Popcorn’s new app brings short-form video to the workplace – TechCrunch

by Joseph K. Clark

A new startup called Popcorn wants to make work communication more fun and personal by offering a way for users to record short video messages, or “pop,” that can be used for any number of purposes in place of longer emails, texts, Slack messages, or Zoom calls. While there are many other places to record short-form videos these days, most of these exist on social media, which isn’t appropriate for a work environment. Nor does it make sense to send a video you’ve recorded on your phone as an email attachment when you want to check in with a colleague or say hello.

On the other hand, Popcorn lets you create a short video and then send a URL to that video anywhere you want to add a personal touch to your message.

For example, you could use Popcorn in a business networking scenario where you’re trying to connect with someone in your industry for the first time — aka “cold outreach.” Instead of just blasting them a message on LinkedIn, you could also paste it into the Popcorn URL to introduce yourself in a more natural, friendly fashion. You could also use Popcorn with your team at work for things like daily check-ins, sharing progress on an ongoing project, or greeting new hires, among other things.

Videos can be up to 60 seconds long — a time limit designed to keep Popcorn users from rambling. And you can increase the playback speed if you’re in a hurry. Users can also opt to record audio-only if they don’t want to appear on the video. Users who wish to receive “pops” could also advertise their “opcode” (e.g., try mine at U8696).

The idea to bring short-form video to the workplace comes from Popcorn co-founder and CEO Justin Spraggins, whose background is building consumer apps. One of his first apps to gain traction in 2014 was a Tinder-meets-Instagram experience called Looksee, which allows users to connect around shared photos. A couple of years later, he co-founded a social calling app called Unmute, a Clubhouse precursor. He co-founded 9 Count, a consumer app development shop that launched more social apps like BFF (previously Wink) and Juju.


9 Count’s lead engineer, Ben Hochberg, is now a co-founder of Popcorn (or, rather, Snack Break, Inc., as the legal entity is called). They began their work on Popcorn in 2020, just after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the rapid shift to remote work in the following days could now help Popcorn gain traction among distributed teams. Today’s remote workers may never again return to in-person meetings at the office, but they’re also growing tired of long days stuck in Zoom meetings.

With Popcorn, the goal is to make work communication fun, personal, and bite-sized, Spraggins says. “[We want to] bring all the stuff we’re passionate about in consumer social into work, which I think is important for us now,” he explains.

“You work with these people, but how do you — without scheduling a Zoom — bring the ‘human’ to it?” Spraggins says. “I’m excited about making work products feel more social, more like Snapchat than utility tools.”

A lot of Popcorn would still need to figure out to truly make a business-oriented social app work, including adding enhanced security, limiting spam, offering some reporting flow for bad actors, and more. It will also eventually need to land on a successful revenue model.

Popcorn is a free download on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Today, the app is pretty simple, but the company plans to enhance its short videos over time using AR frames that let users showcase their personalities. It offers a Slack integration so you can send video messages directly to co-workers in the communication software you use to catch up and stay in touch. today

The startup raised a $400,000 pre-seed round from General Catalyst (Nico Bonatsos) and Dream Machine (Alexia Bonatsos, previously editor-in-chief at TechCrunch.) Spraggins says the company will be looking to raise a seed round in the fall to help with hires, including in the AR space.

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