Some Interesting Facts About Chatroulette

We had a very interesting discussion about Chatroulette here last week. Since then, reporters at the NY Times got the founder to talk and they posted the email exchange here.

Here are some interesting facts from the NY Times piece:

  • The founder, Andrey Ternovskiy, is a 17 year old high school student who lives in Moscow
  • He created the site for "fun" and had no "business goals" for it
  • It was inspired by his extensive use of Skype web chat with his friends
  • It spread entirely by word of mouth
  • He's had to rewrite the code several times in order to allow it to scale
  • His relatives invested some "funds" so he could buy more servers
  • Right now, he's doing it all himself
  • Chatroulette runs on seven servers in Frankfurt, Germany
  • He is planning to add more servers in new geographic locations
  • Andrey has never been to the USA but would love to visit
  • He has ideas for more "weird in a good sense" features
  • He's not sure what Chatroulette is any more
  • He thinks it would be best to "found Chatroulette" as a US-based company

I think we'll reach out to Andrey and offer him a visit to NYC. I'm still not sure if this is something we should invest it, but I'd sure like to meet this guy. He reminds me of many great young entrepreneurs we've worked with and his story sounds so familiar.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jonathan Deamer

    He definitely sounds like a smart and interesting young guy. Presumably wanting to meet him is based on a principle of “investing in people, not ideas” though? Sounds like he could go on to great things, so of course he’s someone worth knowing, but Chatroulette doesn’t immediately strike me as an investable proposition as it stands.

    1. fredwilson

      i think i agree but he says he has a bunch of ideas about where to take it.i’d like to hear them.

      1. Aviah Laor

        but he shouldn’t be institutionalized (yet). keep the artist side.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Why not let Andrey decide whether he wants to be an artist, a businessman, or a combination of both? Frankly, I doubt someone who has accomplished something like this flying solo at the age of 17 is in any danger of being “institutionalized”; I suspect he will cut his own path through life.

          1. Aviah Laor

            During the startup evolution, the first phase is very creative, since the focus is on idea and product. Once legal issues, funding, term sheets, intellectual properties, terms of usage, employees, accounting, bills, budgets etc arise naturally creativity drops so sometimes prolonging the half-formal stage has it’s advantages.

      2. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        Here’s what Fred’s probably thinking: this guy is clearly talented. Even if we don’t invest in Chatroulette, he’ll probably start something just as innovative but less risquรฉ down the road, and when he does, he’ll remember who bought him his first ticket to New York and showed him Broadway and the Empire State.

  2. jonsteinberg

    I’d love to see if there is a way I could be involved/help in bringing him to NYC. I’m similarly inspired. Let me know.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve reached out. i’m happy to fund it and i’ve told him so. but if he doescome, i’ll make sure he gets to meet the extended NYC tech crowd.we’ll make sure he gets to dogpatch for sure!

      1. jonsteinberg

        Very cool

      2. David Semeria

        How is it so fundamentally different than, say, ?

        1. Guest

          For the most part, Tinychat is used to meet with people you already know whereas CR is used to talk with people you dont. That said, We are toying with the idea of pushing this out as a novelty feature to our existing userbase.

          1. David Semeria

            Thanks Daniel. I remember when I first tried the service a while back there were many open rooms you could wander into, which went some way to re-creating the random nature of CR. I don’t know if that’s still the case…

        2. helwr

          over-engineered vs engineered

      3. David Noรซl

        This is awesome, Fred. At the risk of this being cheesy, your post reminds me of the movie The Blind Side that I watched this weekend.Great you want to bring him over to meet and learn more about him. In Germany, they’d write long essays about what’s wrong about him and CR, you say: “Right on, lets bring this guy in”.Sure hope he accepts your offer.

    2. ShanaC

      How do I find my way to Dogpatch- your are inspiring a GoodCrush phase in my college, and I want to tell the guys who made it that.

      1. jonsteinberg

        What school? Email Josh at goodcrush dot com

        1. ShanaC

          University of Chicago- I’m on leave because I don’t have anymore classes (just thesis work), so I am back in the NY metro (except when I have to occasionally go back for stuff about said thesis), but I can see all the stuff that has to do with the school. And I think I saw a missed connection about someone I know….though I am not sure who…It’s 2/3 grad students and a very geeky, “conservative” population which likes to make sardonic t-shirts. Unique situation- people actually date there.

          1. GoodCrush

            Aww, thanks Shana ๐Ÿ™‚ Drop by the office!!

  3. AmitAvner

    That’s how all good customer products begin with, with true need and passion to the product!

    1. ErikSchwartz

      I’m not sure there’s necessarily a “true need” here and this isn’t just the 2010 version of The Palace. But it would be cool to meet him.

      1. AmitAvner

        A need can be a lot of things: He wanted to meet new friends. That’s kinda a need…

      2. David Semeria

        I read somewhere it was important to be entertaining on ChatRoulette, so I played my harmonica for 20 minutes or so (even for the weirdos).Only one chap said thanks. I think most were looking for something a bit raunchier…

        1. RichardF

          that made me laugh out loud David, thanks

        2. fredwilson

          Gangsta rap harmonica?

          1. David Semeria

            Not really. I only know one song (oh my darling Clementine). But I play it like a god…

  4. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    I honestly don’t think you guys should invest in Chatroulette, but if I was you, a perk of the job would DEFINITELY be to fly interesting entrepreneurs/hackers to New York to get to meet them.

  5. scottythebody

    That’s so cool! Hook him up. Nothing bad could come of it for you and you just might hook up with a future home run hitter (if he’s not already at the plate with Chatroulette) — and you’d be making one of his dreams come true. NYC is one heck of an awesome place to make a first impression. Get him there before somebody brings him to the Valley and he gets a taste of 70 degree February days. A guy from Moscow could get Ideas when encountering palm trees in winter ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      that’s for sure!

      1. scottythebody

        Got back from Thailand/Vietnam on January 13th and it has been gray and snowing every day since here in Vienna. Winters in Europe are brutal, yo.

    2. Michael Jung

      I think Max Levchin said that too once in a interview about early days of the PayPal story.

  6. jonathanmendez

    What I was most amazed about was at 17 he natively knows more than most publishers about how to optimize UX with advertising.

  7. Aviah Laor

    Would love to hear those “weird in a good sense idea” (but not sure to try). If Chatroullete is the not weird, than it must be very very interesting. Would be a great Cinderella story. He figured it right, and already scaled it – so early.File it under InvestRoullete. can be huge or not, but it will not be boring.

  8. LIAD

    What actually excites you? Is it the entrepreneur himself and his innovation and creative skills or is it the app itself?The app is easily recreatable and doesn’t have sufficient traction or loyalty to make launching a competitor overly problematic – Which i’m sure would be easier in the longrun both logistically and financially.Just curious which bit of this piqued your VC radar the most.

    1. fredwilson

      it’s the app mostly but also what it says about the entrepreneurtraction is a funny thing. CR already has more users than delicious, foursquare, tumblr, and a number of other investments we’ve made had when we made them. that might even be true of twitter but i’d have to go back and checkof course that doesn’t mean we can or should invest. i’m concerned that the use case for the most part today is online freak shows and that doesn’t seem like a sustainable or monetizable proposition

      1. LIAD

        there is an online speed dating angle as well as a generic serendipitousmeeting one – however both need to be highly moderated to attract mainstreamusage or brand advertisers.kudos to the entrepreneur on the idea and getting traction for what amountsto an application which breaks many previously held internet conventions. myconcern though is to date at least he hasn’t seemed to know what to do withit save for adding adsense. 20,000 concurrent users is a hefty amount oftraffic – loads of ways he could and should already be leveraging themomentum.whilst we have discussed on this forum previously ‘function over form’ – ithink it doesn’t play well for him that he isn’t iterating the app,improving the UI etc.As things stand now, the most apt tagline for CR is “the place to watchrandom men jack-off in low-res” – i think your right in that muchadvancement needs to be made before it becomes sustainable or reallymonetizable.

      2. Amit Shafrir

        looking at alexa today (yes i am well aware of all the flaws of alexa…) it would seem like the chatroulette phenomena may have peaked… @fredwilson – other than Andrei (the entrepeneur) – what was it about the app that made you feel it has a longer range sustainable potential and is not just a fad? what am i missing?

        1. fredwilson

          Everyone I know is using it. It could be a fad. That’s one of the things I’m watching

  9. David Smith

    Interesting. I was also interested in what Anil Dash had to say about Chatroulette in his recent piece about audience:….

    1. fredwilson

      that was an interesting post. thanks for linking out to it

  10. brmore

    What I really like about this story is that like most (ok, some) really good projects, it seems Chatroulette was started as an “I wonder if” or “I’d like to have.” Stands in stark contrast to “I started BrandX to make the next Twitter and make a bazillion dollars” (not withstanding the fact that Twitter hasn’t, but I’m pretty sure they will).It would be interesting to see how many of the historically really huge wins were the result of this kind of tinkering vs. dedicated effort to make money/build a business.

    1. fredwilson

      twitter was, facebook was, tumblr wasi bet a very large percentage were

      1. Aviah Laor

        Blogger was

  11. udeme

    Lucky lad, hope he’s ready for the whirlwind

  12. @billg

    I’m impressed…with both Andrey and the fact you are willing to speculatively invest a modest amount to explore future opportunities with him. Wonder how many other VC’s would do the same? Way to go.

  13. Mark Essel

    When something spreads the way Chatroulette has, it’s founder Andrey Ternovskiy hit on a human need however far out. The fact that he developed/rewrote and hosted the service goes a long way to showing what he’s capable of. I think it should be a fun meetup.

    1. Chris Pollara

      totally share your sentiment Mark. being able to hold this together with duct tape and band aids says a lot about his grit and determination.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Well, then, seems like he meets at least two of the basic requirements to become an entrepreneur…as opposed to being merely an inventor. (Recognize that it’s an error of sorts to use the word “merely” in reference to an inventor.)

  14. Carl Rahn Griffith

    It’s getting more mainstream coverage – reached The Guardian over here …Reading “A day on Chatroulette, the web’s weirdest new outpost” on Ensembli:

  15. Jay

    “He’s not sure what Chatroulette is any more.” If he doesn’t know what his product is, how can he have ideas for it?

    1. fredwilson

      good question. i’d like to ask him that

    2. Joe Siewert

      It sounds like it’s turned into something he didn’t expect once he opened it up to users.

      1. ryanbrown

        entirely the case. check out any pool of screengrabs (the tumblr tag is fun to track) and you can see how much variety there is in the kind of communication. makes its own case for segmenting the random exhibitionism/voyerism into different buckets or “rooms” and giving people some choice in the kind of interactions they can have.

        1. wuops

          Nice web, but I prefer can submit a sreenshot, comment and rate.

      2. Michael Jung

        Isn’t that always the case with OPEN [democratic] platforms!? Isn’t it always the beauty of OPEN [democratic] platforms!? What CR needs is the core function (Video+Chat), and some soft regulatory messuars as I mentioned in my very first comment and some non-intrusive monetization to keep it going.Angels can help here. It doesn’t need a 10 people dev team, it doesn’t need an A Round. It can be self-sustainable and doesn’t need an exit. Why does everything on the INTERNET need an exit? My bakery shop didn’t had an exit, my dads business doesn’t had or will have an exit, the flower shop where you buy flowers once a year for valentines DOESN’T had an exit strategy in the business plan when I applied for a loan at a local bank.Note: I put in democratic, because there are certain platforms out there which say they are OPEN, but in truth they aren’t.

  16. Guest

    First time commenting here.Check out Leif K-Brooks also, who launched the site a long time before CR. Its sad that the CR guy does not credit omegle in its inspiration, as CR is a rather complete clone of said site with the addition of a webcam.That said- I love the CR/omegle model and I think there is room to apply the concepts of it to alot of other businesses. This is how woome has been so successful as well as other speed dating sites. We are seeing now that you can successfully apply that outside of dating and gain traction. The main issues that CR will have going forward is content moderation. Right now the site shows a very high percentage of questionable/porn content and if they are not careful, it will turn them into 4chan. (Lots of traffic but totally untouchable for advertisers/payment processors/etc..)…

    1. fredwilson

      i agree with all of thisif you compare the usage of CR with omegle, it sure looks like video is the preferred user experience for this sort of thing

    2. Jake

      Daniel,It’s amusing you say CR has a moderation problem. Here are some of the top rooms on your Tinychat site right now as listed in your “activity stream”.jerkjerkjerkjerksuperthicknastybynaturebearsonpatrolbadxgirlsxclubgrafreakyThose who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.It’s also amusing you say that “Its sad that the CR guy does not credit omegle in its inspiration” but your new Tinychat Next is just a lame clone of CR. Why didn’t you credit Omegle or Chat Roulette with your ‘inspiration’? I guess you’re just a jealous hypocrite?You should try to come up with an original idea yourself.

    3. David Fishman

      Agreed … and I would put e-commerce at the top of “other businesses.”

  17. alainaugsburger

    Looking at the growth figure i get from Alexa and the current number of concurrent connection (around 14’000), Chatroulette will need investment very soon.I am guessing that many will be willing to put money on this just to keep it up and see where it goes. When something goes that viral without any viral tools or gimmick, it mean it it is meeting a market need.Not sure what are is ideas to develop the service further, but, i am sure that is is possible to turn it into something sexy. I would love to see you invest in it.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      “Looking at the growth figure i get from Alexa and the current number of concurrent connection (around 14’000), Chatroulette will need investment very soon.”In the article, Andrey says his handful of discreet ad links cover most of his costs. Presumably, he could increase the advertising a little bit to cover all them, or launch a premium service (e.g., find the most popular “chatters”, charge a nominal fee to view them and split that fee with the chatters).

      1. alainaugsburger

        I only add a chance to read the article after writing my post. I made a bit of research on the price of hosting in Germany and on the potential revenue he is generating from Adsense, and it seems possible to almost break even.With the sudden media exposure, the challenge now will be to be able increase the number of servers and server licenses (unless he uses Red5, it costs around 990$ per server) as well as find a way to reduce the amount of explicit content, requiring additional resources.Overall, we are not looking at a very high amount of money, but, for a 17 years old Russian this may be to much without external help.

  18. reece

    This all sounds like college sports recruiting. I love it.

    1. Guest

      My thoughts exactly! I’ve always liked the way sports is talent-based only. No politics, no BS-artistry, none of that “it’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know” garbage… I am super excited that people like Fred are bringing such approach to the world of startups. Super excited!

      1. Keenan

        Agree partially; the sports world is full of talent that “coaches” couldn’t see that never made it to the next level.The evidence is the few that just squeek by because someone gave them a last second chance or luck happened.Kurt Warner is a perfect example. No one wanted him. He didn’t make the league until he was almost 28 years old. He was working at a Home Depot.Jerry Rice is another. No college wanted him, he had to go to Mississippi Valley StateThere is politics everywhere!

  19. gorbachev

    Hurray for creating things without exit plans.

  20. Kevin

    I hope it works out Fred. As I was reading that piece in the Times I thought he sounded like a great guy. Humble and smart. Just a great attitude.Since you introduced this site last week I thought that it has incredible potential. It also seems to fit many of the themes you’ve posted on recently: the Visa program, making the Internet more personal (your post about shopping in South America), etc.It’s pretty cool that you were so transparent about an investment idea that intrigued you too — and that you tested it out on people here. I think people appreciate that. I do.It’s not my place to know if this will work for your team or Andrey; but I think there are the seeds of something really great with this. The vast majority of the current content is very, very unappealing to me. Yet it is amazing anyway. I think that means something big.

    1. fredwilson

      i’d like to know if he has plans to address the “content quality” issue

  21. moon

    A little research into his bandwidth costs should reveal that he’s not doing this on his own, where ‘s he getting thousands of Euros?

    1. gubatron

      He has ads that redirect to more ads, he’s not banking it but he might be making some small profits on it.Now that he got media coverage things are gonna be good for him.

      1. moon

        1 Russian ruble = 0.0243129911 EurosDo you think it’s a coincidence all this Media this attention on Valentines Day with all the emails we receive about marring Russian woman?

      2. Guest

        No, several people have tried this, I know the specific economics, he’s losing thousands of $.

        1. buckdefiant

          His tech/infrastructure just connects the two clients which then carry on the “conversation” as P2P, at no traffic load/cost to him. Stop with the “He’s losing thousands of $”, he’s just a directory service; but, you can probably start with the “Oh, the masturbators’ IP addresses are exposed to the counterparty!” security/privacy concern.

  22. greg

    It reminds me of one of many hot facebook apps that take off, are further fuelled by PR, but ultimately one-trick ponies. Before investing, should reach out to WooMe and other similar concepts that have been around, have decent numbers, but for whatever reason not caused the media blitz.

  23. gubatron

    This service just needs the following:- Option to use “facebook connect”- Filter the random selection by “A/S/L”and then you have a site you won’t try for 5 minutes and not come back ever again, because all it reminds you off is a bunch of guys stroking their genitals in camera.Give the option to have an identity and a lot of the freaks will be gone.Wonder how many are hacking away today to copycat this idea.

  24. maverickny

    Talking to my nieces (in their teens and early 20’s), Andrey has created something that intuitively meets their needs as a place to hang out online and chat to other teens and twenties. They can’t go out every night, but after homework is done, the idea of chatting to other schoolkids around the world is appealing to them.It’s a bit like online pen pals. When I was their age we had to write letter and cards; getting one from somewhere exotic in Europe and translating the French or Italian, then writing back filled a simple human need to socialise, to learn and be curious.The convos with my nieces reminded me that they are no different than I was at their age, providing the perverts and paedophiles can be kept out. This thing could really take off for that generation in a way FB never met those needs.

    1. Deena

      Uhmm…I hate to break it to you but your nieces are not likely to be chatting with other schoolkids. Based on what’s going on at Chatroulette, they’re either watching hairy, unwashed men jerk off on camera or they’re being porn-talked to by hairy, unwashed men. As I’ve said before, Chatroulette is currently the Internet’s “pit of despair”.

      1. garyvaynerchuk

        Deena it is a mess right now, but what if it became filtered to those who wanted it to

        1. ryanbrown

          if you filtered it (the ‘no dick’ checkbox is a popular conversation), the majority of the users will still gravitate to the exhibitionist element…

        2. fredwilson

          That’s my thought too gary

      2. fredwilson

        Yeah, but you can click away. Its not ideal but regular users don’t talk to jerking off guys all day long

      3. fredwilson

        Yeah, but you can click away. Its not ideal but regular users don’t talk to jerking off guys all day long

  25. bfeld

    I found it remarkable how many of the people were guys masturbating. This morning (Sunday) it was like one in four. I tried again 15 minutes later and in about 50 clicks I had 4 guys masturbating, a half dozen woman either showing their tits or lying in bed seductively, and a sign that said “show me your tits or ass and I’ll show you my dick.” It’s crazy how obsessed humans are with sex when we are given the combo of a camera + the web.

    1. ShanaC

      At age 20 something a lot of people are actually lonely. I don’t think going out and partying helps very much. In some ways, I think having a staunchly traditionalist background makes me realize there are better ways of dealing with this sort of issue…

    2. Yule Heibel

      Your comment made me smile and reminded me of Jurassic Park, those immortal words from Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Malcom: Henry Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way. …even via camera + the web!;-)

    3. Mark Essel

      Although we may imagine meeting other interesting folks that share ideas around the world as signal, maybe creepy guys playing with themselves is the signal or draw here?

    4. Aviah Laor


    5. msuster

      I didn’t feel like logging in so I went to some websites with images on them to understand what this site was all about. I feel revolted. I’m no prude but there is some seriously sick shit out there. It reminds me that I and all the readers of this blog live in a cozy bubble. The world is a brutish place. Ugh.

      1. David Semeria

        I’m surprised you’re so surprised. Anonymity brings out the beast in man. Web 1.0 taught us that.

        1. awaldstein

          You hit it Mark.The more anonymous, the more obnoxious. The more transparent, the more civil.Take a look at any real estate forum where everyone is anonymous. Nasty. Snarky. Attacking. And these are agents. Put them in a room, they are normal folks.Give teens a camera, anonymity and hormones…that is what you get.Not surprising.

          1. Michael Jung


          2. awaldstein


          3. Michael Jung

   … “The more anonymous, the more obnoxious.”

          4. awaldstein

            got it

    6. dave

      –especially in the 13-25 demographic…which happens to be the target market for most web apps/feature sets coming to market.Oh, to look for a day when innovation knows no age boundaries- when even a 50 year old can start a voyeur site and become an instant (quasi) celebrity.

    7. Keenan

      Just tried it on a Monday night and experienced the same thing.I’d say a camera and an audience. Girls gone wild proved this.

    8. fredwilson

      That’s for sure. CR needs a spam filter. The techniques used in email which you are familar with would help this service a lot

    9. fredwilson

      That’s for sure. CR needs a spam filter. The techniques used in email which you are familar with would help this service a lot

      1. Michael Jung

        See my very first comment; a self-service-social-ranking algorithm . When the stranger is obscene, you give him a thumps down. Thus obscene strangers will meet obscene strangers.

  26. Oo Nwoye - @OoTheNigerian

    Hi Fred,Happy Valentines day! I think Chatroulette is an EXCELLENT idea. I am very surprised that people are dismissing it at face value. There are several ways in which it can be modified and re applied. I will not hesitate to ‘steal it’ if I can. As for inviting him, I think it is the right thing. I just hope some hawks do not swoop and grab him first.

  27. Ian Rosenwach

    I wrote about the appeal of Chatroulette here –…In short, I think it’s the simple, no-frills design that appeals to this demographic and makes them feel comfortable. The site design is not “dressed up” and matches the feel of the site – which is casual fun.Video creates a stronger interaction than text. Combine the appeal of these visual connections, a simple design, and a small user base and youโ€™ve got something appealing to a segment of users.

    1. fredwilson

      nice post. how big is that “segment of users”?that and can you expand it are the questions i’m muddling

      1. Wavelengths

        Humans have a handful of core motivators — things that light up their pleasure centers, and that can even be addictive: risk-taking, sex, entertainment, desire for social connection, power/control, and several more.Chatroulette obviously hits several of those motivators pretty hard, and it’s likely a different experience for different people, because as individuals we have those motivations in different degrees.

  28. davidkpark

    This platform would be perfect for all the Tarot Card Readers and Psychics out there. If ChatRoulette got a $1 for every “reading” he would do quite well. In all seriousness, the simplicity of the site coupled with self organizing networks opens up the possibility for realtime matching between “experts” and “customers.”

  29. anniem

    His story set off internal alarms for me when I read it in the Times. Nothing particular, just my mama’s instinct says hmmmm. The site is pretty cool, tho!

  30. ShanaC

    i think he needs to ask himself about mainstreaming. Also if he is good looking- keep him away from your daughters, he’s the right age to be their boyfriend. ;-p

    1. fredwilson

      that’s my question in a nutshell.

      1. ShanaC

        Well he sounds like he is thinking about it, which is a good sign. Beyond that, he’s in a tough position. Some ideas are being floated here; really only he can decide though…

  31. Eric Leebow

    Yes, very much so reminiscent of AmIHotorNot when I first tried it in 2000, which I was on the first week, it just got the word of mouth email buzz, and somewhere in between NextorNot, without a rating system. If DailyBooth or DailyMugshot would add a video component, it would be similar. He could private label the services if he’d like. I’m pretty sure TokBox and WooMee has their eye on them, as they are very well VC funded startups, and ChatRoulette is already getting more traction because 1. It’s free 2. Anyone can use it anonymously (they don’t require you log in like WooMe or TokBox). Just goes to show, how a teenage programmer with a great and well executed idea than a big company can break in the industry. Also like Omegle, yet it has the video. I’m wondering how brand marketers might come in and market their products on this service. SuperBowl advertising can be a very high price in comparison to this. I’d like to meet him as well, definitely would be a good guy to recruit, as he’s probably more passionate about programming and developing than most developers you’d pay. He probably does it because he enjoys it.

    1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Yes, Hot or Not is an excellent comparison.

      1. Michael Jung

        Yep, its Hot or Not in Video, where the Next button is ‘got bored/boring/not interested’.He found a great domain which people can identify over and over again and doesn’t say what it is in the first place but give you a clue to what it is. The minimalism, non-commercial aspect. You know what you have to do, there aren’t lot of options to think ‘aehm what I have to do now’? And friends can explain it very easy to you #word-of-mouth. AND – it falls perfectly in the ‘crossover’ category; your Dad, your sister, your parents can do it. They just have to have a webcam.All the ingredients for something very interesting to explore. Whether or not it will have a long-term success, ie can sustain itself though advertising or premium features; – virtual gifts you can buy for the stranger- avatars- social rankings with categories – so the random factor goes down and you can have a chat about poems with somebody who likes poems too.Only time will tell with the right VC’s who are open for experimentation.

  32. Scott Yates

    There’s a whole discussion about this post going on over in Buzz.Hey, Disqus guys! Are you working this weekend to integrate?I hate to make anyone work on the weekend, but I really want all the disqus comments to show up in Buzz, or (not as good) make all the buzz comments show up over here. You have been so nimble in the past, I’m figuring you’ll have this worked out soon. Good luck!

    1. fredwilson

      as with friendfeed, i can’t participate in multiple threads. if you want to talk to me about my posts, talk to me here. hopefully disqus can address this like they did with friendfeed.

      1. Scott Yates

        Exactly! You don’t want to participate in multiple threads, and neither do I!”Help us, Obi Wan Disqus, You are our only hope!”

      2. Aviah Laor

        it’s an old phenomenon in new form: it’s called gossip.

  33. Marcus Greinke

    This can go way beyond what it is today – crude and raw. The traction is amazing and telling, so is the age group, but if it is nurtured properly, this can go very far, and into a lot of commercial applications that could be quickly monetized. Question is when Facebook will rip it off. With Fred it’s in good hands!

    1. fredwilson

      i doubt facebook will rip it off in its existing statethey can’t or at least shouldn’t introduce this weird of an experience intotheir worldthey could launch a G-rated or even PG-rated versionquestion is how they could pull that off and keep the experience intact

  34. Jeff Hilimire

    It’s so refreshing to hear stories like this. And kudos to you for looking at these things and not first saying, “So, what’s the revenue model?” but rather, “What does this mean?”. It goes to the old adage that you don’t look at the finger, you look at where its pointing.I would hope at the very least this guy gets a trip to NYC. I’d imagine that alone would make it all worth it for this 17 year old.

  35. RV

    here is another great tool to perverts and voyeurs.Now not only does it help anonymize themselves,but also it also provides them exposure (pun intended) by giving them audience..Eventually only sickos will be showing their “stuff” to each other in this network .. ( another realtime myspace! )If Andrey starts policing these guys ,his network could dwindle or the sickos could have their own network soon..the barrier to entry is low. There can be a number of other networks ,each catering to a specific segment of the population

  36. garyvaynerchuk

    I emailed him as well ๐Ÿ™‚ J-E-T-S Jets Jets jets ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Daniel Zarick

      I did as well. At first glance, I may not have as much to offer him as you or Fred, but something about this site has gotten me excited as few other things have in the last year. I think there is a wealth of potential (financially too, yes, but that’s not what I mean) here for Andrey and his idea. But I also think there is room for a similar, yet more “put together”, experience here. So, it would be my pleasure to get involved with Andrey on the side as a fellow student living in Chicago, but I am also more than prepared to become a competitor. Let me know if you get in touch with him!

  37. garyvaynerchuk

    Fred, I have spent the last 48 hrs digesting this product. Oh and 12 of the 46 peeps I hit up using it had their genitalia out ๐Ÿ™

    1. ShanaC

      Now imagine trying it and being female with those same numbers. You can see why it has a low percentage of women…Which is a problem if you want to go mainstream.

      1. garyvaynerchuk

        Agreed Shana…agreed…

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Exactly. It will be fascinating to see how all this is all worked out if this is commercialized.

      3. Aviah Laor

        chicken and egg. if it’s mainstream, these incidents will be marginal. Each product has, apparently, it’s own early adopters

      4. Create your mobile site

        if it goes mainstream, it may need an openId (facebook, twitter…or whatever) login to reduce this kind of behaviour, the randomness will remain but the anonimity gone. This should solve the problem.

        1. Michael Jung

          I like that idea.

    2. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Don’t tell my wife, she’ll spend her whole day on Chatroulette.

  38. Anthony De Rosa

    The interface is almost exactly that of Josh Harris’ from We Live In Public, it kind of has that same vibe too.

    1. ryanbrown


  39. Nic

    My only concern is that if you check out the platform as it is today… it’s just a load of teenagers (mostly guys) showing off their genitals. Not quite sure where it goes…There are already a ton of live cast sites…

  40. Mark Tomlinson

    Offer him a trip to NYC? You guys are a joke if you call yourself “Venture Capitalists”.

    1. Guest

      Totally! Real VCs only talk with Super Important Peoples Who Possess MBA degrees and use words like “disintermediation” and “value chain leverage”NOT!

      1. ShanaC

        Will the pair of you make me less nervous…

  41. shelly turner

    CR experience reminds me of the type of content you can see on where people record engage in 1-minute intros… not sure why that site didn’t get the hype, maybe cause they pull off the adult stuff…

  42. 4chrisheuer

    It comes down to a matter of intentions and how we establish the context. A few years ago before we transformed BrainJams into Social Media Club, we were considering building something like this on the Skype API to enable our 12 five minute meetings model (a BrainJam) to go virtual. It’s quite different then the random chat model, with just a little bit of profiling leading to more fruitful conversations with the intention of helping the people you chat with accomplish their missions.Fred, imagine doing this with a “start-up” room, where you could pair a large group of VC’s or Angels with startups for doing 3 minute elevator pitches, or do it for dating, or do it for non-profit causes and donors. If you add that sort of context to the meetings and a little bit of identity, its quite valuable.

  43. LisaM

    Chatroulette is a perfect example of what’s old is new again. In the days when AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve ruled they made most of their revenue from chat. Chat was the moneymaker because users paid for the amount of time they stayed online and it was addictive. Then and now the fun was meeting random people and having random experiences. Chat has always been primarily about sex. I ran several large chat sites and we would dutifully open rooms for “legit” topics but users would open up thousands more for purely sexual chat. This is just a return to the Wild West days (IRC) but with video. That said, there are plenty of ways to monetize Chatroulette. Subscription and/or premium access accounts and partnerships are obvious but there is a myriad of opportunity.

  44. FlavioGomes

    Well one thing for certain its got the attention of a lot of people and that attention is only going to grow and I suspect grow super fast.Clean up the DIY porn and I guarantee it will be the next social-network darling.This is kid is gonna be in for a whirlwind of attention. I like seeing stories like that.

  45. jer979

    Based on your post, I dove in to Chatroulette and, while I want to be “cutting-edge” and with it…I just found myself thinking “ok, this is the first time I’m scared for my kids.” It takes a lot to get me going. Still, I am trying to understand it, but between the naked people, the guys just laughing at me and saying “go fuck yourself” and 2 guys masturbating, I am pretty put off by it.I suppose the anonymity of it is refreshing and there’s no use fighting it, it’s there, but whoa.

  46. Donna Brewington White

    Going to the chatroulette site and pushing start was a lot like the time a friend and I were walking and chatting and I followed him through a door only to realize we were in the men’s room. I’m so used to just clicking over to sites from this blog that I didn’t think to look before I leaped. Oh, well, it will make for an interesting story — haha! However, it is fascinating to watch you at the beginning stages of exploring a new venture. I will be very interested to watch how this unfolds — exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to find here! Well, one of them.

    1. Guest

      Haha! Great analogy. I have another one of those: we were on a cruise-ship with the kids last month and I took them (as promised) to the video-game arcade; except that before I figure out what was going on, we were pushed out by a burly bouncer… Turns out it was the on-board casino…

  47. Matt

    That’s awesome Fred. I’m so happy to hear that in today’s world, any creative kid with a laptop can be a star no matter where they live. And just imagine how happy he’ll be when you’re inviting him to New York. It sounds like he gets the internet better than some people out here in the Valley claiming to be entrepreneurs. And it’s great that he’s getting this exposure.Maybe there is some meritocracy in the world after all…

  48. Guest

    It has a rep for being a little seedy but it’s a good example of how people can play on the internet’s personal communications tools/capabilities.

  49. maxniederhofer

    OMG, it’s Somebody Likes You all over again. :p

  50. Francine McKenna

    Looks like a very good example of, “If I build it, they will come.” Literally and figuratively. In all seriousness, isn’t this just an example of an idea, applied technology, and the unexpected nature of what audiences will do with it. Tell me, in all honesty, that when Twitter started, the founders or the funders could have imagined it going beyond tech and a few gadget boys in that form. I started two years ago and twenty thousand tweets later I still have no idea. And when you over think it, like Google Buzz and try to build in dictates as to how it should be used, it fails. Because even Google is not omniscient about human nature and all of our entanglements. I applaud Fred for seeing talent and determination and wanting to see where it can go.

  51. Prokofy

    It sounds as if Andrei speaks at least Internet English, but call me if you need a Russian translator.

  52. jer979

    It’s an Attention Economy boot camp.I’ve been thinking about CR all night…both the bad and the good…and the conclusion is that this is the ultimate training ground for the Attention Economy. You literally have a split second to convince some random attention that you are a better option than the 20k other people out there.So, what do you do? Some go for shock value. Others try more gentle approach. Still, it’s a Darwinian proving ground where you learn how to capture the attention stream of others.There’s some social psych person out there who could design a test about what works and what doesn’t.

  53. BmoreWire

    want to hear a funny story? During the snowstorm, I read about Chatroulette and my fiance and I went on it only to be flashed and propositioned. (that’s not the funny part) So we haven’t gone on it again and both of us have been pronouncing Chatroulette as if it were one long french word ‘chart-roo-lay’…..only about a day ago we realized it was ‘chat’ ‘roulette’……OOOOH, I get it. anyway, we probably won’t use it again until it’s cleaned up or has a ‘clean zone’. I see this like what Youtube did….video was already mainstream in the porn industry, they just cleaned it up and got the masses to put their non-porn videos in one place. That’s what chatroulette needs to do…..have a clean version.

  54. chrisdorr

    This kid Andrey, reminds me of a quote from Schopenhauer, ” Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

    1. Wavelengths

      Did Andrey make the target visible so that seasoned talent can now hit it?Are we sure we know what the target is?Will it take seasoned, mature talent to better define the target, and then create the business around it?

    2. Keenan

      Great quote chris!

    3. Guest

      This site is in no way shape or form original, it’s been tried many times, the econ doesn’t work.

  55. Shane

    Call me a Debbie downer, but what does everyone see in this?I mean, the technology is nice but it is by no means groundbreaking (it looks to me like a Flex front end running on Red5). Granted, it appears that it is gaining some steam, but is that a function of it being one of those apps where there are a lot of looky-loos who go once to see what it is all about and then never return (which will probably be fueled by this influx of PR)? I mean, I can see there is a revenue model here, but will it ever be sustainable for the long-term?Also, I think this is also something to think about. If someone came to any of you with this idea before building it, what would your opinion have been at that point? I mean, I would have probably said build it, but don’t quit your day job or anything.

  56. Aristotle

    Fred, to me the popularity of chat roulette is another indicator of where things are rapidly headed with internet-based businesses.More and more innovation will come from understanding (mainstream) human psychology, wants and needs, and building services that enable those behaviors in a simple, easy to use way. This frees startup innovation from being tethered to technical innovation, and the result is that you are much more likely to see innovation in the future coming from all around the world, rather than from technology-centric circles such as the bay area. Creativity and understanding of people are not confined to any one place (in fact you can argue that you’ll find more creativity outside of acknowledged technology hubs which tend to have a strong institutional imperative and groupthink effect).The fact that a teenager in Moscow is able to build and support such a popular site is only further proof of this trend, another data point along the way things are clearly headed.Expect to see many more chatroulettes over the next few years…

  57. Guest

    I’ve had a discussion with a few people who tried sites exactly like chatroulette; the economics don’t work, this guy is losing thousands of $ monthly on bandwidth, something isn’t adding up.

  58. saadshamim

    If you get a chance, ask him how the word of marketing started, I wish Malcolm Gladwell would interview him ๐Ÿ˜›

  59. Van Tieu

    Hi, Are there any New Yorkers who have been using Chat Roulette? I’m reaching out from CNN, and we’d like to interview people about their experiences using the site.Please email [email protected]

  60. Ann

    I have a similar story although not involving IT. I introduced a new product that I perceived huge potentials for. I had no initial intentions to make “big business” since the product knowledge was far outside my qualifications and I had to rely on other people to introduce it. I acted more out of curiosity, hoping I could develop it further. It also allowed me to be self-employed rather working for someone else. When I brought the product to the market I was not able to raise venture capital for patent and trademark protection since I had nothing to show what I was good for, and therefore no one was interested. I struggled on a tight budget with marketing, worked day and night, strategized and planned, and even went against opposition from strong and rich competitors that got seriously worried of turf protection and published negative press (that was difficult to overcome). It started getting copied everywhere by large companies with sale of over $200 million nationwide. Within two years it was all over TV, in magazines, in chat shows and what not. Every second person claimed to be the one to have “discovered” it. Although I did eventually make some decent money on it, by the time I had good profits to hire lawyers, it was too late to protect the ip rights for it. Without ip rights it was pointless to continue.

  61. sonicgleek

    in 2002 we developed something similar but automated (better for the lazy among you) called “match chat” … match chat detected your interests (based on input) and when you logged in to our little service we’d drop you into a room with a few others sharing your likes / dislikes. kinda cool. a little early for the broad acceptance of the video, tho it was on the map.oh, the service? saved it for the end so you’d not stop reading: aol.

  62. paramendra

    The first time I am hearing Chatroulette. Now is in the breaking news business, looks like.

  63. sssrinivasan…Looks like TinyChat did it. Cloned the chatroulette experience inside group rooms.TinyChat- now that is one heck of a site – seed funded still. Amazing API’s. P2P chat.

    1. fredwilson

      it will be interesting to see how that experience compares and if it takesoff

    1. fredwilson

      there’s been a CR tumblog for at least a few weeks

  64. steven goldman

    Fred, I am sure you saw this already but just incase here is a post about TinyChat doing the same thing for the most part. I like the concept better as i at least in theory know i am talking to people who share a common interest if i enter that “room”…

    1. fredwilson

      it will be interesting to see if tinychat can take off in the same way as CRhas

  65. Steve Poland

    these are great……there’s one of Paris Hilton… it really is roulette, you could end up chatting with a celebrity!I like the one later on where the guy looks like he’s Hitler … you could act out any part you wanted… it’s your own little theater and you’re the leading role!just some thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

  66. MadAv

    I’m sorry, but I can’t see any long term financial potential in this website/project. It seems more of a quick fad that people are willing to use for awhile because its free. I also see nothing new or fabulous with it. Am I missing something?

  67. Marky

    All CR needs is an “adult” checkbox, in the same way that it has a ‘cam required’ checkbox. People could then choose not to connect to the pervy people. There is obviously a huge demand for both types

  68. McBeese

    Fred – I don’t know if you’re still monitoring comments on this item, but I thought I’d post anyway.I finally spent 15 minutes on Chatroulette yesterday and I was scared sh*tless. The site is rampant with sex offenses – live! Old guys playing with their genitals in front of masses of kids who are under 18, many under 16. Kids (minors) exposing themselves to adults.I don’t understand why nobody else has realized this and commented on it. Good look to future investors monetizing a site for sex offenders.

    1. fredwilson

      everyone has noted thati even noted that in my post

      1. McBeese

        My apologies then. I only read this post and I didn’t see a link to any other posts other than the original interview.My point isn’t that there is adult content on the site, my point is that many adults on Chatroulette – in the US at least – could be charged with a felony for what they’re doing and/or are being exposed to.Many people in the comments here noted the nasty side of the site but nobody (that I noticed) made the connection that a portion of Chatroulette is child porn – legally. Or that the men exposing themselves to kids are pedophiles – legally. Until that is addressed, Chatroulette is a very dangerous place to play.

  69. David Kadavy

    I really love CR. Yes, there’s plenty of creepy stuff on there, but I’ve talked to lots of interesting people from around the world on it. It reminds me of the early days of the web when people would just chat with one another just for the simple fact that they were on the internet.It will be amazing if it starts to get organized by interest or geography.

  70. Dino Dogan

    I finally tried chatroulette. It was very interesting. I devised a few social engineering techniques that resulted in me not getting nexted so much.… Try them, let me know what you think.

  71. dadapatate

    I had fun using chatroulette! but i had even more fun using FaceBuzz, mostly because of their porn filter! They have other nice features!

  72. strauss

    Chatroulette is pretty scary, but if you want to see hilarious screen captures without having to actually go on it, check out

  73. Ralph Kooi

    Everyone is talking about the clean version of Chatroulette, but isn’t the appeal of this service the “OMG did you see this” factor?There were others before this with the same idea but didnt take off. Shock value works to get headlines, the more shock the more headlines. (not always but a lot of the times)The true ADDED value and surviving skills of CR will come out in i.e. a month when the shock value is over and people have moved on to the next. I can def see potential for business purposes but the traffic will be a lot less without the shock value.I remember the days when I was chatting for the first time with people across the world, this is just the updated version of that. Very curious to see where it goes..

  74. spinthecam

    The brain behind this latest internet buzz is great. Chat roulette brings so much frenzy and can be a great source of fun to some social deprived people.I love being weird sometime and having the opportunity of connected anonymously to strangers and friends all over the world make it even much better. is the best chatroulette clone and the second largest random video chat site.Unlike what it used to be in the past, with chat roulette you just connect to randomly selected user and sometime if you do not like what you see, you just click the next button and move to another user.There few sweet girls and most of the users are there to masturbate. There are a lot of weirdos!

  75. ShanaC

    So the simple solution is to add names, even if they are silly names…

  76. ShanaC

    Mainstreaming is a huge issue- but the racoon guy is a liability in the longterm. It’s like myspace and pornstars. You can’t have both in order to goreally mainstream. Sorry.

  77. ShanaC

    I get the feeling that you could just as easily go to Craiglist and find furniture and avoid the creepiniess. It’s segmented away. My mom decorated almost of all her living room that way- I don’t think she looked at the personals. And she is not the only person I know like that…Craiglist has segmentation going for it. You can avoid the creepy if you want…

  78. MongCon

    The first and simplest fix for the wankers and tit showers would be to make the intial video “chat” last a fixed time (5-10 seconds) before the f9 button would allow you to move on. right now the speed with which you can disengage allows the anonymous bad behaviour