San Francisco-based Koozoo today announced a seed funding round of $2.5 million, led by New Enterprise Associates and Tugboat Ventures. The round also includes Salesforce co-founder Dave Moellenhoff and TMG Partners CEO Michael Covarrubias, and will be used to help Koozoo hire engineers to build out its vision of a world where crowdsourced, 24-hour mobile video provides a window on the world to anyone who wants to watch.
If that sounds a little creepy, that’s because the pitch does sort of sound that way initially: Koozoo is a platform that asks its users to set up old smartphones in windows in their apartments or at their business, for instance, to record public spaces and push that video out to its network. But co-founder Koozoo founder and CEO Drew Sechrist explained in an interview that Koozoo has rules in place to minimize the creep factor and maximize the value for users.
“Koozoo is for public places only, so private spaces or inappropriate content will be curated out of the system,” he said. “And we have a curation system that handles that. That’s the quick and dirty answer to it, the longer answer is that there will be grey areas of what’s appropriate content and what’s not, and we are building an advisory board of some of the world’s leading experts at the intersection of privacy and computer science, and we’ll be looking to those guys to advise us on those grey areas.”
So long as they can navigate those hurdles, Koodoo stands to build a powerful network with a variety of impressive potential uses. Live views of neighborhoods, streets and pubic venues would give Koozoo users access to a wealth of real-time information, including what the actual weather is like on the street, what the situation is like on the ground in a country experiencing political unrest, or how long they can expect to wait at that new restaurant nearby that doesn’t accept reservations.
“People want immediate access to what’s happening right now in the world, and this is a really interesting, innovative, important way that we can help people get that,” Sechrist said. “If you go back a few years, I remember how difficult it was to reconnect with old high school friends before Facebook, or to find factoids before Google, but those are a really simple matter now. The static information of the world has been indexed and served up to us in seconds, but I still can’t know what the line-up is like at the coffee shop around the corner.”
As a resource for live local information, Koozoo competes somewhat with Localmind, which provides Q&A with live local experts. Applications of Koozoo go beyond the more mundane task of asking for travel advice, however. Other potential uses include as a reporting tool for media who want eyes on the ground but can’t actually be there, much like Banjo provides but with live video. Should it succeed in scaling, it could provide mobile eyes on essentially the entire world, meaning endless possibilities for potential applications of its tech.
For now, Koozoo is focused on the San Francisco market in closed beta. It hopes to launch publicly in SF in early 2013, and then expand to other geographies from there. The startup faces a significant challenge in terms of getting people on board who have spare smartphones and are willing to set them up in windows for 24 hour video feeds, but Sechrist explained that the company plans to also tap other sources and provide other ways for members to contribute feeds in the future. Sci-fi movies often envisioned a future where much of the public world is monitored on video, but Koozoo offers up the possibility that individuals and their devices fuel that future, rather than governments.
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