Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hot Potato Is Ready to Eat: Do Twitter, Facebook Users Want Another Real-Time Chatter Service?

Last month I told you about Hot Potato, one of the buzziest start-ups in the very buzzy “real time” sector. Now you can check out the service yourself. But not really.

The New York-based service opened its doors last week, but it won’t really kick into gear until Apple (AAPL) signs off on its iPhone app, and that’s taking a bit longer than the company expected. Founder Justin Shaffer still thinks he’ll be up and running on Apple’s platform in a few days, but until then, you can check out this video interview I shot with him yesterday, where you can get a sense of how the app will work.

Or if you’re impatient, here it is in a nutshell: The service is supposed to let users converse in real-time about “events”–whether a football game, business conference or maybe even a really good house party.

You can already do that on Twitter and Facebook, but the pitch is that Hot Potato will help “curate” the chatter, so you will end up talking to both your friends and interesting people you don’t know–and that’s something Twitter and Facebook don’t do well right now.

If it works, there are some obvious advertising/sponsorship opportunities available for the service: The NFL could sponsor chatter about its games, for instance. Or someone who isn’t related to the football league could sponsor chatter about the games–since this is user-generated content in its purest form, Hot Potato isn’t required to get the go-ahead from anyone before it creates a conversational stream.

In any case, Hot Potato now has a pile of money to help it figure this stuff out. Last week, the company closed its first funding round of $1.4 million (I had originally reported that it was raising “about $1 million”), and in addition to VC backers First Round Capital and RRE Ventures, the start-up has an array of high-profile angel investors who have pitched in.

Here’s the roster: Super-angel investor Ron Conway; real-time start-up incubator Betaworks; Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer and his son Ben Lerer, who runs Thrillist; New York Observer owner Jared Kushner and his brother, Josh Kushner; ZelnickMedia’s Strauss Zelnick; Hunch and Founder Collective co-founder Chris Dixon; About.com co-founder Scott Kurnit; Facebook executive (and Apple vet) Dave Morin; Boxee’s Zach Klein; angel investor Allen Morgan; and entrepreneurs and investors Scott and Cyan Banister.


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