Hooked wants to turn bite-sized narratives into an empire as big as YouTube’s, and Silicon Valley investors are starting to notice.
Hooked turns narrative fiction into bite-sized stories that look more like text message conversations. It’s almost voyeuristic to watch the conversation unfold, but each message has readers hitting “Next” to see the next line until it’s done.
Each story takes about a minute to read, but it only needs that much time to take you out of this world and into the narrative of another. And that’s how it gets people hooked.
In an investor report from Q4 2015, viewed by Business Insider, the company disclosed that it took in additional funding since September from Silicon Valley elite like Ron Conway’s SV Angel and WME Entertainment, a Hollywood talent agency for content creators.
The company now has $2.9 million raised at a $15 million valuation, its CEO Prerna Gupta confirmed. Of that, $2.1 million is still in the bank, giving the startup a 17-month runway at a time of difficult fundraising conditions.
“We feel like we’ve got what we need to make things successful,” Gupta told Business Insider. “Our belief is that there’s a big opportunity to build something like YouTube that builds on narrative.”
Gupta likens it to the invention of the camera. At first, Hollywood filmed plays that were written for theatre stages and turned into movies. But soon, filmmakers started developing movies fit for the big screen.
Gupta believes the same thing is going to happen in narrative. Amazon’s Kindle app or communities like Wattpad have brought books onto mobile devices, but no one has really mastered creating narrative in a new form, native to mobile and designed to capture a person’s short attention span, she believes.
“In our demographic, it seems obvious that the number of people willing to sit down and read for an hour a day is dwindling,” Gupta said. “I think it’s dying because we haven’t adapted it to our pace.”
That doesn’t mean Gupta wants to kill literature and the book, far from it. She noticed a drop off over the holidays in usage when many readers had the time to read a longer novel and didn’t crave the two minute escape that Hooked gives.
Rather, the two can be complimentary, and Gupta’s vision goes beyond transforming literature. She wants to compete with YouTube.
Hooked’s text message style conversations opens themselves up to video and photo stories too. Like YouTube, Vine, and Snapchat have created a generation of artists that craft great stories on the platform, Hooked hopes it can inspire the same just with a linear narrative thread to the stories.
According to its investor report, the option for video should be rolled out on Hooked later this year. And that’s when the competition with YouTube and Vine will begin.
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