TC50: Lissn is like Twitter for longer, public conversations

is a social network that facilitates real-time, public conversations. The company launched at the TechCrunch50 conference today in San Francisco.

Lissn uses a technology it created called Diffusion, which is a push system that lets users see conversations unfold in real-time. When you log in, you get a profile that shows off conversations you’ve started or participated in. Once you’ve started a conversation, you can leave it for a few hours or days and months, and check back in on it later to see how it’s evolved.

When you enter a conversation, the bottom of the window will show tiny icons representing other people who are participating, just like a chat room. Lissn integrates advertising into the conversations so if you talk about a “telescope,” a telescope ad will appear in the bottom right-hand corner. Another potential revenue model for the startup is sponsored conversations. For example, a local brewery could pay to support a conversation where users talk about beer.

“Lissn is like extending Twitter to actual conversations,” said founder Myke Armstrong, adding that users can chime in at scheduled times, like contributors on television shows.

Lissn also lets users search for the most popular conversations on the site and browse through them by subject, like science or pop culture. Lissn also overcome language barriers by automatically translating conversations through Google in real-time.

Judges at the event provided the following feedback:

Dick Costolo, Twitter: I like it, but Google AdSense won’t work. The thing I did like was the potential for the sponsored conversations. If you think about companies that have been successful on Twitter like Comcast, there’s a lot of interesting opportunities around sponsored conversations. It’s a mix of Twitter meets GetSatisfaction. I don’t like going after the specific ads related to the contents on the page. Those are going to be a dead-end. It might be valuable in local conversations. This is an interesting product for asking local questions and getting a lot of back and forth about that.

Robert Scoble: There are conversations that I want to talk about right away like news. There are other conversations that I want to come back to — if someone wants to talk about a mountain bike, that’s evergeen. I don’t see that separation there. Why would I leave Twitter to join that?

Mike Schroepfer, Facebook: There’s a big difference between the big, public conversations like Oprah and more private local conversations. The local conversation, to me, needs to be colored by your social network. The challenge is that the bigger sites like Yelp get, the less useful they become to me.

Chamillionaire: How many people can have a conversation? If it’s six or seven, that’s cool. But if it becomes 60 or 70 people, it’s going to be hard.


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