Flipagram expands video length to 60 seconds

Flipagram is one of the most popular downloaded apps. Yet it remains dwarfed by two giants it wants to, well, not exactly supplant, but compete with on the same level.

"We're a storytelling network," said founder and CEO Farhad Mohit. "We see ourselves sort of like in between Instagram and Youtube."

The app has over 30 million monthly users who use it to put pictures and videos to music with text. Users can either choose music they've already purchased from sources like iTunes, or pick from millions of free songs Flipagram has licensed. (Instagram doesn't let users add music, and Flipagram's tools make it easier to create and upload a video than Youtube.)

Thursday, the company announced it is expanding the length of those stories to 60 seconds, the longest for a social mobile app. "Right now is a great time to talk about 60-second videos, because we have the year-end recaps coming," said Mohit. Also, some stories require more time to be told.

"If you're doing a memorial for a lost friend, if you're going to a birthday celebration ... many how-to's, recipes, all sorts of stories can take time," he said.


Flipagram was originally a tool which let people make videos to post on other platforms, but over the last year it started its own site. Mohit said 180 million videos, or "flips," were created for the site in 2015. "Network numbers are up in the large triple-digits from last year in network."

The company plans to roll out more tools making it easier to edit video clips into Flipagrams, but it's at least a year away from figuring out how to make money. "We're experimenting a little bit for it here and there even now," said the CEO.

Mohit started two previous tech companies in Los Angeles: BizRate and Shopzilla. Flipagram has raised $70 million from Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, with leaders from both firms joining Flipagram's board. Much of that money has been spent licensing the music.

Mohit said that with videos of 60 seconds or less, "these are basically music previews, so we talked to the music industry, talked to them about how millions of people can create these movies, stories of their lives, set to their music previews." He argued the stories made the music even more compelling because songs were set to pictures.

Business Insider reported in October the company slashed staff by 20 percent, but Mohit argues the story does not mean growth has stalled. "We were basically fine-tuning our staff," he said, adding that some automated functions no longer needed human oversight. "We're growing, we have open [positions] on our site right now."

At the moment, Mohit sees Flipagram as complementary to Facebook's Instagram. "We have many musicians, as an example, sharing a 15-second video version on Instagram and saying, 'Come see the full video on Flipagram.' " He doesn't expect that to last.

"I don't think the 'moment-sharing' networks are going to sit by, you know, the Instagrams and Snapchats, and say, 'OK, we're going to just stay in the moment, and the story doesn't matter," he said. "Stories are quite important, so everybody's kind of getting into them. We have a natural, I think, advantage, in that people look to us for that. They have an advantage in that a lot of people are on their networks." So why not be acquired? Instagram and Flipagram sure sound like they could be in the same family.

"We're not for sale," he said.