Novelty, a startup co-founded by former Twitch employees, raised $ 3.5 million in a Sequoia-led funding round for its live-streaming platform for beauty creators and their fan communities . While today’s creators have no shortage of options when it comes to live streaming – Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are all popular choices – Newness is focused on building differentiated tools and features. that work well for the beauty streamer market in particular. This includes offering options for public and private feeds, engagement mechanisms that reward positive contributions, moderation features, and the ability for fans to access free beauty products through the participation of the community.
In the new cycle, Jess Lee invested on behalf of Sequoia Capital. Other investors in Novelty include Cowboy Ventures (Aileen Lee), Partnership on the rise (Kent Goldman), Dream Machine (former publisher TechCrunch Alexia Bonatsos), Index Ventures (Nina Achadjian), co-founder of Twitch Kevin Lin, former Twitch executives Jonathan shipman and Jean Sutton, founders of Eventbrite Kevin and Julia hartz, co-founder and CEO of Incredible Health Iman Abuzeid and other Twitch angel investors.
The idea for novelty comes from the CEO Jenny Qian, an early Twitch employee who has held multiple roles on the game streaming site over the years, most recently as Senior Director of Business Strategy for Twitch’s video platform. She is joined by the CTO Youri Park, who also previously worked at Twitch, as well as Blizzard and Facebook Gaming.
Although still an avid gamer herself, Qian says she started to dabble in skin care after turning 30. She then quickly realized the potential of the live beauty space.
“I was so used to the Twitch format. And, in some ways, I feel like I’ve been spoiled with the live broadcast,” she explains. Being able to hang out with streamers , asking questions and learning from them was something that made the live format so compelling, she thinks.
“It made me scratch my head and think, Why wasn’t something like this out there for the beauty community? It’s a community that’s just as passionate, if not more… and it’s a category of content that’s incredibly popular. How come there is no live support available? she wondered.
But at the same time, Qian admits that she didn’t feel comfortable living on Twitch.
“It’s something to be laughed at for my gameplay. But I think it’s another thing if I take my makeup off and people laugh at me for how I look. It goes to a whole new level, ”she says.
With Newness, the goal is to create a kind of anti-Twitch, in a way. It aspires to be a healthy and positive community for beauty designers and fans, where moderation is a key goal and fans are rewarded for quality participation, not for trolling.
When creators go live, Newness will pair them with an internal moderator to help them feel more comfortable and keep the content flowing. Once they are a more established streamer, Newness will work with the creator to locate and raise a moderator from their own fan community to help them with future streams.
Meanwhile, fans are given virtual items called crystals for their positive participation and good behavior – for example, for watching your favorite stream and participating in the chat. In Newness, every chat message also has a little heart next to it. And the more Hearts you earn over time for higher quality commentary, the more Crystals you earn as well.
These crystals can be redeemed for full-size beauty products, which Newness will source through branded offerings. As moderators spend more time on the platform, they will also earn more crystals, which means more opportunities for products.
The positive reward system has so far proven successful in beta testing, as around 66% of Newness viewers, on average, end up chatting during live broadcasts, Qian said.
Another differentiating feature of Newness is the ability for creators to host both public and private feeds. The latter isn’t meant to be some sort of OnlyFans equivalent, but rather aims to allow creators to put on more professional and exclusive live events. With private feeds, creators can sell both general admission tickets and even more expensive VIP tickets that might come with some sort of reward, like a bag of cosmetics.
In addition to events, Newness supports an in-app tip mechanism called a ‘giveaway’ on daily feeds.
Ultimately, the startup plans to take a share of the revenue generated by these transactions, but it has not yet deployed it as it is still in the beta testing phase.
At present, the Newness community is small. And he always chooses which creators are allowed to broadcast live.
“We select the creators that we let into our platform and only keep it by invitation, because we want to make sure that our first creators help set the tone and build the culture of the community,” she says. The startup wants to make sure there are enough community members to sustain itself, while not allowing the community to become toxic as it evolves.
“We really care about cultivating an incredibly healthy community. So for us, safety, moderation – whatever is really important to us, ”Qian notes.
The creators produce a range of content, including expert advice and product reviews, as well as more casual ‘get ready with me’ videos and vlogs.
The novelty, of course, will face stiff competition from existing, larger platforms for streamers, like YouTube and Instagram, as well as newcomers more focused on beauty videos, like Super awesome.
The startup has been in beta testing since last year and is only available on the web for the moment. With the seed funding, Newness plans to develop its iOS consumer app in 2021, to complement its streaming app dedicated to creators. (Creators can also choose to stream from their DSLRs, if they choose.)
It also aims to hire talented engineers and build its 14-person team which is now spread across San Francisco, New York (thanks to former Glossier employees) and Los Angeles.