You didn’t think the TechStars fun ended with last week’s after-party at Marquee, now did you? Shelby.tv, the startup that entered New York’s inaugural class as Homefield (a web-based video platform for coaches to share game footage) before pivoting towards a larger market (a channel for web videos) is out of alpha and ready to show users what it can do.
Online and in its spankin’ new iPhone and iPad apps (no beta invite necessary), Shelby.tv aggregates web videos from your Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds into a single “instant on” channel, kinda like regular TV.
Fans of the TechStars show likely remember Shelby CEO and co-founder Reece Pacheco as the broad-shouldered, good-natured dude who’s “I’m an athlete” refrain was immortalized by the producers at Bloomberg.
Betabeat talked to Mr. Pacheco about why Shelby is a “crazy bitch,” jam sessions at its Union Square offices, how Shelby gets smarter the more you use it.
What’ve you been up to since Demo Day in April?
Since we raised money [In July, Shelby.tv raised $1.5 million round led by Avalon Ventures, along with Tim Draper (the Draper in DFJ), Buddy Media’s Mike Lazerow, Jerry Colonna from Flatiron Partners, Hashable’s Mike Yavonditte, and others] we’ve been growing the team. We’ve been pretty quiet and working hard and we’re finally coming out of alpha. We’re going to invite the rest of our users who have been waiting for beta invites and turn on some new functionality for everybody, and release our iPad and iPhone app.
What does Shelby do?
The basic premise of Shelby is we’re trying to take all the exploding content that’s coming online. There’s more and more video and different proprietary players. It’s all over the place—fragmented across Facebook, and Tumblr, and Twitter. We say: Here’s the relevant stuff. We’re looking at your friends and the people around you—this is why it’s relevant. For me, I don’t go YouTube and hang out. But if my friend sends me a video, I go and watch it. Because it’s word-of-mouth. So we try to put a human filter on it . . . Are you seeing videos on your right?
Yeah, [noodles around the site] they’re mostly in Arabic right now. I followed too many people during the Arab Spring!
So when you mouse over the video, we’re giving you the context for the video, we’re showing you the avatar. That’s the big thing; that’s the human filter. And then from there, it’s great seamless experience. One video will play, then go onto the next one. It’s like TV. It’s instant on.
What are the new features?
Some of the new stuff that most people haven’t seen is you can “like” a video. We pull video from YouTube, Vimeo, Blip, Daily Motion, Techcrunch TV, Bloomberg TV, College Humor, and Hulu. Then you can keep track of them in your favorites channel full of all the videos you like. The vision is creating channels of video around people. As everyone becomes a publisher online, how can you curate the best video? Say, hey check out Reece Pacheco.tv.
What about VHX? They don’t have an iPhone or iPad app yet, but they also pull from Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
We’re building different products for different user types, but at the end of the day the video space is huge.
So who do you see as your competition?
There are a bunch of social/video apps in the space right now. What I think is going to happen is they are all gonna get siloed into their different categories. Right now everyone’s just saying “Oh, social video!” so you’ve got Chill, and Showyou, and all these different apps. Chill is about the real time, watching with friends right then. That’s not us. We’re asynchronous. We don’t want to be real time. We think people want to watch on their own schedule. Everyone’s getting lumped together as they try to figure out the space. Mark Suster actually blogged about TV in general and the future of TV. I think we’re gonna start to see smaller verticals pop up. Shelby should be your friend. As much as she’s kind of a crazy bitch, she’s a person who should get to know you and provide you with the best video.
So you think of Shelby as a “she”?
Oh yeah, definitely.
What about monetization?
We’re just launching, man! Listen, online content is, on the one hand, awesome. On the other, it’s sometimes hard to monetize. But what we’re seeing is—and I think Content.ly summed it up really nicely—we’re seeing brands become publishers and we’re seeing brands create content that they want to get out to the right people. We’ve already had interest from brands. I don’t know if they’d be psyched about us talking about it. Put it this way: a soda brand and a major electronics manufacturer.
So brands would be on Shelby?
Brands are starting to create this really cool content and they’re as much a publisher as anyone else. Part of our goal around Shelby is understanding exactly what a user wants to watch, right? Some of the things we’re doing involve de-duplicating video. So ten of your friends share a video. I think the best example is Dos Toros, that burrito place in Union Square, they made a video recently. You know that song “Walk it Out”?
Yessssssss. I love that song!
Well they made a song called “Guac It Out.”
And they’re like, [starts singing] “Guac it out, Guac it out.” So anyways, they made this really great video and it blew up in my Shelby feed because all my friends are tweeting. But what we do is we de-duplicate it and just show it once, but with all the context around it. We’re trying to get smart and say: Hey look, ten of your friends watched this video, this is probably the most important video for you to watch. To be able to converse eloquently about it with your boys.
What’s the bigger picture?
The bigger vision is about getting smart about what you like and don’t like. We don’t want to be this mindless channel of video where you just watch it for hours and hours and hours. I liken Facebook to McDonald’s. You get tons of calories. You get French fries and soda and all this junk, but you walk away like uggh. Whereas on Tumblr, you go in, you get this really great chunk of content and then you get out of there—like cool, great, I can’t wait to go back because it’s the right amount. That’s what I want Shelby to be. And we’re trying to do it across web, mobile, and eventually connected TV.
Do you think users have an appetite to go to another site in addition to Twitter, Tumblr, etc.?
The reason why I think there’s room for this is that video is so different from text. When I want to watch video, I want to sit down and enjoy it because it’s such a high bandwidth medium. Music you can leave on in the background and Twitter you can scan as you’re emailing. You’re in text mode all day long. What I love about Shelby is if somebody sends you that great 20 minute TED talk or that funny 5 minute Daily Show clip in the middle of the day, you can bookmark it and you can just save the video to watch later.