In the latest example of Toronto’s burgeoning start-up community, last week video-based social networking platform Keek received $5.5 million in financing from a consortium of investors led by AlphaNorth Asset Management and Plazacorp Ventures.
Keek is a free Twitter-like service for short video status updates and conversations, and can understandably be integrated with popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The company has about 30 employees at its offices in Toronto’s Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood.
This isn’t the first time a start-up has aimed for the video portion of the social media market. The road to social video success is littered with the remains of previous efforts that ultimately sputtered, like Seesmic and 12Seconds. Meanwhile, perhaps Keek’s biggest competition is Tout, which first gained notoriety this summer as the chosen platform for Shaquille O’Neal to announce his retirement from the NBA.
Keek founder and CEO Isaac Raichyk is a far cry from the hoodie-wearing 20-something start-up CEO cliche. This is his third start-up, according to his LinkedIn profile, the first of which was a voice-recognition software firm called Kolvox Communications founded in 1990. This latest venture started in March 2010 with an idea for wearable cameras, but when Raichyk started thinking about how people might use those videos he spotted an opportunity. “We saw how people have been trying to add video to Twitter, so it occurred to us that someone should set up a new platform that is video-based but has that fast pace of Twitter and social element of a Facebook,” he said.
And the name? Raichyk flipped through the dictionary for a couple hours until landing on it. It’s categorized mainly as a Scottish word meaning short glance or a peek.
The new financing will go toward hiring more developers and rolling out new features faster. The long-term business model is—surprise, surprise—based on advertising revenue. But before we start rolling our eyes at yet another social media venture looking at brands to pay the bills, Keek’s most pressing priority is to attract users. Raichyk says Keek differs from Tout and other micro-video predecessors because it takes social seriously. “We’ve built it for people to have dialogue with each other,” he said. “You can leave a keek, and people can keek back to you, and there can be a community built around conversations, as opposed to having a celebrity come and broadcast something.”