Talking with friends about your favorite TV shows, Ajay Kulkarni argues, has never been tougher. "Aside from sports, no one watches things live," he says. "By the time I've seen the latest '30 Rock,' it might be a week or more old." And Facebook, he says, is too vast and too public to be conducive to small groups of friends sharing the best lines from "Modern Family" or dissecting the plot of "Lost."
"With your close friends, you don't want to just see what they're watching on their Facebook status updates," Kulkarni says. "You want to hang out with them. And to do that, you need and excuse, and you need a place."
Kulkarni's new start-up, Cambridge-based KickFour, believes TV is the perfect excuse to connect with friends, and that they're building the ideal place. On KickFour, friends can get credit for having seen particular episodes of a show, post comments about it, and also earn badges indicating that they are a "groupie," a "VIP," a "junkie," or a "superstar." (See the video demo below.) Meanwhile, KickFour will be collecting data (perhaps valuable to networks and marketers) about which TV shows have the most fervent fans; which episodes have been most popular; and how people are viewing shows — on Hulu, via TiVo, on an iPad, etc.
The company is currently operating a very small private beta, which will be expanded later this month when KickFour participates in the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York. (KickFour missed out on an on-stage demo slot, but instead got a free demo table in the conference's "Start-Up Alley," where they'll be showing off the site alongside another Boston start-up, Jason Jacob's RunKeeper.)
Kulkarni and KickFour co-founder Andrew Cheung were part of the TechStars Boston program last summer, where they developed an e-mail contact management system for BlackBerry phones called Sensobi. But they decided to put Sensobi on the back burner earlier this year, discouraged by the technical and financial challenges of developing the software for iPhone and Android as well as BlackBerry. Joining Kulkarni and Cheung at KickFour is Yishai Knobel, a veteran of Microsoft's Startup Labs in Cambridge and a former classmate of Kulkarni's from MIT's Sloan School of Management.
Kulkarni says the KickFour team hasn't raised any money since they began developing the "social TV" site earlier this year: "It's still entirely bootstrapped," he says, adding that they've been using free work space in a former MIT fraternity house on Memorial Drive. "There's a ping pong table and the MIT WiFi network," he says.
KickFour's blog is here, and below is a video demo of the site.
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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.