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Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz and Charles River Ventures back small video translation site
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.
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What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests.
Where did the idea for Twitter come from?
Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.
How is Twitter built?
Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes.
We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.
How do you make money from Twitter?
There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.
In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet.
At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.
Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.
What's next for Twitter?
We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users.
We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.