Liz Gannes

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Autodesk Buys Mobile Video Shooting Star Socialcam for $60M

Socialcam, the quick-growing mobile video start-up, has quickly found a buyer.

Autodesk, known for its 3-D design and visual effects software, has agreed to buy Socialcam, in a deal worth approximately $60 million, both companies said. They said they expect the deal to close within 30 days.

Socialcam — which had only moved out of shared office space into its own headquarters in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood within the past two weeks (it’s in Voxer’s old office) — plans to continue to operate its product mostly independently, now with the backing of Autodesk as a corporate parent.

Socialcam is the No. 1 application on Facebook, with 3.7 million daily active users and 56 million monthly active users, according to AppData. However, those numbers are currently trending downward.

Meanwhile, Socialcam is the No. 36 free iPhone app in the U.S. (No. 1 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines!), with that number trending upward, according to App Annie.

The company has a remarkably small staff — just four employees, backed by the massive scaling capabilities of Amazon Web Services.

We’d been hearing talk about Socialcam being on the block for months, with other potential acquirers including Zynga and Google.

Socialcam CEO Michael Seibel said in an interview that being bought by Autodesk appealed because it came with the promise of staying mostly independent. “We loved the opportunity to grow, as opposed to folding into another product or extracting out the pieces,” he said.

Other recent Autodesk acquisitions that have kept their independence are Instructables and Pixlr.

Socialcam launched in March 2011 as a mobile project within live video start-up Justin.tv. The project was the brainchild of longtime Justin.tv CEO Seibel, who had enough conviction about it to spin it off, despite having very few users, at a time when Justin.tv was turning into more of a gaming video site. Seibel then took Socialcam through the Y Combinator program, which had previously backed Justin.tv.

For a time, Socialcam was yet another Instagram for video. And, in fact, that’s still what it is, though being compared to Instagram and running a popular mobile video start-up both have more cachet than they used to.

Earlier this year, Socialcam usage had exploded, along with other short-form video apps, after Facebook turned on some of its Open Graph features in April. Socialcam had also been particularly aggressive with featuring popular YouTube content, in ways that some considered sketchy.

Asked to reflect on that situation, Seibel defended Socialcam’s actions by saying that it acted within the bounds of Facebook’s and YouTube’s public APIs, and it continues to regularly interact with people with both companies.

Image © Brian Solis Socialcam CEO Michael Seibel

Seibel also said the Instagram comparison makes sense up to a point, but that video is much different from photos. “Where it breaks down is, videography is new. Not very many people yet feel comfortable taking videos in their everyday lives.”

Seibel’s goal for Socialcam, he said, is, “A year from now, I want the majority of your friends taking one video per week.”

“This kind of sea change doesn’t happen overnight,” he added. “Partnering with a bigger company allows us to address the long-term opportunity, and gets us out of the minute-by-minute start-up roller coaster.”

After spinning out from Justin.tv and going through Y Combinator, Socialcam had raised a party seed round from more than 30 investors, including many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and a few Hollywood names.

The company’s close competitor Viddy set expectations a bit higher for itself by raising $30 million in Series B funding around the same time.

Besides Seibel, Socialcam’s other team members are technical co-founders Ammon Bartram and Guillaume Luccisano, and community manager and power user “The Roxie.”


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