Growing a family is what provided Raul Mujica with the inspiration for his startup company. With parents and sisters living on a different coast, Mujica found it challenging to keep his relatives informed about changes in their lives. “Everyone wanted to know how the kids were doing,” he recalls. “We’d take pictures and email, or post them online. We also took a lot of video. But the video never got shared because it was just too hard.”
To address that problem, Mujica’s company — Kincast — released an iPhone application and website this week to make it easy for people to connect with family and friends through short media messages. Kincast is another entry into the growing market for private video sharing.
Unlike mainstream social video sites like YouTube or Facebook, Kincast is private by default. Videos are shared as links to email addresses, which can be opened whether or not the recipient decides to become a member. People invited to view a video can leave comments either through a webpage or with the smartphone app. Like Instagram and other photo sharing services, Kincast provides some low-barrier media editing in the form of video greeting card templates and Flair, professionally-designed frames, music and titles.
Repeated use of Kincast will also develop into a digital scrapbook over time. As our digital footprints grow larger, our archives become a richer and more important resource to revisit. That’s why Facebook added Timelines and services like Timehop increase in popularity. Kincast nods in this direction by using timestamps and tags to allow past videos to be rediscovered, turning the service into a reflective activity.
Designed for Moms and Dads
Mujica was aided in the design and development of Kincast’s new apps by SproutBox, an Indiana-based startup accelerator that invested $250,000 in Kincast. “SproutBox is really unique in their involvement with their investments,” says Mujica. “They drove the visual design of the 2.0 Apps and were critical in designing and developing all the new features like Video Cards, Video Messaging and Chat.”
As part of the development process, Kincast recruited 20,000 members to test the technology and then talked about their preferred ways to send videos to their inner circle. “Our users have told us that it would be a non-starter to make their Grandma or busy cousin have to create an account and password to view the videos they’re sharing,” Mujica recalls.
The more fluent people become in the use of digital tools, the more specialized services evolve to provide a greater sense of privacy around content creation and distribution. Applications like Burst and Kincast work to create private sharing circles that encourage people to use more video to communicate. Mujica sees differences, however, in both mission and user experience.
“Kincast was designed with busy moms and dads in mind,” he notes. “[W]hen you first open Kincast, you’re right in a record screen so you can capture that moment right away. There are no limits on the size of videos you take, which comes in handy when you’re videoing kids.”
The back-end technology takes a novel approach to handling new video: Rather than tie up device resources by encoding and uploading the video all at once, Kincast queues and batches each video, sending them to the servers for later processing and distribution via email link. This transaction can be configured to happen only over Wi-Fi networks, as well, to cut down on data usage.
In my own experimentation with the app this past week, I found some responsiveness issues on my older iPhone 3GS that made it somewhat difficult to regain control of the camera after taking the first video. The recipients are easy to manage, leveraging my existing contacts and allowing me to add birthday reminders for each person. After receiving a sample video of my cute daughter rambling on, my seventy-something mother gushed and asked how she could return the response. Mission accomplished.
Although all sharing is free, Kincast limits the storage to 30 minutes of video footage. For $2 a month, members can increase that cloud storage to 3 hours, or pay $5 each month for unlimited storage. Paid membership also brings additional beeps and whistles, such as statistics, and priority encoding and distribution for faster delivery.
The December release of the app fits nicely with the needs of the season. “The Video Cards are a great way to stand out from the traditional paper holiday cards,” says Mujica. “They’re more personal, and it’s easier to tell a story than to write a story.”