Video-Chatting With Random, But Similar Strangers Goes Live with VisitorsCafe Launch
Traditionally, website features like comments sections can give a small peek at the people congregating to read the content there. But now, rather than just reading those comments, you can engage in a direct video chat with the people behind them, thanks to technology being released today by Boston-based VisitorsCafe.
“People kept telling me, ‘Hey I have this passion or this pain and I never find people like me to connect with,’” says CEO and founder Morgan Hermand-Waiche. ‘”I can read articles and post comments, but it’s not very interactive and I don’t find any emotional support there.’”
VisitorsCafe, which can be installed on a website as a widget or a separate pop-up window, falls “exactly in the middle” of a random connection site like Chatroulette.com and a dating-style site where users intentionally seek out compatible people to spend time with, says Hermand-Waiche.
“You chat with people you don’t know yet but you might be likely to have a good connection with because you have similar interests and personalities,” he says.
VisitorsCafe looks at users based on factors like age, gender, location, education, and professional background and then suggests they chat with other users with similar characteristics, Hermand-Waiche says. The product can also be tailored to those who blog and want to connect with their audiences in a more personal way.
“You say that you would like to meet people relevant to you on that website and we take care of everything else,” he says. “We put you in front of the most relevant person to you who is here to talk at that moment.”
Other technologies help enable online communication between strangers or let people see at a glance what is being said about websites or topics of interest, but Hermand-Waiche says the VisitorsCafe technology to connect similarly minded people through video chats is a breakthrough, and that his company has several patent applications pending to protects its intellectual property.
“It’s really, really novel, this capacity to match via video chat,” he says.
The startup has raised initial funding in the neighborhood of a “few hundred thousand dollars,” says Hermand-Waiche. Following the launch, it plans to add one to three employees to its current six-person team, which also includes an office in Bucharest, Romania. VisitorsCafe is free to users, but the company is developing a “freemium” model where it will charge users for more sophisticated matching features—likely with an initial setup cost and recurring monthly fees. Some of those features might include matching website visitors more closely based on things like the articles they read and the specific content they view within websites rather than just age, gender, location, and the like. Hermand-Waiche also says the company is in the process of developing the technology for gaming sites that want to connect users based on interest in a specific game or type of game.
The company has gotten inquiries from about 100 websites interested in using its service, from small personal blogs to large online communities with millions of views per month. The subjects the sites cover range from gardening to fashion to guitar playing to heavier subjects such as cancer or diabetes. Healthcare has generated a lot of interest in the technology—”anytime there is a need for people to connect with others having a similar pain,” says Hermand-Waiche.