Viki, a community-powered site that offers TV shows and movies from around the world in multiple languages, announced Wednesday that it has raised $4.3 million in Series A funding from Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, and Neoteny Labs. Also contributing private investments are some media executives, including Rajesh Sawhney, President of Reliance Entertainment of India, and Alex Zubillaga, former global head of digital at Warner Music.
Those aren’t small names. Greylock (with partner Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn) has invested in Airbnb, Facebook, Digg and Pandora and Andreessen Horowitz (founded by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz) has invested in Digg, Foursquare, Skype and Zynga. Charles River, backer of Blippy and Twitter, led Viki’s seed funding round.
Viki (which recently slimmed down its older, slightly more cumbersome name, “Viikii”) is, at its heart, focused on the globalization of video. In general, there is high demand from users to be able to watch (and understand) videos made in other countries. Japanese anime, Spanish novelas (kind of like soap operas), Korean dramas, Egyptian movies, Bollywood films--these are the diverse kinds of videos that Viki seeks to share beyond the borders of the country where they were originally created. Viki wants to be the destination site for this globalized database of internationally-based videos.
Translation and subtitling of videos on Viki is a crowdsourced operation, analogous to how articles are created and edited on Wikipedia. And, also like on Wikipedia, translation texts undergo constant revisions, with the revision history always at hand. (The name "Viki" is itself an amalgamation of the words “wiki” and “video.”)
Though still an early-stage startup, Viki already sees a $1 million run rate, according to the company, though that doesn’t take into account costs paid to distributors like Hulu for content.
The site boasts over 1 billion streams and 100 million words subtitled in over 143 languages, including “Klingonese,” the Klingon language spoken by that race in the Star Trek universe. Adding fictional or dead languages to any translation service, as when Facebook added Latin to its 70-plus languages that had already included “upside-down English” and “pirate English,” usually signifies that a service has already come a long way as far as living languages are concerned. Indeed, why else spend time on a fictional language?
The new funding will be used to continue global expansion and to foster partnerships with more media providers.