Mmhmm, a five-month-old video startup that makes virtual meetings more fun, raises $ 31 million ahead of launch
As Phil Libin speaks, his Zoom experience changes rapidly, browsing through footage from his past travels in Japan before settling on a looping animation of a paper woodland landscape. Moments later, a Weekend Update-style screen appears on the right side of Libin’s virtual room with the blurb – and Libin follows him, his body reappearing, smaller, next to the box so he can point with his arm to specific sentences.
Here’s Libin’s virtual presentation startup, mmhmm, in action. Launched in May as “kind of a joke” during a shelter in place, mmhmm now has thousands of test users, a waiting list of 100,000 and, on Wednesday, $ 31 million in new funding for develop. The financing, which includes a $ 21 million Series A investment led by Sequoia, an additional $ 5 million raised for Libin All Turtles’ startup studio and $ 5 million in debt from Silicon Valley Bank, is likely valued at mmhmm in the order of $ 100 million, all before launch.
“We have all these micro-performances that we do every day, where you have to play for your employees, or your boss, your investors or your social media followers, your kids. And doing it on video is tedious, ”explains Libin. “We want to improve that performance, however you do it. “
Known for his years running Evernote, the note-taking app that preceded a new wave of startups like Notion and Roam Research, Libin argues that the post-Covid 19 world has inexorably turned to ‘DJ-ification’. ”, Or a hybridization of the virtual and live experiences that he calls“ IRL-plus ”. Libin doesn’t believe the in-person interactions won’t come back, to some extent. But interactions like doctor and bank visits, concerts and investor calls can all be heightened, he says, by the ability to pre-register and blend in with other media. “We can remix reality,” says Libin.
Mmhmm, whimsically named as something ‘you can say while you eat’, but more concretely, with a name deliberately open to reflect a wide potential range of uses across industries, is the latest product from Libin’s startup studio. , All Turtles, who Libin left a venture capital contract to get started in 2017. The company is the seventh All Turtles project to raise funds since March, Libin said, and the second to fully exit from All Turtles. The startup already has a team of over 20 people, says Libin, who is CEO of All Turtles and mmhmm, while continuing to rely on the design and other support of All Turtles’ centralized staff. .
At Sequoia, the decades-old venture capital firm that has invested in companies like Apple, Google, PayPal and WhatsApp, partner Roelof Botha reunites with Libin after working together at Evernote. Botha and his team led mmhmm’s $ 4.6 million funding round just four months ago after Botha said his first experience with the product reminded him of seeing YouTube and Instagram for the first time. . “It was one of those things that someone shows you, and you just say, I want it,” Botha says.
The rapid pace of mmhmm fundraising, including a large-sized check ahead of the official launch, somehow looks like an increase in the bustling and controversial social media app Clubhouse, which raised at a valuation of around $ 100 million in May while it is also in beta. Botha and Libin note a few key differences. A: With thousands of test users and a mainstream launch slated for later in October, mmhmm already has some clarity on customer demands and plans to be widely available very soon. (A business version is expected in early 2021.)
The startup also has at least three clear customer segments, says Libin – and the founder expects the improvement of video conferencing, the way most people first meet mmhmm today, ends up being the smallest. Biggest Opportunities: Helping creators record and stream more interactive content on YouTube, TikTok and elsewhere; and the live hybrid experiences that Libin calls “Twitch for people who want to stream PowerPoint slides.”
To connect with these communities, Libin and mmhmm have included a host of small investors in their fundraising so far, from sports and entertainment influencers like Chamillionaire and The Chainsmokers to comedian Hannibal Buress, Instagram co-founders Mike. Krieger and Kevin Systrom, Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz and the investment arm of the majority owner of luxury conglomerate LVMH. A group of early stage venture capital funds have also joined us, alongside Mubadala Capital and Goldman Sachs.
Libin declined to provide mmhmm’s rating after the increase or to comment Forbes‘estimate. “I’m not trying to optimize for the money or the reviews or anything like that,” he says. “Anything at an early stage is crazy by definition. In the same breath, however, the entrepreneur revealed some long-term planning, noting that mmhmm intentionally included “people before the IPO” who could write much larger checks in the future, if one asked them. “I think a lesson from 2020 is that when someone offers you $ 30 million, you should take it. Because who knows what will happen?
Mmhmm will use the money primarily to keep hiring and, to a lesser extent, to help finance its growing infrastructure costs. The company won’t sell advertising or customer data, Libin says, but will charge for a premium business subscription and additional features.
The startup is already connecting to the major video conferencing players from Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Zoom, as well as YouTube. Libin is convinced that while the tech giants could eventually unleash their own competitors, the category will support many players. (The same goes for Sequoia, a major investor in Zoom.) Nonetheless, mmhmm will likely find itself in a race to become the virtual video creation toolkit.
“We don’t develop boring business software, although we think a lot of the use will be in the business,” says Libin. “We have to build this with character and personality.”