Six Startups Pack their Bags for Turner’s Media Camp
A few days ago I wrote about Media Camp, a new San Francisco-based startup accelerator sponsored by Turner Broadcasting, and said there’d be news soon about the first class of startups admitted to the program. Well, there’s news.
Turner unveiled the names of the six startups in an announcement today. The companies, some of which will be familiar names to people in Silicon Valley, are exploring things like Web-based image management, movie and TV recommendations, social games, app marketing, and interactive video.
These startups aren’t your typical, two-guys-and-a-dog accelerator fodder—in most cases they’re well into marketing their first products. There’s some logic to that, since Turner didn’t create Media Camp to serve as a “startup 101” experience. Rather, the program is all about introducing companies with promising media technologies to the realities of business inside major media companies, and finding new products that can help Turner keep current with the latest trends.
“I don’t think we went in intentionally trying to find companies this developed and experienced,” says David Austin, co-director of the new accelerator. “But these six made most sense in the context of bringing them into the Turner ecosystem.”
Here’s the quick rundown, followed by comments from a couple of the new Media Camp participants.
Chute — Chute was one of the 60-some companies to emerge from the Winter 2012 class at Mountain View, CA-based venture incubator Y Combinator, and now it’s diving right back into the accelerator world by joining Media Camp. The company makes software that Web and mobile developers can use to add better photo-sharing features to their sites or apps. By plugging a bit of Chute’s code into their sites, publishers give users the ability to share and manage photos, while Chute handles uploads, image processing, moderation commenting, and sharing behind the scenes on its cloud servers.
Matcha — Remember the old electronic programming guide that came with your 200-channel cable subscription? Matcha is like that, but for Internet video services like Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. When you join Matcha, you tell it which video services you belong to, and it shows you a customized guide to available movies and TV shows, including episodes you haven’t seen yet. It can also recommend programming based on your history and social connections. “The goal is to answer a very simple question: What do I watch next?” says founder and CEO Guy Piekarz, who previously founded a virtual events company called Unisfair.
Showbucks — There’s not much to say yet about Showbucks, which is in stealth mode. According to Turner’s Media Camp announcement, the company “develops fun and engaging apps that combine social video with social games.” Its AngelList page says it’s a “social video marketing platform.” The founder CEO is Michael Yuen, who also founded Apptera, a maker of speech-driven mobile marketing applications.
Socialize — Socialize makes “action bar” software for mobile apps that enables users to share “likes” and comments about the apps on Twitter and Facebook. The company says mobile app developers who add the Socialize action bar to their apps see increased viral pass-along and downloads. The action bar has been incorporated into 250 live apps in the iTunes and Android app stores, with 1,000 more on the way, according to founder and CEO Daniel Odio.
SocialSamba — SocialSamba offers an online storytelling tool that lets fans of fictional characters—say, Luigi and Mario from the Mario Bros. video games—construct and share fanfic stories about the characters, which they can publish on Facebook and other social channels. For the brands that own the characters, it’s a form of low-cost marketing. The co-founder and CEO of SocialSamba is Aaron Williams, formerly CEO of interactive TV startup Picotent.
Switchcam — At Switchcam’s site, visitors can watch videos of full music concerts assembled from professional and fan footage on YouTube, and can curate their own shows from material posted by others. Recent shows covered on the site include a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC and a Linkin Park concert at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The CEO, Brett Welch, also co-founded GoodBarry, maker of an e-commerce store-building tool that was acquired by Adobe in 2009.
Turner had originally planned to select five startups for this first group, but “because of the wealth of companies we got we decided to expand to six,” says Austin.
The 12-week curriculum will be heavy on media-specific topics such as advertising, audience analytics, and how to structure content licensing deals. Each company will be matched with at least one mentor from a Turner Broadcasting company such as CNN or the Cartoon Network. The end goal, as Austin explained in my June 5 article, is to help the startups identify commercialization opportunities within the Turner empire, while giving Turner an early look at the latest media technologies bubbling up from the Bay Area.
“There is a gap between Silicon Valley and the media industry/Hollywood,” says Guy Piekarz, CEO of Mountain View, CA-based Matcha. “The better we narrow this gap, the better we can build experiences that take care of all the stakeholders. Working closely with the Media Camp folks and the Turner folks will help us get more intimate with the practices of the media world.”
Like most of the other founders involved in the first Media Camp group, Piekarz has experience starting (and selling) other startups, so he says he’s not looking for help with the basics. “I think what is appealing for us here is the media focus, the opportunity to build a good, robust, media-related business that isn’t just a weekend hackathon thing. There are so many constituencies involved in the media business. You can always use help when you’re trying to combine the old world and the new world.”
Socialize, the mobile app marketing startup, has already been through San Francisco’s KickLabs accelerator, but CEO Daniel Odio says he’s “thrilled” about joining Media Camp. “It’s very encouraging to see a large media company acting progressively by incorporating the innovation startups like Socialize bring into the culture and fabric of a larger enterprise,” Odio says. “We can’t wait to see what happens.”