Qik Confirms Funding, Shares Plans

Live mobile video startup Qik has raised $3 million, as VentureBeat reported earlier this week. The company called us yesterday to explain where it’s going and provide some additional details about the round.

The $3 million in Series B founding came from Marc Benioff (Salesforce), Arjun Gupta (Telesoft Partners) and George Garrick (Jingle Networks), and brings the total amount the company has raised to $4 million. Foster City, Calif.-based Qik also dropped its parent company name, Visivo Communications.

We were first to report on Qik last December, shortly after the company opened its private alpha. Since then, Qik has attracted user evangelists such as Robert Scoble, Steve Garfield and Jason Calacanis, but it’s still only open by invitation, with “a few thousand” total users. See some video from the Olympic torch protests in San Francisco (live if you can catch it) embedded above.

Qik streams video from a mobile phone, with a delay of between 2 and 4 seconds, to a web interface. Right now it only works on Nokia smartphones, but the company is working on a Java interface. I asked Qik CEO Ramu Sukara to vouch for Qik’s quality. He claimed that by using the full capacity of mobile devices, by sensing network capacity and using internal memory for intelligent buffering, and by tracking when new streamers join to give a better experience on-demand than live, Qik is delivering better quality than the competition. From a Nokia N95, he said, Qik can deliver 640×480 pixel resolution.

Accessibility will definitely be key for Qik. It’s understandable how on-the-fly video streaming makes sense for someone with a built-in audience, but it’s not clear to me that this could be a mainstream thing. Sukara offered as examples a user getting advice while shopping, or a hospital patient sending video to a relative.

Qik is also trying to maximize distribution possibilities for live and on-demand video watchers by building widgets for blogs and Facebook, enabling alert systems on Twitter and Pownce, as well as tying into other video services like YouTube, Mogulus, Seesmic and Justin.tv.

The single highest number of simultaneous viewers Qik has served was about 10,000, during Steve Jobs’ last Macworld keynote. Viewers don’t have to register to watch video, though users can make their video private.

Qik has 22 employees, about half of them in Russia, and hasn’t yet implemented a business model. Sukara said he expects revenue by the end of this year, but also said he’s committed to always offering a free version.

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