Nearly every time a pitch about a new app for photos, messaging, video, or other content lands in my inbox, I decline the invitation. At this point, pretty much all of them are just rearranged versions of something that already exists.
On Thursday night, a roughly one-year-old startup named Gfycat (pronounced “jiffy-cat”) booked a small beer bar in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood and invited friends and investors to celebrate its recent $10 million funding round. Gfycat built a tool that lets users create GIFs, or graphic interchange format images (very short looping videos), that are higher quality and smaller in file size.
But does the world really need another tool to create and share short videos of kitten making grumpy faces? And more importantly, can Gfycat convince millions of people to regularly spend time on its service—also known as building a community?
Of course, Gfycat says it can and that is has done so—it already has 75 million monthly active users, about half as many as six year-old Pinterest, a online service for collecting images. The startup also says it’s making sure to avoid the mistakes made by Vine, a short-video service Twitter acquired in 2012 and killed off last week after it mostly failed to maintain and improve its features over its brief lifespan.
“We focus a lot on creators because they’re the ones who bring their audiences,” Gfycat co-founder and CEO Richard Rabbat told me.
Gfycat also knows that unless the short looping videos its users make can be shared and found anywhere on the Web, its chances of taking over the planet are slim. That’s why Gfycats can be posted pretty much anywhere, from social networks like Facebook to blogs and news sites, and already half of views come from outside the company’s apps and website.
Still, Gfycat has to compete for people’s attention with social media giants like Facebook and Snapchat, and that’s no easy challenge—just ask Vine.
Everyone’s Talking About
Postmates. The on-demand delivery service finally closed its latest funding round ($140 million), but it was a challenge, and its valuation has not changed since its previous round. “Flat is the new up,” CEO Bastian Lehmann told Fortune, and that may very well be the new reality for this category of startups. (Fortune)
WeWork opens its doors to big enterprises. The office co-working company, best known for its month-to-month leases for startups, will now house 300 of Microsoft’s employees in New York City. (Fortune)
Uber’s app gets a facelift. The ride-hailing company unveiled a complete redesign of its mobile app and announced a pilot program with GM’s Maven division to rent out cars to drivers. (Fortune) (Fortune)
Airbnb gets serious about China. The home-sharing company has created a separate business entity for its China-based operations, which will also now store data regarding listings in the country. (Fortune)
The Week in Startups
Intel Acquires Virtual Reality Startup To Bolster Live Sports Effort (Fortune)
Hollar Grabs $30 Million to Grow Its ‘Online Dollar Store’ (Fortune)
Fintech Startup Ripple Just Named a New CEO (Fortune)
Lisbon Entrepreneurs Aim to Create Berlin-Style Tech Buzz (Reuters)
Exclusive: Wealthfront’s Founder Reclaims CEO Role as Current Chief Steps Down (Fortune)
Exclusive: This Startup for Estate Sales Just Raised $41.5 Million (Fortune)
Y Combinator’s Hardware Guy Leaves After 14 Months (Bloomberg)
Secretive Startup Magic Leap Loses Top Marketing Executive (Bloomberg)
Stitch Fix Has Hired Top Salesforce Engineering Exec Cathy Polinsky as CTO (Recode)
GIF Site Giphy Is Valued at $600 Million (Wall Street Journal)
Words of Wisdom
“I know I’m getting all the credit, and it’s cool. But you can never win championships without your team. And the greatest of leaders are the ones smart enough to hire people smarter than them.”—Shaquille O’Neal, on building and trusting his investment team. (Yahoo Finance)
One More Thing
Goldman Sachs goes to Vegas. Tech news site Recode got its hands on the schedule for Goldman Sachs’ annual (and pretty secretive) Private Internet Company conference in a couple of weeks. The companies on stage are usually the ones Goldman Sachs thinks may be the next big thing—to invest in, that is. (Recode)