SNW INTERVIEW - Nov 16 - On its website, Meebo states that it allows users to “gather their friends on a single buddy list where they can communicate in real-time across different IM platforms, communities, and traditional social networks.” Seth Sternberg helped launch Meebo in September 2005. Here, he discusses the company’s revenue model, various IM products and how Meebo is doubling the rate sharing for its partner sites. – Jenn Rubin
What is Meebo?
Meebo is the Web’s real-time communication and sharing platform. The goal of the company is to connect users with their friends, whether they’re at Meebo.com or inside our partner sites.
Meebo.com is a Web IM client. At Meebo.com, you can IM with your friends on any network — Facebook, AIM, Yahoo, etc.
Then, there’s Meebo for Publishers. We also call it the Meebo Bar, and you can find out more about it on Business.Meebo.com. To get the power of Meebo.com, a site can embed the Meebo Bar. Our partner sites, which include CafeMom, myYearbook or Justin.tv and even Governor Schwarzenegger’s site at Gov.ca.gov, have embedded the Meebo Bar in order bring real-time communication and sharing into their sites.
Meebo for Publishers is not quite like white label. It does have a little bit of Meebo branding in there, so users understand what they’re seeing as they move from one website to the next.
How specifically does the Meebo Bar work?
The Meebo Bar is embedded both into sites that have a social graph system, like a CafeMom or a Flixster, and content sites that don’t have a friends list. Those sites with social graphs want their users who log in to CafeMom, for example, to be able to have a buddy list with their friends from CafeMom and be able to talk to them live. We create that for them.
Also, let’s say on a content site like Mashable.com, the Meebo Bar lets users literally drag and drop photos to their friend from Facebook right inside Mashable, or they can drag and drop a photo from Mashable over to their Twitter feed.
On average for our partners, we double the rate of sharing happening off their sites. Justin.tv told the New York Times that they basically tripled their sharing rate by embedding us.
How many users does Meebo have?
If you look at Quantcast, which is a third-party rating service, they show us at about 32 million unique users monthly in the United States and then 90 million unique users monthly worldwide.
What other companies are out there like Meebo?
If you’re looking at it from a product point of view, there are a couple, small start-ups that don’t have much scale that have tried to do something similar. There is not a large, clear competitor being embedded on other people’s websites, taking their social graphs and turning it into communication networks.
Can Meebo be used on your mobile device?
There is a Web version on the iPhone, which does about 280,000 logins a day. We’ll be coming out with a native version shortly for the iPhone. There is also a native app for Android.
How does Meebo make money?
We realized that because Meebo powers the conversation to a large extent throughout the Web that we could integrate brands in a very authentic way into our products to get users talking about them, sharing them and creating an affinity for them.
We built a couple of brand ad units first in Meebo.com and then into our distributed product, the Meebo Bar, which goes on publishers’ websites. We were able to achieve click rates on those brand ads that are between five and 10 times the industry average. So instead of kind of a .05% to .15% click rate, we were able to generate north of 1% click rates. That’s fantastic from a brand advertiser’s perspective. Normally, brand ads on the Internet have been getting low click rates, so there has been this fear that users are not seeing them.
Let’s say it’s an ad for Herbal Essences the shampoo from Procter & Gamble. The ad is engaged, and once the user clicks on it, it brings up a 900 × 400 window where the user can interact with the rich content. So, it can be Herbal Essences teaching folks how to tousle their hair through different instructional videos, coupled with a segment you can flip through to figure out which shampoo is right for you.
The brand ad units are also shareable with your friends. So we can let those rich media ad units be shareable across the social graph. Users on average spent between 30 and 60 seconds inside that rich media unit, which is longer and more interactive than a television commercial.
That is how we’ve concentrated on revenue, and that’s been working out well for us.
Who were some of Meebo’s original investors?
Mark Andreissen, Jon Callaghan and Scott Epstein were some of them. Jon Callaghan, along with Phil Black, formed True Ventures. They were our angel round. Sequoia did our Series A, so that was the first, big institutional money into Meebo. Then, Draper Fisher Jurvetson did a Series B and then our Series C was a combination of Time Warner, JAFCO and KTB.
We were fortunate in that we had a founding team that was able to create a product, put it out there and iterate on it until we were getting traction. I would say don’t worry about investors. Just worry about your product, get your product out there, get it growing and that I think is the right way to raise money.
Speaking of growing, any new products for Meebo coming out in the near future?
We want to figure out how to make it so a site operator can just push a real-time message to any user or just users they want to across their entire site.