“Who are the Seans?” one might ask. Well, they may not officially be ‘The Seans’ just yet, but if their most recent venture blows up, they may well achieve that single name, ‘Winkelvii’ type status (without the d-bag-y conotations). Individually, you just may have heard of them though. Sean Parker? You know – that guy played by the pop star in one of last year’s biggest movies, Founding President of Facebook; the one that seems to have the Midas Touch with any tech startup? That Sean. Then there’s Shawn Fanning (sorry buddy, the ‘Sean’ spelling is more popular). In creating Napster, he almost single-handedly changed (Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich would write that as ‘destroyed’) the music industry. Yeah, they’ve done stuff.
Napster, of course, was their first joint venture. Along with Jordan Ritter, the two Seans masterminded what would become one of the most contentious computer programs in history (although it must be noted, Parker was not officially a co-founder). With Fanning’s and Ritter’s programming skills and Parker’s entrepreneurial savvy, a working model (or for the very least more enviable bargaining position) with the record companies may have been found – if not for reportedly shoddy handling by Fanning’s uncle, who had incorporated Napster and was the company’s main shareholder. Napster famously went down in flames; its resurfacing as a subscription service by Roxio and current incarnation as a Best Buy holding are really just footnotes.
The Seans didn’t spend much time licking their wounds, though. In addition to his immense success with Facebook, Parker co-founded the online address book service Plaxo, the fundraising Facebook app Causes, and was brought on by venture capital firm Founders Fund as a Managing Partner. Fanning, meanwhile, began his post-Napster life almost immediately after (actually during the final days of) the P2P program’s demise with perhaps the most ironic move in web history. He co-founded SNOCAP, which focused on digital rights and content management. Simply put the company offered protection to artists and labels by registering their digital content, discovering said content on P2P services, and require those who currently held or would like to own the content to adhere to rules set by the artist or label (eg five listens and then a required purchase). Every single major label signed up for the service. I’m not making this up. He followed this up with Rupture, the gamers’ social networking site that was purchased by Electronic Arts for $15 million. His current project, Path.com, is a photo sharing service focused on keeping a private and more personal network.
Then the blogosphere began to buzz when it was announced last September that Fanning had secured $200, 000 in funding for a holding that was named in the pertinent SEC document as ‘Supyo, Inc.’ Listed as the second related person in the document is the founder of the browser based group voice chat Voxli, Joey Liaw. This was followed at the beginning of March with $250,000. These are relatively small amounts – but the names involved ensure that a close eye is being kept on Supyo’s every move.
And in mid-April, TechCrunch dropped a bomb, or perhaps more accurately, a cluster. They had learned, from sources unkonwn, that Supyo was in the process of raising about $5 million (down from their original number of $10 million). Going along with this upshot in fundraising was the arrival of TechCrunch’s own founder, Michael Arrington. He admitted to his website that he was involved, but would offer nothing more. The most titillating morsel, however, remains the yet-unsubstantiated involvement of Parker.
So what is Supyo? TechCrunch understands it’s a continuation of the Seans’ interest in perfecting live video content in a social context. They showed great interest and attempted to improve the infamous Chatroulette.com. However, it proved impossible to change the nature of the random-partner video chat website. Which is actually a lot like the classic arcade game Frogger. Except the destination is an attractive person of the oposite sex. And the cars are unsolicited penises.
So it seems that they’ve decided to start from the ground up – connecting people with similar interests and weeding out undesirables. Taking into account Parker’s admitted obsession with the live video arena and Fanning’s apparent obsession with privacy and legality (in a profitable sense, of course) post-Napster, chances are they could be the right duo to crack this pretty difficult nut. And with a dream team like Arrington, Liaw and the Seans, finding the funding necessary will be a breeze. All they need to do is find some type of Fund that supports Founders and…hm, wait a minute.
Midas touch, I tell ya.