Do you really need another way to chat with your friends? The founders of a new startup called Convore think so — and after poking around the site this morning, I’m starting to agree.
The company is being incubated by Y Combinator, and it was co-founded by Leah Culver (formerly a co-founder of simple blogging service Pownce), Eric Florenzano (a developer at games company Mochi Media), and Eric Maguire (also from Mochi Media). Culver said she’d been thinking it was time for a more contemporary, “less nerdy” version of traditional Internet chat room technology when she connected with Florenzano, who had similar thoughts about modernizing Internet forums.
The company’s main emphasis is on real-time, group chatting — to quote today’s blog post announcing the launch, “The best part of Convore is that you can chat with others in real-time. It’s just like instant messaging in your browser.”
When I saw that, I initially thought about Meebo, the company that started out as an instant messaging and chat room service and has since refocused on providing social networking tools to publishers. But I was impressed with the Convore experience, particularly because it’s so easy to find interesting conversations or start new ones.
You can create private groups to talk with your friends, or join public discussion groups. For each group, you can see who’s online. If you keep Convore open as a tab in your Web browser, you’ll hear a cowbell whenever one of your groups is updated. For example, it only took me a few seconds to create a private group that I invited Convore’s co-founders to join, so I could interview them. Then I watched as they joined the room, I posted some questions, and I heard the cowbell when the team posted its answers.
Within a group, conversations are organized into topics. In the public “tech” discussion group, recent topics include Mozilla’s development plans for Firefox, the new collaboration service Asana, and similar conversations. (It’s not all tech-focused.) There are already some long conversations — the Asana topic, for example, has 110 comments. It can be hard to catch up on a conversation of that length if you’re joining mid-way (by the end the Asana topic goes off on a tangent about the perks offered at different companies); Culver said she’s not sure whether most conversations will have a limited shelf-life, or if we’ll see more evergreen topics that just keep going.
The service is free. Culver said the San Francisco-based team has some ideas about a business model but nothing concrete yet. In addition to Y Combinator, Convore is also funded by the Start Fund, created by investors Yuri Milner and Ron Conway specifically for Y Combinator startups.