Converoo, chat, video, connect, interactivity, social,

It’s easy to argue that the “holy grail” of digital engagement is harnessing video for interactivity.   I recently attended an entrepreneur pitch event where there were 6-7 start-ups showing their wares to about 150 people and the cacophony of voices all talking at once was distracting.  In looking around the room, there were small pockets of 3-4 people huddled together so they could hear one another.  Interacting as a group with this number of voices in any meaningful sense was beyond difficult.  The same can be said for any group based interaction where sound plays a part, and unless we want to rejoin Charlie Chaplin, video for 2-way mass interactivity remains a dream…for now.

Video as a medium for mass consumption, is predominantly a one-way offering.  No question that small groups can watch a show together and have fun video chatting about it.  The real disruption in video is finding a way to use its unmatched visual appeal in an interactive environment that includes a mass audience.  Those who solve that riddle will be innovation heroes.

One company making a video splash is Rabbit Chat, and what they’re doing with video chat is incredibly exciting.  It has been noted that just a few years ago the technology wasn’t available for what Rabbit is offering.  Although this might be true, I would argue what Google+ Hangouts, paved the way for Rabbit type consumer adoption (Skype too).  The folks at Rabbit seem to have taken Google Hangouts and studied how participation could be easier and more fun.  Making use of Video Chat “best practices” is a brilliant stroke by the Rabbit and it seems like they’re on to something (Google Ventures took the lead in a $3+ million seed investment).

Not surprisingly, Rabbit has discovered that people want to hang out with people they know.  Facebook and LinkedIn have built their networks by asking users to surround themselves in a warm cocoon of familiarity with permission only connections.  Video Chat is so revealing that mostly close friends will be the ones using it. The challenge for Rabbit Chat is to build a network of users where small groups of chatters that know one another collide with other small groups creating scale.  It is one thing to share a Pinterest Board of images, yet sharing a video chat is as intimate as it gets and the 50.7% who are introverts may not be so inclined (Myers-Briggs 1998).

Time will tell whether consumers will flock to Rabbit and make them the standard in Video Chat, but I love the way they have gone about it.  The real problem is how to monetize a product that scales to just 6-7 participants in any given video chat.  There can be dozens of people chatting about a topic, but you really can only count on very small pockets of influence.  The Facebook focused video chat product Airtime spent up to $100 million and…well…what happened to that?  Is Google hoping to cash in on their investment in a strategic manner…if you can’t out innovate them – buy them!

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