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British video chat startup Vee24 collects $5.5 million from Data Point Capital; will set up HQ in Boston

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 6, 2013 08:00 AM

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The founder of online retailer Shoebuy.com is putting $5.5 million into Vee24, a British startup that uses live video chat to help e-commerce sites close more sales, and he's installing Shoebuy's former chief marketing officer as its new CEO.

JamesKeller.jpgJames Keller, right, will run Vee24 from Boston, following the new funding round supplied by his old boss, Scott Savitz, now a venture capitalist at Data Point Capital. Sean Marsh of Point Judith Capital also joined in on the funding round, which represents Vee24's first hit of outside capital. Keller says he's currently hunting for office space in downtown Boston and in Kendall Square.

Vee24 was founded in Manchester, England by serial entrepreneurs Andy Henshaw and Nigel Thomas. It enables websites to offer live video chats with representatives, who can also guide prospective customers to particular pages on the site, play videos, and enter data into forms. Sessions can also be handed off from one representative to another, for instance if the second rep has more relevant experience with a certain product line. And when a customer enters a credit card, the number is hidden from the representative.

"This lets you make the same kind of face-to-face connection you can make in real-world retail," says Savitz. "There's no question that it's a different kind of connection than being able to do text chat." In addition to its software, Vee24 sells a packaged webcam setup designed for use in call centers, the VeeStudio.

Keller left Boston-based Shoebuy in mid-May. He says that Vee24 has already worked with more than 45 customers in Europe, including brands like Audi, Vodafone, Land Rover, and L'Oreal. The company hasn't yet done much marketing to U.S. customers. "We very much believe this is the next chapter in online customer engagement," he says.

A handful of Vee24's Manchester employees will move to Boston, but Keller says he also plans to do a bit of local hiring, building a team of 15 to 20 by the end of 2013. European sales and service will still be handled out of Manchester, along with product development and engineering, Keller says. "But we'll be doing product development in Boston as well," he adds.

Vee24 is already in pilot tests with as-yet-unannounced customers in the US.

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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.

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