Viddy, maker of an eponymous short-form video app that had a very public rise and fall last year, has unveiled the final touches on a rebranding effort. The company now has a new mission, some new products and a new name.
Supernova, as the Venice startup will be called henceforth, is no longer a maker of a single title but a producer of a handful of multimedia apps, all with a focus on social sharing. The first new products – Epic and Clique – riff on some of the biggest trends in mobile messaging.
It’s a new path for the company, which co-founder J.J. Aguhob, newly elevated to chief executive, said steps away from the voracious growth needs of a social network and toward an app-producing house.
Epic, a video messaging app, is built on top of the Viddy platform and functions almost as an add-on. Users can log in with their Viddy account and take two-second videos at high frame rates, which are then slowed down and stretched into eight-second slo-mo clips. The standalone Apple iOS app is designed for iPads and phone models dating back to iPhone 4, and takes advantage of a new 120 frames-per-second recording feature introduced in the recently released iPhone 5S.
Videos shot in Epic can be posted to YouTube, Twitter or shared with friends on the Viddy network. These clips are also silent and looping, mimicking the aesthetics of GIFs – a file format for moving images that has become wildly popular online.
Aguhob said the inspirations for Epic came from focus groups the company did with Viddy’s young users, who wanted to shoot brief videos, consume them furtively and skirt past the watchful eyes of adults.
“They didn’t like sound on their video because a majority of the time they’re consuming content in the classroom and don’t want their teachers to find out,” Aguhob said. “We wanted to make it easier to consume on the go.”
If Epic is a play on GIFs, Clique is a mixture between the ephemeral image messaging popularized by neighboring Snapchat Inc. and the anonymous confessions of Whisper Inc. of Santa Monica.
With Clique, a person takes a picture then manipulates it with the app’s effects, such as stickers, drawings and text. These pictures are then shared to a select group of friends (a clique), who can respond with their own doodles over the original image or with a separate photo. The responses are anonymous, as in Whisper, and once an image is viewed it cannot be seen again, a la Snapchat.
Clique has actually been available for some time in the Apple app store, but this updated version marks its official roll-out.
The company will also continue to support and iterate on its once-namesake product – Viddy. When it was released in 2011 as a way to shoot and post 15-second video clips, it more or less established the genre of short, sharable video.
A tight integration with Facebook and cadre of high-profile users – Justin Bieber remains a frequent Viddy-ographer – led to skyrocketing popularity and a massive funding round. But Facebook later dropped Viddy from visual prominence and the category of short videos was eventually overtaken by Vine, owned by Twitter Inc., and Instagram, acquired by Facebook Inc.
At its peak, in May 2012, Viddy had 27 million members and was signing up about 500,000 more a day. The growth begat a $30 million Series B round led by Silicon Valley investor giant New Enterprise Associates, which valued the company at a rather inflated $370 million.
A subsequent plunge in traffic forced the company to restructure, which included Chief Executive Brett O’Brien’s departure, laying off one-third of its employees and returning a bulk of the investor capital.
This rebranding as Supernova, then, is an attempt to create distance from the past tumult. As Jason Rapp, who heads the company’s board, explained, the company has backed off competing with the giants of social media.
“We looked at Vine and Instagram – aka Twitter and Facebook – which are going at each other. Our thinking was, ‘Let’s go to our strengths,’ which are great products,” Rapp said. “And J.J. sat down to build.”
The company has another two apps set to roll out in the coming months; There are no monetization plans set in place for any Supernova releases as of yet.
While the old Viddy was focused on marketing and business development, this version of the company as a prolific app maker bears the imprimatur of its new CEO, a self-described “product guy.” Aguhob initially served as Viddy’s president and headed up the development of the app. He previously headed up product development for AOL Inc. and Live Nation Entertainment Inc.
With this new way forward, Aguhob said the company finally looks the way it should.
“My trade and talent is putting together great products that have a good sense of where the market is going,” he said. “That’s why we pulled back and refocused on getting in touch with customers.”
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