Editor's note: Our Splash Health, Wellness and Wearables event is coming up on March 23 in San Francisco. We'll have Mario Schlosser, Founder & CEO of Oscar Health, Brian Singerman (Partner, Founders Fund), Steve Jurvetson (Draper Fisher Jurvetson), J. Craig Venter (Human Longevity), Lynne Chou (Partner, Kleiner Perkins), Patrick Chung (Xfund), Risa Stack (GE Ventures), Sean Duffy (CEO, Omada Health), Karin Ajmani (President of Healthcare Services, Progyny), Paul Willard (Subtraction Capital), Julie Papanek (Canaan Partners) and more. Check out the full lineup and register for tickets before they jump!
Updated to correct the amount of fresh capital in this round
For all the multitude of streaming services out there, and there are a lot of them, one thing they don't do well, in my experience, is comedy.
I was on a road trip last year and tried streaming some stand-up through Pandora. The experience was terrible. I couldn't just listen to a whole comedy album, it was all jumbled, with different comedians telling different kinds of jokes, with no flow or rhythm to any of it. The selection was also pretty awful.
For comedians this also presents the problem of being able to get their material onto services and in front of laudiences. Laugh.ly is the company solving both of these problems. It's a streaming app dedicated solely to showcasing stand-up comedy from both established and new comedians.
On Wednesday, Laugh.ly revealed that it has raised $2.25 million in seed funding. The round was led by the New York Angels, and included investments from venture capitalist Barbara Corcoran, the Wharton Alumni Angel Network, Social+Capital, Backstage Capital, Treehouse Capital, Accelerator Ventures and Atlas Holdings.
That $2.25 million includes $1.5 million in fresh funding and $750,000 in a converted SAFE note.
Launched in August of last year, Laugh.ly gives stand-up comedians a new way to distribute their material, which has suffered in the age of streaming, and gives users access to material that was previously unavailable.
There are two problems users currently facing users, Laugh.ly founder and CEO Dave Scott, told me: distribution and access, as well as curation.
"Right now, only 10 percent of all comedic catagloue is available on streaming, while 90 percent s not available anywhere. So we give them access to more comedy," he said. "Second, it's hard to figure out who's funny and who's not hot. Everybody has one comedian they think is funny, but, once you've heard all their material, where do you go next. So we help with discovery and curation."
Laugh.ly's comedy library has albums from more than 650 comedians including big names such as Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Louis C.K., Hannibal Buress, George Carlin and Chris Rock. It also allows emerging comedians to upload and publish comedy albums of their own. The company also has direct distribution deals with the largest media publishers in comedy, such as Comedy Central.
The two main pain points for comedians, meanwhile, are monetization and exposure, and the app gets all of the material that previously was not available for listening out to a wider audience. That's especially true for the younger, less well-known comedians.
"We're not necessarily about the Chris Rocks of the world. We're about the next Chris Rock, the next up and coming comedian. That's who we can help," said Scott.
The app has already been downloaded more than 150,000 times on iOS and Android. Users are currently averaging more than 60 minutes per session.
The company generates revenue two ways: first it sells ads against listening hours, and it has a subscription model where, for $3.99 per month, users can access the service commercial-free, while getting access to premium content, while also being able to download tracks.
The new money will be used to add some new hires, specifically a Head of Programming and Curation and a Head of Product Strategy, both of whom will be "people who are 10-year veterans in the comedy streaming space," said Scott.
Laugh.ly will also be adding some new features, including live streaming, so users can hear comedy as it's being performed live in a comedy club, and social features, where comedians and fans will be able to interact with each other through message boards and shared playlists.
"We believe that comedy is inherently social. We found that the highest performing lists on the app were what was hot and trending with the community today. Also, we found that we had thousands of power users who, for whatever reason, listen to hours of comedy every day. These are the true experts, so we said, 'Why don’t we turn them into curators empower tell us what's good and hot whats' bad, rather than that coming from Laugh.ly?'" said Scott.
Also the app had a lot of comedians already using it, so it was easy for the company to get them involved.
Ultimately, Laugh.ly's goal is to be like Pandora, but for comedy.
"We hope to be everywhere that comedy is. Not just on your phone, but in your car, on your Amazon Echo, on your Sonos device. Just like Pandora is everywhere, we want to be everywhere for comedy," said Scott.
Note: Laugh.ly was one of our finalists at our Vator Splash Spring event in May of 2016. VatorNews has another startup competition coming up at our Splash Health, Wellness and Wearables event is coming up on March 23. To qualify, companies must be under three years old and have to have raised until $3 million. If you’re a healthcare startup and you’re interested in being part of our competition, learn more and register here.
You can see Scott's entire presentation from Splash Spring below:
(Image source: laughradio.com)