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.
How are videos prioritized?
Right now its chronological, but we’re just starting to reprioritize. And part of that is we need the data from users. So as you watch, it’ll get smarter about what’s relevant to you. We use crazy algorithms that are developed by people that are smarter than me. My team is really strong, all of our engineers are really smart guys.
Where are you guys working out of now?
We have our own office at 23rd and Park and it’s actually pretty awesome.
What’s the startup decor?
We have a ping pong table and we laid down 300 sq. ft. of turf underneath it, so everyone plays barefoot and kind of hangs out around on the ping pong table. And then we’ve got a drum set and guitars and a big speaker system to actually jam because we all play music as well. It’s pretty fun on a Friday night, we’ll be working and then a few guys will pop on the instruments play for awhile, drink a beer, and then go back to work and then play some more later on.
What kind of music do you play?
Mostly death metal.
[Laughs] It depends who’s on guitar. One of our guys Chris actually does play a lot of metal and, like, classic rock and stuff. Miles plays a little more jazzy guitar and some kind of funky little notes. I tend to play more straight-ahead alterna-rock, indie—mostly stuff I learned in the 90’s when I was learning how to play guitar.
What’s your go-to song?
Lately we’ve been playing Weezer “Say It Aint’ So.” We we don’t really rehearse that much, so we’re trying to get good at one or two songs. We’ve been playing a lot of Weezer, some Hendrix, and then some Metallica. The office is on the 10th floor, so we have skyline the whole way. It’s really nice natural light. We’re sharing space, we brought in Charming Robots, this stealthy little design company. It’s a fun spot.
How big is your team?
We’re almost 10. We’re adding two soon, so like crazypants. Five and half engineers.
The show made it seem like your strength didn’t lie in the technical side.
Me personally? What’re you trying to say, huh?
I’m not trying to say anything!
No, I mean so my co-founder Dan has been my best friend since college and he’ll make the joke that he’s the most efficient networker ever, because he knows me and I know everybody else. That’s always been our strength. When he played lacrosse in college, he couldn’t even remember the kids in his department’s name, let alone the guys who were on our team. So he’s focused on building things, just a great technical mind. My strength is getting to know people, getting to know the right biz dev contacts or investor contacts and his strength is building technically. Together we have a very strong product sense. For me to be able to go out and raise money and get him the resources he needs to build the product—that gives me the scale of users and product value so I can go out and find the brands you want to use it. Up and down and around, like a carousel.
So are you looking too get more funding or partnerships with brands?
Right now we’re just all about building the product.
How did you come up with the name? I was always curious about that.
What we love about it is that it’s a human name. It’s a person and it gets to know you, but the name actually comes from the Shelby Cobra, the classic American race car. And when we were brainstorming the idea, we named it Project Shelby and we really loved the name and decided to go with it. And it was available! At the end of the day, you go with domain that’s available that you like.
And short, right?
Yeah, two syllables and easy to spell.