San Francisco: Two Australians living in Silicon Valley have shuttered their $US1.2 million backed innovative online video start-up and taken up roles at Facebook.
Switchcam — profiled in Fairfax Media's Digital Dreamers video series in 2012 on Australian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley — has, contrary to some reports, shut down and not been acquired by Facebook, sources said. It's understood investors are seeking a sale of the assets.
Brett Welch explains Switchcam's concept
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Brett Welch explains Switchcam's concept
Speaking from San Francisco in 2012, Switchcam co-founder Brett Welch describes his new venture.
Switchcam co-founders Brett Welch, 31, and Chris Hartley, also 31, declined to comment on the decision and the move to Facebook. Facebook also declined to comment.
In a Facebook post, however, Hartley confirmed the closure and offered a glimpse of what it was like working on the start-up "after 3 years of hard work and adventures".
"A big thank you to my cofounder Brett for his dedication and leadership, the awesome employees who got us so far, and the friends / investors who backed us all the way," he said.
"Can't wait to have a real paycheque and weekends to spend with all the friends I've neglected for the last three years!"
It's not known what the two will be working on at Facebook, although it has been speculated that they might work on the social network's video upload functionality. They may also work on a photo-disappearing app the social network is reportedly working on after it failed to acquire Snapchat.
Switchcam's technology automatically pieced together camera phone footage of events posted on YouTube – ranging from music concerts to political protests – and was so promising it initially attracted $US1.2 million from investors, led by US billionaire businessman Mark Cuban.
But as is the case with most start-ups, it failed to gain enough traction and make money, sources said.
What made the technology unique was its ability to stitch together videos using a mix of audio recognition and timestamps. It was then presented on a website where users could watch the compilations, even choose the best angles from which to view events. For many, it made it easier to find good material among thousands of bad video and audio clips shot by smartphones users.
In February, Switchcam added data and analytics to its offering, trying to make money by giving organisers better insights into the most engaging elements of their events, according to social networking posts. It failed to gain enough traction. TechCrunch speculated the move was a sign the company wasn't making any money.
Hartley's LinkedIn profile shows he's been working at Facebook for the past two months, while Welch's hasn't been updated. Welch's Facebook page, however, shows he started as a product manager on May 12.
Almost 20 people have been involved with Switchcam over its three years. In its dying days about five people were at the company, including its founders.
In 2012, Welch said Hartley was the "magician" who developed the algorithm that powered Switchcam. Hartley left a $150,000 job at Macquarie Bank to take a $0 salary in start-up land. "I'm happier now than when I was making north of $150,000 working for the man," Hartley said then. "Being a cog in the machine didn't fit for me."
Hartley previously worked coding algorithms for military sonar systems before developing trading algorithms for the finance industry. "Honestly, there are probably less than five people in the world who could build this system and he's one of them," Welch said of his friend in 2012.
Welch has lived in San Francisco since 2009 when the start-up he worked at with fellow Australian Bardia Housman, Business Catalyst, was acquired by software giant Adobe.
This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb