ChatRoulette Gets Fred Wilson's Attention

A new web chat service called ChatRoulette has been getting a lot of attention of late, in part because it’s about as raw and unfiltered a form of social media possible: not just chat with random strangers (something that Twitter and other tools also allow), but video chat with random strangers. The addition of video — not surprisingly — brings out the exhibitionist tendencies in some people and the voyeuristic tendencies in others, and ChatRoulette subjects its users to plenty of both. As Ivor Tossell of the Globe and Mail described it in a recent column: “Naked guy. Click. Naked guy. Click. Naked guy.”

If nothing else, this raw and unfiltered experience has gotten ChatRoulette plenty of attention — and not just from the media, but from one of the web’s best-known investors, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. Given the fuss that people have been making about the site, its probably not surprising that people would start trying to track down the founder, and the New York Times finally managed to do just that. The paper did an email interview on Friday with the 17-year-old Russian who created ChatRoulette, Andrey Ternovskiy, who talked about setting the site up for fun and how his parents had helped fund it (we can only assume that his parents have never used their son’s site.)

In the wake of that interview, Wilson wrote a blog post saying he was interested in the site and was planning to invite the founder to come to New York, and that he was considering investing in ChatRoulette:

I think we’ll reach out to Andrey and offer him a visit to NYC. I’m still not sure if this is something we should invest it, but I’d sure like to meet this guy. He reminds me of many great young entrepreneurs we’ve worked with and his story sounds so familiar.

In a response to a comment from someone who describes ChatRoulette as “not investable” because of the random adult content, however, Wilson says he agrees, but that he still wants to talk to the young man who started it about his ideas. In another comment, he says:

CR already has more users than delicious, foursquare, tumblr, and a number of other investments we’ve made had when we made them…of course that doesn’t mean we can or should invest. i’m concerned that the use case for the most part today is online freak shows and that doesn’t seem like a sustainable or monetizable proposition.

Wilson isn’t the only one who finds ChatRoulette fascinating. New York magazine has also written about the bizarre glimpses of humanity it provides, and so has Bobbie Johnson at The Guardian. Anil Dash, formerly of Six Apart, used the site as one example in a post about the power of the audience and of shared experience. Not everyone is interested in investing in the site, however: Brad Feld, one of the co-founders of Foundry Group, didn’t seem all that attracted to the idea in a tweet he posted on Sunday. But if nothing else, Ternovskiy has managed to pique Wilson’s interest, and will probably get an interview with every web-connected VC in the U.S. if he wants one.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr user John Wardell

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