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Summary:

Bain Capital must be psychic. Apparently they’ve looked into the future and seen that TokBox, a San Francisco-based startup, will either grow into a large company or find a buyer for what is essentially a Flash-based, in-browser video chat service that’s gotten marginal traction. Sure, the […]

nullBain Capital must be psychic. Apparently they’ve looked into the future and seen that TokBox, a San Francisco-based startup, will either grow into a large company or find a buyer for what is essentially a Flash-based, in-browser video chat service that’s gotten marginal traction. Sure, the company has a new desktop client that allows you to video chat with anyone, but then so does my iChat.

Bain Capital has led a $10 million investment in TokBox. The move comes less than a month after the company named a new CEO, Nick Triantos, who has worked for many tech firms, but has never before held that title.

The company launched in October 2007 and has thus far raised a total of $14 million from Bain and early investors Sequoia Capital. Scott Friend, Venture Partner at Bain Capital Ventures, in a press release announcing the Series B round, said:

“The company is executing well…We are excited to be investing with our partners at Seqouia in a company we believe has the potential to be the next ‘big thing’ in web communication.”

Just to put his words into context, TokBox recently fired its founder and CEO, Serge Faguet. And according to Compete.com, they had about 179,000 visitors in the month of July, though they did sign a deal with Meebo that stands to get them some traction. (For a list of their competitors, check out NewTeeVee’s round-up of video chat applications.)

From the way I understand it, TokBox is using the built-in video capture capabilities in Flash player combined with the Flash media server to offer in-browser video conferencing. When the company launched, I pointed out that it was an “interesting idea, but more of a feature than a platform for a standalone company or model for a viable, long-term business. If (and that’s a big if) TokBox is going to work, it will need to be rapidly adopted by the marketplace.” Rapid adoption hasn’t quite happened, however, and I wonder if it ever will.

But again, the guys at Bain must be able to look into the future better than us skeptics.

  1. Great analyze, Om, it’s probably shareholders agreement like Aol / Tacoda deal. How % gives to some few aol shareholders with blind contract.

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  2. Hi Om, It’s Nick Triantos, the CEO of TokBox. I’d love to set up some time with you to talk with you more about our company and our future plans. Of course, I won’t be able to discuss the details with you in as great a depth as we did with Bain, but we’re pretty excited about the activity we have on the horizon (as was Bain) and would be happy to give you a glimpse into our future too. TokBox me any time to get it set up http://www.tokbox.com/Nick. Looking forward to speaking with you.

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  3. Since we video-chat on Skype daily, James and I looked into TokBox last month and didn’t come away very impressed. We tried the Facebook integration and struggled from a usability perspective. In the end, we saw yet another Flash-based video-call app that offered marginal performance: our audio and video were often out of sync. For now, we’ll stick with Skype for better performance, a simple interface and mobile clients. Not to mention that the Skype user base is massive… something that TokBox and many others in this space need to contend with IMO.

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  4. Sequoia also reinvested (which they wouldn’t if there wasn’t something big to this although I agree there are a lot of risks).

    And looks like your readers agree with Bain… the poll is showing 65% for tokbox at the moment

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  5. Om – good analysis. Would love to chat with you about Eyejot (http://eyejot.com). We’re operating on a budget a zillion times smaller than Tokbox but have a realistic revenue model and actually have a growing audience of paying users utilizing our video email platform. People always asks us why Eyejot didn’t (or doesn’t) consider live video as part of our solution and our obvious answer is always why would we in the midst of Skype, iChat, etc. But, what we have excelled in, through robust features and focus, is creating the very best asynchronous video mail platform on the market today. We recently deployed document attachments for video mail (http://www.eyejot.com/help/attachments_adding) and it’s been received well by our users.

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  6. [...] about 62,000 visitors a month, roughly inline with the user metrics reported by Compete.com. I have always been a little skeptical of Tokbox and frankly, I haven’t seen anything that has made me change my mind. [...]

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  7. I have to disagree. Tokbox allows video chat with many people at once. Skype does not. Also, people you invite to the call don’t need to install anything. You may be able to multi-video chat with iChat, but you better hope all those people are using a mac. The services tokbox provides are indispensable to our business. We often need to collaborate with multiple groups overseas, and I don’t know another more effective way to do this.

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  8. [...] July 9, 2009 | 2:40 PM PT | 0 comments Video chatting startup TokBox, which we’ve covered extensively, let go six of its 23 employees this week to help the company “realize [its] [...]

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