12seconds.tv is a boot-strapped startup that has been a labor of love for the three founders, Sol Lipman, Jacob Knobel, and David Beach. A host of other characters have helped along the way, influenced by promises of burritos, but the small group hasn’t taken any outside money.
The project was conceived in January, launched in July, and now has an iPhone app ready just in time for the holidays. They got some attention from a write-up on TechCrunch in July and have built a loyal and passionate community of over 10,000 users.
I had a chance to talk briefly with Sol Lipman the other day about the launch of 12seconds for the iPhone and ask about the path they took to get to this moment. It’s clear that 12seconds.tv was built with a lot of passion from both the founders, their friends and colleagues that helped out, and the growing community of users.
TAB: Why did you pick video?
Sol: Video is a great medium. There’s something about seeing someone and hearing someone… You can say something on Twitter, but one thing I’ve noticed about 12 seconds… seeing your dirty closet, seeing your kid on your lap… I feel like I know you. Video is the type of medium where you just get more human cues and that helps you get more involved in their story.
TAB: Why 12 seconds?
Sol: It’s just the right amount.
TAB: OK. So why an iPhone app?
Sol: We all have iPhones ourselves and we wanted to be able to bring 12seconds.tv to our own phones. We were capable of jailbreaking our own phones to use Qik or flixwagon, but our friends didn’t want to have to jailbreak their iPhone to get 12seconds running. We thought, “We have to do this.”
TAB: Those other apps require jailbreaking because the iPhone SDK doesn’t allow video recording, right?
Sol: Yeah. The mass market doesn’t want to jailbreak their iPhone and we wanted to appeal to a bigger audience. It just makes sense, short-form video lends itself to the iPhone. We just had to find a way to do it. We believe in the quality of the app store, we believe in Apple. And we can reach more people this way. It’s an obvious choice.
TAB: So how did you reach the idea of 3 pictures?
Sol: This was something that we thought would work. We started on the app, but we hadn’t talked to Apple about it yet. You know, It was a big risk for us to take with limited resources and devote so much time and energy to a project that might get denied by Apple. Our biggest worry was that Apple would reject it. It does output video at the end of the day. But they were great to work with. Apple Q&A’d the hell out of our app, and it was a great experience overall.
TAB: Did Apple ask you to make any changes?
Sol: Well, there was one piece that ties into 12seconds.tv that wasn’t turned on at the web site. They found that and asked to make sure that everything was working on the web site. They really looked through the whole app to make sure everything worked, but they were OK with the core idea.
TAB: So let’s change gears here and let me ask you about the company. How did 12seconds.tv come together?
Sol: We came together in January, February and then launched in late July. There’s been other people in to help, but the three key founders are Jacob [Knobel], David Beach, and myself. This is a pure passion company. I always like to say that we’re more of a co-op than a corporation. We haven’t taken any VC money to date. We all have other jobs that help pay the bills and keep the lights on.
TAB: And how have you seen your product being adopted in that time? You have people using other devices now to get video?
Sol: It’s all about this amazing community. We really have a great group of core users that are passionate about the 12seconds.tv community. They help welcome new members, answer questions. It’s really been amazing. The cool thing is that while the largest percentage [of videos] come from web cams, a surprising number come from mobile devices. We have well over 10,000 members and 100′s of videos uploaded every day. And we really want that to continue to grow. We’ve been spending more time looking at conversation and have some ideas there.
TAB: Anything surprised you in these last 5-6 months since you launched?
Sol: The community and how people have responded has been great. It surprises you what people do that you didn’t anticipate. I think we have a different type, a different category of video on our site. Here’s a good example, the Roger Smith Hotel puts their daily lunch special on 12seconds.tv. Every day they do that. We didn’t anticipate someone doing that, but it’s cool. What we think we do well, is we want people to be able to share moments.