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Ocho, 8-Second Social-Video Startup, Raises $1.65 Million from Mark Cuban and Others

Startup's iPhone app launch includes partnership with Vice Sports for short-form clips

Ocho video app

Ocho is launching a rival to Twitter’s Vine — and the startup claims it’s built a better short-form video mousetrap.

The company has closed a $1.65 million seed round from investors including billionaire Mark Cuban, Bill Lohse’s Social Starts and General Assembly co-founder Matt Brimer. “Ocho is redefining the way we share our stories through creating a powerful, video-based social network in a way that hasn’t been possible until now,” Mark Cuban said in a statement.

Ocho’s iPhone app caps clips at eight seconds. Unlike Vine or other services, the company’s founders say, Ocho is built entirely as a video experience, playing back a string of video clips in a user’s feed as a continuous, TV-like stream.

“We started with the idea of, What would YouTube look like if it launched today?” said Ocho CEO Jonathan Swerdlin. “There wasn’t a place for sharing HD video easily with your social network.”

The startup also has Vice Sports (part of Vice Media) on board for the launch of its video-sharing app. Vice Sports plans to post social, mobile video content from the sports industry, including on-the-field dispatches, exclusive on Ocho twice per day.

Ocho (www.ocho.co) was founded in Brooklyn in 2012 by tech entrepreneur Swerdlin and Jourdan Urbach, a former professional classical violinist who went on to work in the tech biz, including as head of R&D for cloud startup Mimedia.

What’s different about Ocho: It captures full-screen, 16-by-9 videos, regardless of whether you hold your phone vertically or horizontally, so everything uploaded to the network is in a format that will fill up the screen of a mobile device or an HDTV. On playback, a user can watch everything in his or her feed in a “lean back” mode without having to click on individual videos; Ocho also doesn’t include any text-based comments, instead providing a “video reply” feature for social interaction.

The Ocho app includes editing tools with made-for-video filters with brightness control, and the ability to reduce the volume of original audio and share videos with voiceover narration. Users can share videos in the app to their followers, or to other social platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and can embed website links in captions.

“As the popularity of short-form video surges, we see Ocho as a complement to YouTube channels,” Swerdlin said. “This is content capture, versus content creation.”

For now, in true startup fashion, Ocho doesn’t have immediate plans to try to make money from user-generated video clips. But Swerdlin said the video-centric nature of the service lends itself well to advertising: “TV has been monetizing video for decades… Measurable, interactive video is very monetizable.” Ocho also has a potential revenue stream via partnerships with media companies such as Vice.

As for why Ocho picked the eight-second limit — versus Vine’s six seconds and Instagram’s 15 seconds — Urbach said studies have shown that eight seconds is the precise attention span for uninterrupted video viewing. “Videos shorter than 10 seconds are a distinct class from those that are longer,” he said.

The Ocho app for iPhone and iPad was published in Apple’s iTunes App Store on Nov. 9. Urbach said a version for Android will be coming in 2015.

Ocho, based in the Grand Central Tech space in midtown Manhattan, currently has 15 employees.