Beams wants to turn collaborative audio clips into a social media biz –

More fuel for social audio: Berlin-based social audio startup Beams, which is building a platform for sharing and consuming short-form audio recordings — a kind of bite-sized/deconstructed and/or collaborative podcast format As Joe bills it as “audio-based social media” – has doubled its seed funding, adding another $3 million to close its $6M round.

“We raised $3 million at the end of 2020. In the testing phase, we got a lot of interest and attention from investors. So earlier this summer we decided to take on two new strategic investors – Venture City and Kal Vepuri – bringing our total seed funding to $6M,” said one of Beams’ four co-founders (and its co-CEOs). Explain two, Alan Sternberg and Robert Killian, why it’s taking in more money now.

Per CrunchBase, the audio startup’s earlier seed and pre-seed investors were Mangrove Capital Partners and Redlpine, founded in 2019.

Beams counts former SoundCloud, Spotify and N26 employees among its founding team — and its PR has led to a deep understanding of “why people connect around voice.”

Its broader pitch is to create a platform where people can “come together and share diverse views on different trends and interests”—which is what we’ve heard from a variety of social audio startups, such as (advisory-focused) someone. Bhi and Wisdom, to name two others who also come from Europe.

Users on Beam are encouraged to join interest-based groups and (asynchronously) listen to or clip topic-based threads – well, whatever you want to talk about, whether it’s art or politics , fashion, food or music etc…

The subjects on the Beam are a real pick’n’mix – and the overall experience can feel pretty random. Like the aural equivalent of a splash-painting.

‘Real people, real voices’ is the slogan Beams introduced for its app-based option to turn on (and dial in) talk radio. (Or, well, logging in to Clubhouse — or into the Twitter space to hear what some of your followers, or anyone else, are talking about.)

Finding the signal in the noise of social audio is becoming a real challenge.

Audio clips on the beam are hard-capped at 90 seconds but recordings can be short (though as threads form they work against that by stringing together sound snippets). So it’s using the semi-brief as a tool to try to cut.

And if the <90s still isn't small enough for your attention, there's a button in the app to let you speed up playback up to 2x so that it takes even less time for your ears to consume each audio tidbit. (You can also slow down the playback speed by up to 0.75x.)

A quick spin around the app reveals that the content creators on Beam are in fairly short supply. For example, a select few threads on the home page only have one or two responses. And a few minutes of browsing even turns up a handful of faces contributing to various threads—some of which we confirmed to be Beams employees.

So the biological community-building work is in progress.

Beams says its early users included a real “range,” with young people exchanging stories/memories around cultural themes or past events; Audio content creator pro doing 60 second interviews to share elsewhere; Photographers using the form to give people a voice over their art; For citizen journalists recording events during the trip.

We noticed that many select groups/topics seem to be the clear seeds for attempting to encourage content creation (‘Best advice you’ve got’; ‘Breakfast around the world’ etc.); Or groups labeled ‘Open Mic’ – which prompt users to share their stories around specific topics (such as ‘Uber Stories’ of women, or ‘Tinder Stories’).

While we saw that the group that had the largest number of members (~1k) had an open pitch around podcast ideas and asking for help with podcast projects.

In general, groups had fewer members and seemed more focused/niche – one aimed at illuminating specific local issues (‘Police Reform in Minneapolis Explained’). Or describing a specific perspective/experience (20 years after ‘9/11’). Or trying to figure out travel/food tips (‘Best Vegetarian Spot Las Vegas’). But why you would need certain types of content in audio form versus text is a question to consider.

One of the most interesting groups before us – “Young, Black and Fly” (59 members) – bills itself as “a micro-podcast about art, film and music for all through the lens of young Black creatives”. Describes, and was cutting back-and-forth interviews with creators in a variety of artistic mediums.

On the less interesting side was the obligatory NFT daily newsgroup (18 members).

The short-form audio format of Beams lends itself to conducting Q&A style interviews between the group host and the invited guest. Which means the entire interview is broken down into searchable/shareable chunks. But the downside to this is that it’s less immersive than tuning into a full-fat podcast/radio show.

The open groups aim to recreate the Q&A vibe, but without the active curation by asking anyone who likes it. Which means the resulting thread could be, well, a mixed bag in terms of interest/quality from the listener’s point of view.

Overall, Beams thinks it’s still very much in the experimental stage.

Nor is it yet clear whether it is accompanied by bite-sized ‘micropods’ for a noticeable (post-radio) generation. Or, well, adding to the social audio noise.

When asked how many users the app has, the Beams co-founders defended their response – “we know of more than 40,000 unique users participating in more than 5,000 groups” – so possibly its There are fewer active users (and the group metric is being actively driven by Beams’ own employees). However it only launched in beta in May 2021, so it’s still early days.

Why focus on short-form audio as a social media medium? “The short recorded audio space requires innovation from both a producer and consumer perspective,” suggest Sternberg and Killian.

“To create good audio content with today’s options, the bar is very high. You need hardware, you need real expertise in speaking, and it just isn’t built for the mainstream. The average person needs to create audio content. It is difficult because there is a lot of friction in it.

“When it comes to consumption, that too is not really easy. For example, the only way to know if a podcast or live audio session is going to be useful or entertaining, or worth your time, is to listen to it! You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, you can’t work your way up to the ‘good part’ and again, unless you fully know and trust the person creating the content, it’s really hard to dive into it. It’s not an easy thing.

“We want to create innovative solutions for this – to help people enjoy audio recordings and hear another person’s voice in a simpler way.”

Clearly they haven’t been exposed to a purely ‘qualified audience’ yet, though.

Splitting the audio into the 90s (meaning you need to hear the over-repeating ‘hello/intro’ spiel) and giving users a button to crank it up to 2x the speed of the human voice is just amazing audio Far from broadcast.

In fact, it implies that you think a lot of material will be discarded. And if your equipment creates filler audio in the process to help listeners cut through the boring bits—including soliciting audio material from someone, voicing ideas, and recording any quality—then the whole approach. Could be a little counterproductive… (Alternatively, Beams haven’t found their groove yet; communities take time to nurture and grow.)

The startup’s co-CEO also admits that current audio platforms lack “intuitive ways to connect with people,” arguing: “There’s no topic-related and equally interactive audio platform out there.”

Beams’ focus is on building devices that “let people easily record their thoughts in a variety of ways and share them across groups and subjects”, he says, emphasizing the goal of structuring audio.

They also describe what they are building as “an extended audio player for people to be part of the Voice thread – similar to music streaming services”. And say they plan to add audio transcriptions and enable Beams’ voice recordings to be exported for consumption on other social networks as well.

Adding other types of interactions around voice threads is also on their to-do list.

As well as focusing on creating “simple and inclusive” tools for sharing and consuming audio, Sternberg and Killian say the aim is to differentiate the competitive space by having more open versus (more) closed competitors.

“While most other audio platforms put everything entirely in their apps or behind log-in walls, we don’t like to force people into a closed ecosystem to connect with each other,” he says: “We really see ourselves as more of a platform for building audio solutions, not just as a social media network, because we are also available and open to the web, where you don’t need to log in. not required or even beam as an app.

“We aim to give people a way to gather and share voices on the street, provide a way for journalists and media to easily embed and share stories, and let friends share their voices on the apps of their choice. Let’s do it – whether it’s WhatsApp, Telegram, or Signal.”

What about monetization? It’s also not in talks for a co-CEO of Beams yet.

“We are all about building a platform, and a community around collaborative short-form audio. By closely monitoring how different user groups use our product, we learn and we are sure that We will offer meaningful ways to generate revenue for our community and in the future.”

And sobriety? “Moderation will be a major challenge, but recorded audio content (which is also transcribed into text) allows us to create more products to protect our community,” he suggests.

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