Toronto startup LeanIn makes videos social

Remember the show Pop-up Video? I used to love watching of-the-moment '90's music videos (think Fastball and Celine Dion) play with pop-up facts and trivia about the artist and the behind-the-scenes filming. It was way more entertaining to watch a video while learning that the guy in the background was the singer's ex-husband's brother, and I wish it was still on today so I could find out why Ke$ha's videos are so terrible.

Although video is a huge part of the Web 2.0 landscape (hello YouTube and Vimeo), so far the videos themselves have lacked interaction. While you can post a comment under a video and share the entire thing with your friends, there's no easy way to interact with your social graph within the video and share only the pieces you find relevant. Toronto startup LeanIn is aiming to make video more social, or as they say "more fun with friends."

The company was started by Luke Davies and Hecham Ghazal, and until recently was based in the Ryerson Digital Media Zone (Ghazal is a Ryerson alum). Davies describes LeanIn as "a social viewing experience for online video publishers that want increase their audience engagement and time on site."

It's an intra-video search engine and social network that allows you to leave a comment inside a video and share it at the exact moment you want people to watch. This replaces what I usually do, which is send videos and say "check out this cat doing karate - starts at 2:12." It also integrates with a viewer's social networks, so you can send a Tweet out from inside the video linking to that spot.

Publishers can embed the technology in videos on their websites and have access to a dashboard with statistics on comments, views, and shares, and a heatmap showing what parts of the video were the most talked-about. Publishers don't pay to use LeanIn, rather they have a unique revenue model that motivates both parties to promote a publisher's content. "We charge based on traffic or streams we generate for online video publishers," he says. "We take 25% of the revenue from the streams we create."

The startup recently graduated from the DMZ, the fourth company to do so in the just over a year since the space launched. They now occupy office space on Wellington St. West, but miss the best benefit of the DMZ according to Davies: "free rent." They've also raised money from friends and family and from the Canadian Media Fund.

Right now the technology is limited to publishers' web sites, and can't be used on YouTube or any other social video sites. Davies says the consumer iPad version will be ready mid-July. "Its going to be awesome," he says - I'll wait to see if that's true or not.

Along with working on the iPad app, Davies says the team is focusing on signing new publishers (he has a deal in the works right now but can't divulge who it's with yet). Until I can use LeanIn on YouTube or Vimeo, or until there's mass adoption from publishers, I can't see a daily use case for it. But when that happens, I might just create my own pop-up video commentary for every cat video I watch.

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