Silicon Valley Vets Launch New Minnesota Startup. LSS #28: SocialSamba




If your Facebook friends are relatively boring, you’re not alone.

New Minnesota startup SocialSamba sets out to bring big name characters from TV, movies, books, sports and brands to life through a robust Facebook application based on ‘scripted social networks.’ The technology enables fans to friend characters in a story and experience what it is like to be part of a social network with entertaining (yet imaginary) friends.

Fans use the application to access and participate in a professionally written scripted experience for a limited time (usually 2-6 weeks), experiencing a story with the characters of choice, say for example: Lady Gaga, George Costanza or Homer Simpson.  The posts in the scripted social network playback in real-time and the story unfolds like real life in Facebook — a ‘choose your own adventure’ of sorts.

Scripts are written once and played back an unlimited number of times, eliminating the need for community managers or other full time writing staff to manage the experience, while offering rapid scalability.

“Our ideal customers have invested a ton of time, money and energy to create social momentum for their brands. By bringing storytelling to social media through scripted social networks, we enable brands to bridge the gap between their fans and their characters, making the link to existing proven social revenue streams,” Co-founder and CEO Aaron Williams articulates. Virtual goods, product placement/promotion and advertising impressions through brand integration are all on the table as potential avenues of monetization.

There are over 1,500 brands on Facebook with over 1 million fans and 5 of the top 10 fanned pages are stories or characters… we are the technology enablers for brands looking to build on their successful socialization, and move to monetization,” he says.

Fresh off a seed round of funding, the plan is for Williams to leverage his SF Bay area network and sign SocialSamba’s first major customer in Q1 2011.  His previous experience spans from iTV with Sun Micro, startup CEO at Picotent and VP of social media and innovation at SAP. Meanwhile, Co-founder and CTO Matthew Shilts will be holding down the hacker headquarters in Minnesota. Shilts background includes Co-founding Nanobiz (sold for $20m+ to Verisign), VP of Product Engineering at Verisign, and most recently CTO of Minneapolis-based RedBrick Health.

“I want to build the best product engineering team that Minnesota has ever had…there is a lot of talent here and we’re interested in talking with rails developers who feel like they’re on a  mission from god,” exclaims Shilts.

Check out the podcast and keep an eye on this one…