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Shots acquires Mindie to build a teen video app empire

TechCrunch TechCrunch 20/04/2016 Josh Constine

Mindie does with soundtracks what Instagram did with filters: it makes boring imagery interesting. And with the insane amount of video that teens are sharing, the music video making app seemed too useful to die when its creators shut down Mindie in December. So Mindie’s technology is getting dug out of its grave thanks to an acquisition by Shots, the selfie app turned comedy feed backed by Justin Bieber.

For an undisclosed sum, Shots just bought Mindie’s app, code, community, and brand, Shots co-founder John Shahidi tells me. However he says the price “wasn’t a crazy amount”. Though the team has dispersed and one of MIndie’s founders now works at Vine, Shots will soon re-release it on iOS and bring it to Android.

“If I put my phone out the window on the Golden Gate Bridge and you have all this noise, it’s not that nice” Shahidi explains. “But if you put ‘On the Road Again’ as the soundtrack, it makes it more interesting.” Similar to how Camcorder also exists as a video filter inside of Shots, Mindie’s soundtracks could come to its parent app too.

The Mindie team originally released a storytelling app called Ever before launching its eponymous app focused on  music discovery 2013. It later added direct video messaging, and got blocked by Snapchat for asking users to login through Mindie and share music videos to their Stories.

Mindie had raised a $1.2 million seed round from a strong set of investors including Lowercase, SV Angel, Betaworks, Crunchfund (TechCrunch’s founder’s firm), Slow Ventures and its partners Dave Morin and Kevin Colleran, Troy Carter, and Pete Cashmore. But eventually Mindie got outcompeted by fellow music video maker Musical.ly and pulled out of the iOS App Store. Soon it will get a second chance.

The New MTV

What was once the butt of Silicon Valley jokes has blossomed into a bouquet of apps to help kids laugh and express themselves.

  • Shots has 11 million registered users, and 7 million active. It recently expanded from selfies to let people share links and videos, with a feed featuring the funniest ones. It’s raised$15.2 million from Upfront Ventures, DCM, Shervin Pishevar, Bieber, and more.
  • Camcorder is a purposefully low-fidelity but lightning-fast video sharing app the team built which has 5 million downloads since launching in September.
  • Awkward Puppets is Shots’ original video content initiative with humorous, mobile-first skits starring Vine star Rudy Mancuso, and it has a remarkable 90% watch-through rate per view
  • Mindie lets users pick a song, shoot some video clips, and instantly create a compelling music video that’s much more watchable than a standard upload to Facebook or Instagram.

Beyond these products and their legions of teens users, Shots has also cultivated a roster of social media creators that use its apps and promote them to their fans. Mostly forged on Vine, these stars like Lele Pons, King Bach, DeStorm Power, Logan and Jake Paul, and Amanda Cerny might now start shooting Mindie videos.

Having Bieber as an investor could also help Mindie as it tries to formalize its relationships with the major record labels. Top music content owners have been surprisingly relaxed with regards to blocking apps like Mindie and Musical.ly from using their songs, presumably seeing the videos as free promotion for their artists. That might change if Mindie starts charging somehow, as the labels might want a cut or to block the app from coining off their content.

Mobile video sharing and viewing is exploding right now, and Mindie could make people’s clips worth watching. Facebook and Instagram lack any native soundtracking features, though my gut says those apps are destined to get much more full-featured video uploaders soon, and Facebook did talk to record labels about licensing last year.

But even if the big social apps get into soundtracks, they might feel too bloated and complex for flighty teen fingers. “We like the standalone products because what people, especially our audiences, don’t want us to do is cram all these ideas into one Shots app” Shahidi says. “It’s better off to keep them all separate, so the different products don’t get too cluttered.”

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