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Socialcast helps companies stay connected

April 24, 2009 |  2:12 pm

Socialcast Venture capitalists seem to love two things lately: start-ups with a clear revenue model, and Twitter. Socialcast, which recently secured $1.4 million in funding, has a bit of both.

The service allows businesses to build their own closed social networks. Employees can create profiles, post Tweet-like text updates, schedule meetings and upload pictures and videos.

The Web interface is polished, and the mobile apps for iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile keep employees connected wirelessly.

The San Francisco-based company has begun attracting some high-profile, Los Angeles-based retail clients. Hot Topic and Guitar Center each have rolled out the program to management and employees in stores nationwide.

NASA ran a trial of the software among some of its workers last year, and the resulting report recommended expanding the system agency-wide.

The benefit of having a company-wide social network is immediacy,  Socialcast Chief Executive Tim Young. It keeps the company connected so managers can share best practices with other stores, and workers can ...

... constantly intermingle digitally instead of just annually at board meetings or expos, as is often the case.

"They want to have real-time information flow," Young said, "rather than having it drift up through management and come back to headquarters."

Socialcast began four years ago as a back-end platform providing social networking tools to entertainment companies -- making band websites for Interscope Records and kid-friendly social tools for Nickelodeon.

The bootstrapped start-up recently caught the attention -- and bank account -- of True Ventures when it transitioned to providing a social networking platform for all companies, big or small. As part of the deal, True Ventures partner Om Malik has joined Socialcast's board of directors.

The company still has to overcome the barrier of big businesses weary of entrusting their data to another company via so-called cloud computing. All data, including any confidential photos or documents uploaded to the service, is stored on Socialcast's servers -- a reality that has turned off many companies in the past from switching to free services, like Google Docs in favor of Microsoft Office.

"We provide the service to our clients, and any data that they put on, although stored on our servers, is completely owned by them," Young said.

But some analysts are predicting that cloud computing could catch on quickly because of  its cost-savings. And in this economy, businesses are looking at just about every option to cut costs while staying connected.

-- Mark Milian

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