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One to Watch: Hot Potato

Some alums have put together a company called Hot Potato to host real-time social conversations around events. Think Facebook + CNN and their ilk, but with curation so that conversations aren’t just full-bore gushes of comments.

Hot PotatoWe’d noticed the startup when CEO Justin Schaffer was quoted in a recent Ooyala press release about live-streaming video. Schaffer knows a bit about live video events; he was previously SVP of new media at MLB Advanced Media.

Today MediaMemo reports the company has raised about $1 million from First Round Capital, RRE Ventures, Betaworks and Ron Conway. Allen Morgan at the Mayfield Fund is also an adviser. Hot Potato, which was founded at the beginning of the year, is calling itself a “stealth location startup” and promises that it’s “connecting friends and fans around live events in real time.” It’s currently working on an iPhone app and was doing alpha testing around the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Many people are trying to zero in on social TV/real-time space — for instance, Frog Design recently launched its tvChatter iPhone app — but big live events are really where it all comes together, because people are naturally paying attention to the same thing at the same time as their friends are, regardless of where they’re located. Facebook is perhaps best positioned in social TV, especially given its enormous active user base, but the company prefers to be hands off, making its Facebook Connect available as a platform for others to build on. Twitter also has yet to invest significantly in parsing its massive real-time conversation. There’s definitely an opportunity for a startup to come in and do this right.

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