ExpoTV Raises $6m for Product Review Videos

December 19, 2006

In video funding news, ExpoTV.com is announcing today that it’s closed a Series A round of funding for $6 million. The round was led by Masthead Venture Partners and Prism VentureWorks.

ExpoTV is all about consumer recorded video product reviews. The company says that more than 20,000 reviews have been uploaded to date. Those reviews are then syndicated out to sites including AOL, Yahoo, Google, YouTube and in the best integration, Buy.com (example). The company also delivers those reviews, along with expert opinions and video advertisements through video on demand partnerships with cable providers around the country.


Last month the company began paying video uploaders one penny for each time their reviews are viewed. When that announcement was made the company said it had more than 12,000 product reviews – so it looks like the site nearly doubled in one month by rewarding users financially.

Upon hearing the news, I immediately thought of ShopWiki, a company that pays users to submit video reviews of products listed in it’s wiki style shopping guide. ShopWiki is also well backed. I can’t help but wonder whether building a catalog of video reviews to send elsewhere is a better plan than building that catalog only as added value to your existing site.

One way or the other, it’s an obvious niche in the consumer generated video market. Like UnBoxing videos, consumer reviews (the positive ones at least) provide the kind of marketing fodder that companies have sought desperately to outsource to authentic consumers for some time.

David Beisel of Masthead General Partners posted this afternoon about the investment, saying he sees ExpoTV as a uniquely powerful example of social commerce.

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Taking Risks At LeWeb3

December 19, 2006
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It’s been a week since LeWeb. Here’s my take on what the past several days have been like:

  1. Firestorm!
  2. Fired?
  3. Acceptance and Wisdom

I have to give Loic LeMeur some credit. He took some chances. Yes, he sure pissed off a lot of people. But taking risks is inherently controversial. But it is never boring.

What were the upsides and downsides of Loic taking the risks that he did? Here are a few.

Risk upside: Having politicians talk to the attendees. Some bloggers complained that they felt used. Come on. How often do you get the chance to hear Shimon Peres talk about how bloggers represent the new intelligentsia? Was he pandering? Perhaps. But more so, his presence at LeWeb3 shows how far we have come as bloggers. He was there because bloggers are an important part of the public discourse. Seems more like reason to celebrate. Very cool.

Risk downside: Fitting in the politicians meant less time to hear from people I really wanted to see spend more time presenting. For instance, people like Hugh Macleod and Anina, who presented about love and fashion 2.0. They had a great sense of humor while providing all kinds of insights into the fashion world and how in the end, it all comes down to love. A love for what you do. That may sound a bit corny but Hugh sums it up well on his blog:

<blockquote>6. The best blogging campaigns are acts of love.

You cannot impose your own selfish values upon the blogosphere and still expect results.

What you can do, however, is give a damn. It’s a surprisingly effective strategy.

7. I will leave you with a thought from Six Apart’s Anil Dash, talking about the speech the Father of The Bride made at his wedding:

“What he told us is that, in the end, only love matters. Success and fame and wealth and even health all fade in time, and in the end all you have is love. And love is what matters. I hope everyone in the world gets the chance to discover that in the way that I have. I love you, Alaina.”

This market and communication transition we’re going through is not about technology, and it sure as hell isn’t about marketing. It’s about Love. Love enabled. Love re-asserting itself in the business between people.</blockquote>

Risk Upside: Organizing a start-up room in the final weeks before the conference. More than 50 companies presented. Many of the entrepreneurs presenting were from Europe, giving a glimpse of the innovation from a side of the world that we do not often see here in the US.

I have more to say about the start ups. But for now, I just want to congratulate Loic for coming through with a conference that had lots of risks and with it excitement for us all.


Le Web Europe

December 13, 2006

I spent the past two days at LeWeb3, here in Paris. People from 37 countries attended the event. It sold out. After two days talking to people, it’s clear that the European market is looking pretty good here. One venture capitalist said it looks better than it has since 1998, which struck me as a bit odd. 1998? That was the height of the web bubble. For this VC, that’s not a problem. The market is growing. A web bubble is no where in sight.

The VC’s comments reflected much that I heard from the people I met at LeWeb. Entrepreneurs want the excitement about “leweb,” so palpable in the US,  to spread faster to Europe. And so in part, there is some feeling that they would like to see some aspects of the late 1990s boom time. Perhaps not as wild but growth enough to fuel more innovation and an increase in investments.

Even with the hope for more growth, Europeans are skeptical about what may happen if the excitement is overblown. And like many of their American colleagues, the concern is clear that we may perhaps be heading for a bubble. I say no, the events that happened in the late 1990s were ones that will not be repeated for decades, not even in my lifetime.But what would that bubble look like? The VC’s can’t agree. In a panel discussion, “Will There Be A Web 2.0 bubble?,” Danny Rimer of Index Ventures said he’d be wary of micro-bubbles, the kind that can hit regions especially hard. He pointed to the video sharing market, where regions may see several companies vying for the same share of the pie. But others were not so sure as even with a swarm of companies vying for the space, there will still be those worth funding.

I head back to Portland tomorrow with a new view of the European market. I am sure I won’t be gone too long. The market is just too hot. Hey, its not just about San Francisco anymore!


We’re In Paris

December 10, 2006

We just arrived. Great to be back in Paris. I can’t believe it has been 20 years.

We received word last week that we were accepted to present at LeWeb. I’ll be on Tuesday, speaking at 15:50 in the start up room. I’ll be giving a glimpse of the Splashcast syndication network.

Judy and I are getting ready to go out for a bit so I have to go. Great to be here. We’re staying at a little hotel on Rue de Rennes, near Montparnasse. Here for LeWeb? Let me know. I am looking forward to meeting folks here for the conference.

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Le Web

December 5, 2006

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In less than a week, I’ll be in Paris for Le Web 3. It is my first conference in Europe. And the first time I have been back to Paris since studying there 20 years ago. I majored in french literature but my last true french conversation occurred one year after my return from Paris on that last final back in 1987.

I am familiar with the subject matter being presented at Le Web. But I also know that I understand very little about the European perspective about social media. Why? I am an American web guy.

And I guess that is what I find so exciting about returning to Paris. I feel like I am about to visit a place I feel I know so well yet barely at all. But really what I will see is a new visage that I will look at from every angle to try and discover something that I remember from my days there as a young man.

Will my views about the Internet change, too? Will I see a new face to the web? How will my views be affected from my years here in the states?

And so, I am arming myself with questions to help alter my American web guy perspective:

  • Is RSS an important a tool for Europeans as many of my colleagues here in the states view it? Will RSS see faster adoption in 2007 as many expect to occur next year in the states? Who is using RSS? How?
  • How is user generated content viewed? From a European perspective, how is it viewed differently than in the US?
  • Are copyright concerns creating a chilling affect as they seem to be here in the US? How is copyright law affecting European net culture?
  • In the US, we have a seeming red hot love for social networks these days. Is the love as strong in Europe? How is it different?
  • What is the next, cool thing in mobile social networks?
  • What about downloads? Are Europeans as mad about downloads in Europe as we are in the US? What are the download barriers? What is the role of the broadband vendors in Europe? How do people download? Are there methods people use to keep costs down?
  • How is video shared? Do Europeans care about video sharing? What is the hot mobile equivalent?
  • Is there really a debate about web 2.0 in Europe and how it compares to the US? In what ways do Europeans feel they are ahead? How do they feel they are behind? What are the dynamics affecting the balance?
  • What is the talk about widgets in Europe?
  • How is streaming viewed? Flash-based players?
  • How are independent artists and musicians using the Internet in Europe? In what ways is it thriving? What examples are there that it is not?

We’ll see. I have dozens of other questions I could ask. Are these too simple? Obvious? I could get the answer to many of these simply through research. But I do find that personal reporting, asking questions, helps me understand a bit more about my own perspectives. I know that sounds obvious. And I admit, I have other motives, too. I want to meet people. I want to make some new friends. And hopefully return from Paris with knowledge that makes me more than just an American web guy.

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Reload Was A Hit

December 1, 2006

Reload was a hit. Corey Dennis of IODA did an excellent job, both in leading the Podcast Meet Up and getting the event and music together for the night. Halou had us mesmorized. I met a lot of people. We gave out free drinks as sponsors. I saw old friends.  That’s my kind of event! Congratulations, Corey! Reload rocked.


We’re Sponsoring Reload

November 28, 2006

Reload is this coming Thursday night. We’re a sponsor. It’s our first event sponsorship. And we’re pretty excited. The evening starts with the San Francisco Podcast Meet Up at the DNA Lounge. It’s the largest podcast meet up in the US. As one podcast executive said to me once: “You can’t throw a dead cat in San Francisco without hitting a podcaster.” I like that kind of town.

But it’s after the meet up when Reload goes into high gear:

Performing live:
Halou (celebrating their new iTunes-exclusive EP)
Fancey
DNA Prototype (live Second Life performance)

We’re a drink sponsor for Reload (click here if you’d like to be on our guest list). Here’s how it works. When you show up at the DNA Lounge, you get your choice of wrist bands. Choose our drink and you get a wristband with Splashcast written on it. Head to the bar and say Splashcast. The bartender will pour you our drink. What’s our drink? Margarita…a blue margarita. I’ve actually never had a blue margarita. But our logo has a touch of blue. And apparently, tequila is a favorite among a few of the Splashcast crew. :-).

Corey Dennis is throwing the Reload gig so you know it is going to be a show. Plus, it looks like all my pals will be there from Podcast Hotel. That party includes Corey, who came with the IODA team last February. Eric Rice of Slackstreet Entertainment and Hipcast is doing the Second Life show. Eric played a huge role in making the Podcast Hotel happen.  Kiptronic is sponsoring so that means CEO Jonathan Cobb, another Podcast Hotel alumn, will be there, too.

It should be a grand time. We’ll hope to see you there Thursday night.