Video messaging startup Vsnap adds $1 million in funding

Vsnap CEO Dave McLaughlin with Christopher Swenor,
Vice President of Product and Technology.
Vsnap CEO Dave McLaughlin with Christopher Swenor, Vice President of Product and Technology.

At a moment when we’re all burdened by unanswered e-mails, unlistened-to voicemails, and all kinds of alerts pinging our mobile phones, Vsnap founder Dave McLaughlin has a strong belief about the power of video: a personalized video message can cut through all the noise, he says.

The Boston startup makes web-based software that allows sales and customer service staffers to create 60-second-or-less video messages for individual prospects and customers. The messages can be delivered via e-mail or social media. And Vsnap just finished raising an additional $1 million in funding from individual angel investors. The company now has a dozen employees, and last month moved into new office space in Downtown Crossing.

Vsnap messages, McLaughlin says, “are all about feeling. The world is noisy, and this is a way to bring the human layer into the interaction. It helps create trust, and an e-mail full of text just doesn’t do that.”

McLaughlin says one of the bigger users of Vsnap so far is Penn Foster, an online education company in Pennsylvania. After a prospective student talks to someone in the company’s call center, that service rep sends out a personalized Vsnap within about ten minutes to follow up. McLaughlin says the video message can increase the likelihood that a prospective student will sign up for a course by more than 50 percent.

And a startup called 19th Amendment, which helps fashion designers raise money online, uses Vsnap to let designers know they’ve been chosen to be featured on the site. Here’s an example of a Vsnap message from 19th Amendment CEO Amanda Curtis.

Vsnap offers a free version of its service, but to add company branding to the messages, and get data about how many Vsnaps are being created and viewed, customers pay a monthly subscription fee that starts at $3 per month. Increasingly, McLaughlin says, Vsnap’s larger corporate customers want their video messages to be viewed on a page on their site that has customized next steps on it, like setting up a product demo or starting an online chat with a sales rep.

McLaughlin says he’s convinced that once businesses see how sending video messages can help convert information-gatherers into customers, “it’ll become a common behavior.” A big question for the company, though, is whether people pay attention to personalized video messages primarily because they’re a novelty — or whether the effect will endure.

At Vsnap’s new HQ in Downtown Crossing, they’re setting up two video-creation booths with special lighting (see above), to help employees shoot better-looking Vsnaps. Employees mostly use their smartphones, though Vsnaps can also be shot with a webcam. Since the company was founded in 2011, it has now raised $2.25 million in total funding.

McLaughlin compares Vsnap messages to the old-fashion hand-written thank-you note (remember those?) — a way to add a personal touch to today’s increasingly automated sales and marketing processes.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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