Group video chat startup Spreecast raised a $7 million Series A round of funding for what it calls the web’s next conversation platform. Investors include Meakem Becker Venture Capital, GGV Capital and MentorTech Ventures, and they’re united in the hope that Spreecast will prevail despite offering a service that’s somewhat similar to Google+ (s GOOG) Hangouts.
In short, Spreecast offers users the ability to set up video chats with up to four participants and broadcast the result to an unlimited number of viewers. Spreecast co-founder and CEO Jeff acknowledged during a phone conversation Thursday that Google+ Hangouts is the competitor that most closely resembles what his company is offering. But he also pointed out two key differences: “Google Hangouts is siloed within Google+,” he explained. Spreecast on the other hand allows hosts to embed video chats into any website, and integrates both Twitter and Facebook (s FB) for social sharing.
Fluhr also said that Spreecast offers a more interactive experience even for users who aren’t on camera. Viewers of a group video chat comment on it via text chat, and organizers of a chat can pick anyone from that audience and invite them as guests in front of the camera – something that is much harder to do with Hangouts, especially when they’re live streamed to an unlimited audience. And sure, Google+ does offer a chance to comment on a Hangout, but that experience is still somewhat disconnected from the actual chat. “The YouTube player is a very passive experience,” Fluhr added.
It remains to be seen whether that’s enough to carve out a niche next to Hangouts, but Spreecast seems committed to be in it for the long run. Fluhr told me that the company is looking to monetize its service by the end of the year. This includes plans to give creators the ability to charge viewers a kind of attendance fee – think of a class with a fee for participants. Spreecast also wants to bring its service to mobile devices soon. Said Fluhr: “Mobile is the next objective for us.”