VC-Backed Vidku Unveils A New Set Of Consumer Mobile Apps


VidkuSocial video startup Vidku has produced the first consumable fruits of labor since emerging from the University of Minnesota in February flush with $17m cash in hand.

The free apps, available today on both Android and iOS, offer a new way for anyone to create short video clips (17 second max) to share with peers organized around themed invite-only groups.

Vidku is the parent company and sister product of Flipgrid, the brainchild of Dr. Charles Miller and a specialized team coming from within the Institute for Design and Innovation.


Flipgrid racked up some 2 million+ video shares when incubated inside the University while focused exclusively on the education sector — specifically used as a means for professors and teachers to engage with students outside the classroom.

Thanks to a partnership with EMC Publishing for the k-12 market, Flipgrid will continue to live and grow independently with 3.7m shares since February’s 2 million mark.

If Flipgrid was the bait, then Vidku was hook. It’s the technology, team and best practices sourced from Flipgrid that inspired the commercialization and the birth of Vidku as a new venture, CEO Jim Leslie explains.

He says that Vidku has been in limited beta with some 500 users to date on the platform, and now the technology is ready for more prime time usage.

“Our objective is for Vidku to become so useful that it goes viral on it’s own,” Leslie says of their launch and customer acquisition strategy.

Vidku_control“Of course we need to listen carefully to our users around what they are asking for and adapt to their desires.”

As much as this opens the market up for mass adoption and rapid scalability by tapping the cultural trend of short form mobile content — it also puts Vidku in direct competition for attention with big brands like Vine (200m users) or Instagram (400m users), also known for their brevity of 6 and 15 seconds, respectively.

Miller, who now holds the position of Vidku cofounder and Chief Design Officer, brings his best practices to the forefront of Vidku’s user experience, one way in which the product intends to differentiate itself.  There’s also a strong emphasis on control and privacy and control within Vidku, perhaps more than can be found elsewhere.

“People love using video because it’s a powerful way to share ideas and experiences, but we often edit ourselves as there’s little control over who sees what on most social networks,” Miller says.

Overall, the big bet on functionality will fall within the grouping approach and the ability to manage rights based on who the intended audience is.

“On Vidku you can be who you want, when you want, with the groups you want. All without any sharing hangover the next morning.”

“Our first goal is to encourage consumption,” Leslie adds, suggesting that “People are more likely to watch and react to short videos from their real friends, not followers.”

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Vidku made a big splash earlier this year by ‘raising 17 million in 17 days,’ with a big first round led by Arthur Ventures and followed by Brightstone Venture Capital, with a number of local angels participating — most notably Phil Soran, who also serves as Chairman of the board.

“Our series A helped us accomplish two primary objectives: obtaining the license and acquiring the people needed.  Yes…we have some runway,” Leslie says of the reserve.

The first order of business for Vidku was to plant a flag in Minneapolis’ Warehouse district, where they leased out the entire fifth floor of McKesson to support their growing staff of 35.


U of M Spinout Flipgrid Raises $17m Series A For Vidku