Video-conferencing service Mingleverse announced today that it has raised $1.4 million in a seed funding round to help expand its social network version on Facebook.
Think of Mingleverse as Skype meets Second Life: You get voice over IP with a silly avatar. Mingleverse users can chop their faces out of an old photo and duct tape it to any randomly generated avatar. The video conferencing service then drops all those avatars into one of a number of rooms.
Those rooms can be either 2D or 3D environment, and Mingleverse provides users with “3D voice chat.” This means that the sound coming out of a user’s computer is similar to what they would hear if they were actually standing in the room with other users. The pitch and intensity of the sound is dependent on where their avatars are standing in the mingle room with respect to other Mingleverse users.
Mingleverse lets users then display a number of things on the walls of the room. They can switch to a live webcam feed and plaster it on one of the walls. They can also display things from their computer, like photos and videos from YouTube and Justin.tv. If a business is using Mingleverse for its services, it can even slap advertising on the walls to generate a little bit of extra revenue.
It’s a little surprising to see new entrants in the consumer video conferencing sector right now given that there are a large number of powerhouses. The obvious competitor is Skype, which allows free Skype-to-Skype video calls and conferencing. But companies like Cisco and Microsoft are also making a play to enter the consumer-facing video conferencing segment.
Then there’s the obvious enterprise play here. For business users that are looking for a newer teleconferencing service, there’s a premium version that allows for a greater number of people to be present in one room and enables desktop sharing. The service is free for up to 5 people in a chat room, and then costs $5 a month for up to 25 people in one room. The cost goes up to $9 a month for up to 50 people in a video conferencing room. It’s still relatively cheap for a web service, but this is a space that Cisco has all but dominated for several years, and it will be difficult to crack into.
This is the second round of seed funding the company’s been able to secure since it was founded in 2008. The Canadian company has raised $1.84 million to date, and this round of seed funding was led by Yaletown Venture Partners and a number of angel investors. Mingleverse’s co-founder, Ron Stevens, also invested a chunk of the $1.4 seed round — although the company wouldn’t specify how much.