to getting totally ignored by this centralized community and having the unwelcoming feeling. But of course, one has to be aware that in the early stages of a startup and especially one like Seesmic where community is key, a centralized feeling of beta testers/early adopters will persist until it gets to the point where there isn’t “one” conversation by some but many conversations by many.
I can write for hours about the mainstreamization of a startup, but I’d like to open it up for the comments: Is an early adopter community such as Seesmics’ healthy for a young startup? What are the challenges it will face in hitting that tipping point — and how much time should we allocate to it?