Why Justin.tv set Socialcam free

When Justin.tv launched its Socialcam app earlier this year, it was a marked departure from the live streaming business the startup was best known for: After all, Socialcam is all about capturing videos and sharing them with friends later. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to learn that the Socialcam app would be spinning out of Justin.tv and going it alone.

But to hear former Justin.tv and new Socialcam CEO Michael Seibel tell it, breaking the social video sharing app out of the live streaming business was always part of the plan. The startup started work on the app about a year ago, after noticing that most of the viewers for videos from the Justin.tv mobile broadcasting app were watching videos on demand. Launched this spring, Socialcam surpassed expectations, hitting a million downloads in just four months and showing much greater engagement by users than was expected.

The decision to go it alone comes as Socialcam is trying to win its place as the top mobile video sharing app. In a phone interview, Seibel said he believes the mobile app space has become one in which there’s a single leader for each vertical application. So for instance, Foursquare is the place to go for location sharing; Instagram has become the go-to app for posting photos. And Socialcam wants to be the app for sharing videos online.

Of course, Socialcam isn’t alone. There’s a whole cottage industry emerging under the “Instagram for videos” umbrella; There’s BlipSnips, Tout, Vibop, Viddy, Vlix and Vloggo. Each has its own particular strengths — Vlix and Vibop, for instance, add easy editing tools, while BlipSnips enables users to tag their friends at specific moments in their videos — but all seek to be the go-to app for sharing short videos with friends from their mobile devices.

To better compete in an increasingly crowded market, Seibel said Socialcam needed to switch from being a “startup within a startup” to actually controlling its own destiny. And so, while the Justin.tv team moves into new digs at the end of the month, the new Socialcam team will be joining video startups like Cull.tv and Squrl in the Founders Den in San Francisco.

Seibel is taking over as CEO of Socialcam, with founder and CTO of Justin.tv Emmett Shear taking the chief executive role at the live streaming business. The focus on the live streaming side will be on TwitchTV — a live streaming site for the gamer community that Justin.tv launched in June.

Seibel wouldn’t comment on Socialcam’s financing, except to say that Justin.tv owned a stake in the independent entity and that it was looking to raise some more financing independently. Socialcam has four team members now; in addition to Seibel, Guillaume Luccisano and Ammon Bartram, who previously worked for Justin.tv, are also founders.