Selfies Come to Life on New Social App

Imagine if you could touch a selfie and it came to life.

It’s not an incredible stretch of the imagination for video selfies to be the next du jour form of communication, but it is surprising that the guys behind the new social network app Selfie — which is now available to download for free on iTunes — managed to nab that domain name.

For the guys behind Selfie, creating a social forum where users speak via video snippets was a no-brainer.

“[Selfie] is about meeting people, making friends and building relationships in a more whole way,” Selfie co-founder Hugh Dornbush says.

He concedes “there are shades of that in other products,” (think Vine or Instagram) but thinks the app is bringing something new to the space. So far, the startup has raised $1.5 million in funding from angel investors.

On Selfie, users can interact, face-to-face, in 24 second self-video-blog-esque posts. The Selfie app is simple, user friendly and colorfully eye catching — each user gets to pick their main unique color scheme. After a new user signs up, they’re invited to view other existing members’ videos on the main newsfeed and to create their first selfie to be put out into the online community.

Dornbush and co-founder Alex Lasky originally thought up Selfie in 2008, envisioning an interactive online public gathering.

“It’s so much richer communicating fact to face, you see [each other’s] emotions … aspects of them you’d normally never see through text,” Dornbush says.

Still, analysts say in order for any new social app to gain traction, it has to grow a user base — and prove its value-add.

Warren Lee, general partner at Canaan Partners, says that when it comes to content-sharing apps it’s important to distinguish the difference between photo and video, and in turn, the level of user engagement required by each.

“It’s really easy to flip through hundreds of photos … and if something catches your eye you might dig deeper,” Lee says. “It takes more mental energy to look at videos,” so to make a video fun to distribute and catchy once it’s out there, it has to be “skimmable.” The longer the video, the less likely it is to be appealing to users.

What’s crucial for Selfie, he says, is to experiment a lot until they find what fosters “fast adoption.”

Work4 co-founder and CEO Stéphane Le Viet echoes that concern, saying that videos “to a degree can be a bit tedious to have interactive conversations,” so the shorter they are the better.

He cites Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which is today “a very mature network generating $12 billion in ad revenue,” as a good example for young social networks. The company focused more on the user experience than on monetization at the front end, which Le Viet believes is the right approach and “made the platform sticky and valuable.”

Through his work at Work4, which helps companies use social media to recruit, Le Viet sees Selfie as a potential power tool for companies to recruit. If companies signed on to Selfie, it could help brands “convey their human face” and give a glimpse into the business culture.

Selfie’s Lasky says the team is in “development mode,” and building a profitable business is something they’re thinking about, but not something they’re “executing against today.”