TokBox raises $12M, launches OpenTok

The OpenTok video chat platform allows up to 20 users to chat on multiple Web pages simultaneously

Financial trends and news by Faith Merino
November 15, 2010
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The video chat space is heating up.  TokBox, a San Francisco-based Web video communications provider, announced Monday the close of a $12 million Series C round led by DAG Ventures, with participation from existing investors Bain Capital and Sequoia Capital.  Since launching in October 2007, the company has raised a total of $26.4 million.

With all the other Web-based video chat companies out there, what makes TokBox different?  The company launched in 2007 with the aim of providing a download-free chat experience.  Problem solved: Chatroulette.  Right?  Wrong (on many levels).  TokBox isn’t a video chat room, like speed-dating site, WooMe, or Facebook video chat app, vChatter.  Rather, developers can build their own app using TokBox’s Javascript APIs to embed video chat conversations in any Web page. 

In addition to the company’s new funds, it’s also announcing the launch of OpenTok, a new platform that will allow a group of up to 20 people to chat while browsing the Web.  Using TokBox’s Javascript APIs, developers can build a flexible, customizable app to provide a multi-way video chat experience that can take place on different Web pages simultaneously.

“To date, video chat has taken place in a silo,” said Roelof Botha, partner at Sequoia Capital and TokBox board member, in a prepared statement.  “The reality is that meaningful conversations are sparked when users encounter content and experiences they want to share. With OpenTok, video chat can easily be integrated into any Web experience, increasing consumer engagement and we believe, ultimately unlocking the potential of video communications on the Web.”

Obviously, this platform has a wide range of potential applications, from social to commercial, and thousands of people who aren’t participating in the chat can watch it, which presents a number of opportunities for businesses who want to hold training sessions, meetings, and more.

With up to 20 people participating in a video chat, there’s going to be a lot of background noise, so TokBox also provides several solutions such as echo suppression and auto-production, which switches video streams to highlight the person who’s talking. 

To get an idea for what TokBox’s platform actually offers, Web users can check out the company’s website where several different apps are currently available for group chatting, including TrendTok, which allows users to chat about real-time Twitter trends; YapMap, a location-based chat application; and FaceOff, a memory game that you can play against other users in a live video setting.  The picture above shows me chatting all by my lonesome in TrendTok. 

Some of TokBox’s early stage partners include eBuddy, an IM aggregator; The Real News Network, a nonprofit news network; speed-dating site, WinkVid; education service provider, TutorTrove; Assembla, which provides work spaces for distributed software teams; and PokerView, a live poker portal.

“By building live, multi-way video chat into our new debate and discussion page, we can now have our users take part in lively, face-to-face exchanges with each other as well as a live studio panel and audience – just as if they were sitting in a room together,” said Ziggy Jeffery, Co-Director of New Technology and Social Media with The Real News Network, in the company's announcement. “These conversations are the key to having our audience engage with one another and the Web site at an unprecedented new level.”

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